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Smartphones, Tablets, and Other Mobile Devices, Part 1

📄 Contents

  1. 1.4 - Compare and contrast characteristics of various types of other mobile devices
  2. Cram Quiz
  3. 1.5 - Given a scenario, connect and configure accessories and ports of other mobile devices
  4. Cram Quiz

In this sample chapter from CompTIA A+ Core 1 (220-1001) and Core 2 (220-1002) Exam Cram, learn how to compare and contrast characteristics of various types of mobile devices, and how to connect and configure accessories.

This chapter is from the book

1.4 – Compare and contrast characteristics of various types of other mobile devices

This objective requires you to understand the differences between tablets, smartphones, e-readers, GPS devices, and wearable tech devices. You should be able to distinguish between one and another by looking at them, by analyzing the ports they use, and by being familiar with the uses for each type of device. Remember this: instead of thinking in terms of manufacturers, think in terms of technology types and uses. By this I mean don’t worry too much about the popular brands of the day and instead think more in terms of what and how a device is supposed to perform for the user.


A tablet computer, or simply “tablet,” is a thin, mobile device that is operated with a touchscreen and generally measures between 6 and 11 inches diagonally. It can be used for simple tasks such as reading books and browsing the Internet, but can also be used for more complex tasks such as word and spreadsheet processing, audio and video recording/editing, multimedia live streaming, photo editing, collaboration, and even programming. The more complex the task, the more powerful the tablet that is required.

A typical tablet as of the writing of this book might have hardware specifications similar to what you see in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 Typical Tablet Hardware Specifications

Hardware Component


1.85-GHz ARMv8 CPU

64-bit system on a chip (SoC)

Example: A9 CPU + M9 motion coprocessor

Note: This is as of early 2019. Also, there are more powerful models. This is just one mid-range example.


Mobile DDR—similar DDR standard to what PCs use, but a much smaller form factor, and is included in the SoC

32- or 128-GB flash memory

Similar to solid-state flash memory in a USB flash drive

Used for permanent storage

Multitouch touchscreen

Capacitive touchscreen that responds to one or more fingers and proprietary stylus devices

9.7-inch display (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen multitouch display with in-plane switching (IPS) technology

Quad Extended Graphics Array (QXGA), 2048×1536 resolution

4:3 aspect ratio

Lithium-ion polymer battery (nonremovable)

Similar to lithium-ion batteries in laptops

Can be made into any shape

8827 mAh (milliamp hours); 32.4 watt-hour; lasts for 10 hours on a full charge (typical usage)

High-definition cameras

Main camera: 8 megapixel, 1080p video recording

Second camera: 1.2 megapixel, 720p video recording

As you can see from the table, the whole concept of this hardware configuration is based on portability and ease of use. Therefore, tablet computers are generally less powerful than desktop computers and laptops, but the hardware is matched to the type of applications the device will be used for.

The two main goals for tablets are to be highly portable and have powerful processing capabilities. One way this is accomplished is by using a system on a chip (SoC), which combines the CPU, RAM, storage, and more on one single substrate—essentially it is a system unto itself. The most common microarchitecture used for the SoC of a tablet is called ARM, which is a type of reduced instruction set computing (RISC). An ARM-based CPU uses fewer transistors than a CPU found in a PC or laptop, which makes it a great choice for portable systems that need lower power consumption while still maintaining a decent amount of processing power.

Apple iPads run iOS as their operating system and make use of the proprietary Lighting connector, or the USB-C connector, to charge and to transmit data. Similar tablets that are Android-based often use standardized USB-C, or Micro-USB, ports for charging and synchronization of data. iPads are well-known as some of the most powerful tablet computers on the market, and as such have been used heavily for media creation and editing. This type of work would not be possible on a lesser tablet. So, choose the right tool for the job, and choose wisely!


A smartphone is a type of mobile phone that has much more processing power and greater hardware capabilities than a basic feature phone. A basic feature phone is designed primarily to place voice calls and do texting, but a smartphone is essentially a high-powered computer in the palm of your hand, allowing for desktop-like web browsing, high-definition playback of videos, and the downloading and usage of apps that can do just about anything you can think of. Smartphones also act as high-powered cameras, recording devices, music players, and personal assistants, among many other things. Remember, they are computers (though small), and as such, you are required to be able to troubleshoot and repair them.

A typical smartphone as of the writing of this book might have hardware specifications similar to what you see in Table 3.2.

Table 3.2 Typical Smartphone Hardware Specifications

Hardware Component


2.45-GHz ARM CPU

Snapdragon 835

64-bit system SoC


Mobile DDR version 4

32-, 64-, 128-, or 256-GB flash memory

Similar to solid-state drives’ flash memory

Multitouch touchscreen

Capacitive touchscreen

Lithium-ion polymer battery (aka li-ion or li-po)

3300 mAh (nonremovable)

Typically 20 to 25 hours (talktime)

6.0-inch display

Quad HD+ (QHD+), 2880×1440 resolution

18:9 aspect ratio

Dust and water proof

IP68 compliant

Those are just some of the specs of a typical smartphone. Here’s an assignment for you: Go on the Internet and research the specs for your phone. Try to understand all of the terminology being used on the spec sheet. If you don’t know a term, look it up and then try to relate that technology to your own device.

Just about all smartphones come with cellular access, be it 3G, 4G, LTE, 5G, and so on. This differs from tablets in that a tablet often will not come with cellular access, but it can be added with an upcharge.

IP Code

Some smartphones and other handheld computers are certified as being ingress protection (IP) compliant. Ingress protection means protection against dust and water, which are tested separately. There are a lot of different IP ratings, but let’s use the IP68 example in the last row of Table 3.2. The first digit, 6, deals with dust and means that the device is dust tight and that no ingress of dust can occur. The second digit, 8, means that the device can be immersed in water up to and beyond 1 meter, generally for 30 minutes, though this can vary. The exact depth and length of time is up to the manufacturer, so IP68 could be slightly different from one smartphone to the next. You might also see IP67-compliant devices, which is very similar but means immersion only up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

Other devices might be listed as IP65 compliant, which means they are dust tight and can protect from water jets for up to 3 minutes. The number associated with water protection is not cumulative, so if a device needs to be protected from water jets and immersion in water, it would, for example, have to be tested for IP65 and IP68 compliance. Many specialized handheld computers in the military (as well as in the medical, transportation, and surveying markets) meet both of these requirements, whereas consumer products might only meet IP68 or IP67 (depending on their age). What does this mean to the customer? Don’t bring the device in the shower or spray it with a hose! It might survive, but it probably won’t because it isn’t tested for that type of abuse. You should also remember that some consumer smartphones do not meet any IP requirements and must be treated accordingly. In that case, if a device is damaged during use in a dusty environment or sprayed with or immersed in water, the warranty might become void. Familiarize yourself with the IP code. You can find it in various locations on the Internet, and you can get the authorized standard from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

Wearable Technology Devices

Moving outside of mobile devices, let’s briefly discuss wearable technology. This concept has become quite the trend in recent years. One of the most common (as of the writing of this book) is the smartwatch. Initial product offerings required that a smartphone be nearby (with the watch connecting via Bluetooth), but newer versions are network-ready, meaning that you can use the smartwatch on Wi-Fi networks, and possibly cellular networks, increasing the usability (and range) of the device. Most of these allow a user to answer calls and communicate by e-mail and text. (If you like obscure references, you could say that Dick Tracy technology has finally arrived!)

Another common example of wearable technology is a fitness monitor, which is worn on the wrist or elsewhere and used by people who want to track their exercise routines and for physical rehabilitation purposes. They connect to compatible smartphones and tablets. However, most smartwatches also include fitness monitoring apps. Other wearable technology includes enhanced glasses (which can take photos and send them to your mobile device), specialized Bluetooth earpieces and headsets, and virtual/augmented reality headsets. Virtual reality (VR) headsets are used for gaming, watching movies, simulations, and so forth. Augmented reality (AR) headsets and glasses use holograms and other technology to overlay images on top of what a person actually sees (in the real world, that is—I know it’s getting hard to tell what’s real and what’s not!).

The list keeps going when it comes to how you can add on to your mobile device. As a technician, you should understand that many of these wearable tech devices connect via Bluetooth (which might require a PIN code) and that Bluetooth has a limited range—usually 33 feet (10 meters). Some can work independently of the mobile device, but you would need to configure them to connect to Wi-Fi and/or cellular. You would do so by setting up a connection profile and/or by allowing automatic connections to “open,” which means using unsecured Wi-Fi networks. We discuss Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular in more depth later in the book, but for now, remember that wearable devices’ wireless connections can fail and at times need to be troubleshot like any other wireless device.


By far the most common e-reader is the Amazon Kindle, but there are other brands as well. A true e-reader uses electronic paper technology—which is generally black and white—making longer-term reading easier on the eyes when compared to reading on a tablet or a smartphone. However, e-readers are not great when it comes to surfing the Web, though some do have Internet access. For some people, the e-reader is the only way to go because of how easy it is on the eyes, and because it displays text well both in dark environments and in sunlight. Plus, battery life is far superior to tablets and smartphones. Most manufacturers of these devices also allow users to read their digital libraries by installing a reader app to their tablets or smartphones (or PCs) and synchronizing between the devices. E-readers are often charged via Micro-USB, and many can connect via Wi-Fi or with a cellular connection to facilitate the downloading of book files.

GPS Devices

If you have a smartphone, you probably use some kind of Global Positioning System (GPS) app, but there are also dedicated smart GPS systems for your car that can work independently, and possibly integrate with your smartphone and social media via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The beauty of these is that the bulk of the CPU in the device is dedicated to GPS. If you have ever run GPS on a smartphone while other apps are running—and you experience slow performance—then you can understand why a dedicated GPS system might be a valid option for delivery drivers, those in the transportation industry, or those who simply want more accurate and efficiently presented GPS data.

Many vehicles offer systems with touchscreens that can integrate with a person’s smartphone. Basic versions are enabled via Bluetooth and can perform voice and text services. But in some cases, depending on the model and version of the vehicle, they will allow connectivity of CarPlay (Apple) and Android Auto. These are smartphone screen-mirroring programs that can display the GPS app for easier viewing. They can also control voice calls, text messaging, music playing, and more. Aftermarket head units are available as well. To utilize these systems, the vehicle must be compatible, the smartphone must have the correct app installed, and it is often connected in a wired fashion via USB. In this scenario, a technician should make sure that the vehicle’s firmware and software are updated, that the smartphone’s vehicle connectivity software and GPS software are updated, and that a quality cable is used.

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