What Is the Difference Between an iPhone and a Smartphone?

Smartphones combine cellphones and PDAs into a single device that offers much of the same functionality as a basic computer. An iPhone is a type of smartphone. The iPhone offers many of the advanced features found on competing devices, but it also differs from other smartphones on the market.

Operating System

The iPhone runs the iOS operating system, or OS. Other smartphone operating systems include Android, Blackberry, Symbian and Windows. The iOS runs solely on the iPhone, while other operating systems, such as Android, are available on multiple brands of cellphones. The iOS includes multitasking, folders and tethering that allows other devices to share the phone’s Internet connection, but similar features are available with other mobile operating systems as well. One difference is that although iOS can be “hacked,” it doesn’t allow the same level of customization and programming as the systems that run other smartphones.

The first four versions of the iPhone must be synchronized with a personal computer and iTunes. An iPhone user needs a Mac or a Windows-based computer and an iTunes account. This sets it apart from the majority of smartphones on the market, since other phones don’t require a computer to set up and use the phone. The release of iOS 5 changes this requirement, allowing those without computers to own the iPhone.

The iPhone connects to Apple’s App store, which offers thousands of applications for use on the iPhone. Programmers must use a special set of developer tools to make the apps, and many have at least a small fee for use. Other operating systems don’t require the use of propriety software for application development. Despite this requirement, and the stipulation that Apple approve the program, as of the time of publication the iPhone has the widest selection of applications available and is the only phone with advanced video editing capabilities.


The iPhone has different hardware from other smartphones. The reported battery life is one of the longest of any smartphone on the market, as of the time of publication. The iPhone’s screen size is smaller than most other smartphones, but it has an extremely high pixel density, giving it one of the sharpest resolutions available. The iPhone incorporates built-in storage with different hard-drive sizes available, but it doesn’t incorporate a memory card slot for additional storage space. A slot for external memory is a common feature on other smartphones.


Although part of the iPhone’s cost is subsidized when a service contract is signed, the iPhone is more expensive than other smartphones on the market. Part of this is because the iPhone was the first smartphone released and other companies decided to compete with the device based on price. However, most Apple products have a higher retail cost than similar products released from other manufacturers. In addition to the cost to purchase the device, smartphone users pay a premium for data service. This increases the monthly cost of operating the phone, but is the only way to take advantage of many of the features.