Cell, or mobile, phones have dramatically increased the world's interconnectivity over the past few decades. They are portable, relatively reliable, and now include many functions that have nothing to do with communication. Cell phones are usually easy to learn and understand but some users, especially the elderly, may have trouble understanding all of the things that cell phones are now capable of. To make this easier, the basic functions of modern cell phones are listed below with short descriptions for each.
Calling is rather straightforward on any phone whether it be a landline or mobile device: A number is entered using the standardized keypad and a call confirmation button is pressed. Cell phones do, however, provide additional features that allow the user to organize his/her contacts and, in some cases, even classify them into categories such as "friends", "business associates", or "coworkers". Cell phone users are able to block and/or forward incoming calls and can even make decisions on how an outgoing phone call is made such as sending a direct voicemail so that a conversation between the caller and recipient is not required.
Sending and receiving text messages via a cell phone, or texting, is a very simple task but confuses many inexperienced cell phone users. Texting can be achieved in a number of ways: one way is to create or compose a new message, type it out by using the keypad, and then selecting a recipient through the user's contact list or typing out a cell phone number. Another way is to select a recipient from the user's contact list, right-click on that contact, and then choose to send the contact a message. Not all cell phones are capable of texting but most modern phones are. Texting usually confuses inexperienced users because keypad buttons must be pressed several times in order to produce a correct letter. T9 options and QWERTY keypads are designed to make this task much easier.
MMS, or Multimedia Messaging Service, is similar to texting but involves the transmission of text, images, audio, and video. MMS is found in most modern phones but is specifically designed for phones that have built-in cameras. With a built-in camera, users are able to take a picture or video and then send it to their contacts via MMS as either a stand-alone image (or video) or with a message included. Some advanced cell phones have been specifically designed with MMS in mind and include features such as two-way video calling. While MMS greatly enhances the abilities of SMS (regular text messaging) and does use bandwidth, it is not the same as Internet access.
Regardless of brand or model, most cell phones include several basic programs that have nothing to do with communication. For example, a Notepad feature allows users to store personal memos that they can read at a later time such as an idea, the name of a movie, or a reminder to call someone. Likewise, a calendar feature allows users to keep track of the days of each month and even add reminders to certain dates that cause the phone to alert the user when there is an event or occasion. Almost all cell phones also include an alarm clock that can play a loud, persistent ringtone until the user turns it off.
Touch screen technology is an emerging attribute to many cell phones that are now available. Touch screen technology allows the user to touch on-screen buttons and control sliders with his/her fingers instead of using a keypad. Touch screen phones usually include a stylus pen that makes touching the screen easier and some even have a feature that learns and recognizes the user's finger pressure and only allows that user to control the phone.