The Smartphone Miracle

lumia 830 The phone that I use, is the Lumia 830. At its release Microsoft billed it as an “affordable flagship”. It was actually quite expensive but I closed my eyes and bought it—it was the only Windows flagship available in Canada at the time. Over time I learned what Microsoft has packed into to the phone, I was surprised that they could sell it for the price they did.

In this post we will look at what goes in to make a smartphone and why I think it is actually a technical miracle.

Under the Hood
Let’s look at the main components of the phone. As the diagram below shows, it is essentially the same as any computer.


If we take a look at the specifications on the Microsoft site, we see that the main memory is 1GB, the microprocessor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, and the main storage is 16GB.

Your operating system, Windows 10 in this case, as well as all your programs (called apps in mobile world) are stored in the C drive which is a solid state drive so it is fast and has no moving parts.

What is really amazing is what is packed into this small device. A quick look at the specs tells us that we have a graphics processor, global positioning (GPS), magnetometer, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, antennae for cell phone, Wi-Fi, Blue Tooth, a main camera with Zeiss lens and optical stabilization, an FM radio, noise cancelling microphones, and more.  In our diagram these are collectively represented by the Hardware Connections box.

Many of these components are included on the microprocessor chip, which is why it is called a SoC or system on a chip.

The most obvious hardware component is the high definition Corning Gorilla Glass display, which has 24bit true colour and a pixel density of almost 300 pixels per inch.

How It Works
When you turn your phone on, the essential core Windows modules are loaded into the main memory. The phone then displays the Start Screen. The icons on the Start Screen represents the programs (apps) you use most often. You can customize the Start Screen to suit your particular needs.

When you tap on an icon on the Start Screen, the corresponding app, is loaded into main memory and the microprocessor executes it. The program will talk to and activate the hardware components as needed.

For example, when you select the Phone app, the microphone and small speaker are activated, allowing you to speak and listen to the phone conversation.

You can load several apps into memory but because the main memory is only 1GB, only one app is active at a time. Open but inactive apps take up very little memory as only the essential information is stored. You can switch to the other open apps quite easily. The phone simply deactivates the current app, and loads the new app back into memory from the C drive.

So the main memory has the core Windows components, your selected app, and any data it uses. You can set the phone to store the data on the SD card (D drive). This is particularly helpful for big files like photos and videos. On my phone I have a 32GB card.

A Trade-off
When you put all these things into a smartphone, you still need to leave some space for a battery. The Lumia has a 2200 mAh battery which is adequate but does not last long when doing power intensive tasks like watching videos. The phone allows for wireless charging which is useful.

So the Miracle?
What I find a true miracle is that one gets a full PC in such a small 140mm package that can run full-featured programs, and then it can still do all the other things like shoot photos and videos, make phone calls, send text messages and emails, listen to music, and browse the web!

For more information, visit previous posts on the Lumia:

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