Characteristics of Mobile Devices

By Rob Callahan

A wide array of personal electronics are classified as mobile devices, from phones to barcode and RFID readers, and with so much technology branded as mobile, consumers can find it difficult to determine just what the characteristics of mobile devices are. In most cases, a mobile device can be defined by three distinct characteristics that set it apart from devices that may appear similar, but lack some characteristics of true mobile devices.


Mobile devices are defined by their ability to be moved frequently. Any mobile device should function and operate consistently while on the move, regardless of proximity to a power source or physical Internet connection. To aid in portability, mobile devices typically contain rechargeable batteries that allow several hours or more of operation without access to an external charger or power source.

Small Size

Mobile devices are also known as handhelds, palmtops and smartphones due to their roughly phone-like dimensions. A typical mobile device will fit in the average adult's hand or pocket. Some mobile devices may fold or slide from a compact, portable mode to a slightly larger size, revealing built-in keyboards or larger screens. Mobile devices make use of touch screens and small keypads to receive input, maintaining their small size and independence from external interface devices. The standard form of a mobile device allows the user to operate it with one hand, holding the device in the palm or fingers while executing its functions with the thumb.Netbooks and small tablet computers are sometimes mistaken for true mobile devices, based on their similarity in form and function, but if the device's size prohibits one-handed operation or hinders portability, then it cannot be considered a true mobile device.

Wireless Communication

Mobile devices are typically capable of communication with other similar devices, with stationary computers and systems, with networks and portable phones. Base mobile devices are capable of accessing the Internet through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi networks, and many models are equipped to access cell phone and wireless data networks as well. Email and texting are standard ways of communicating with mobile devices, although many are also capable of telephony, and some specialized mobile devices, such as RFID and barcode readers, communicate directly with a central device.