Smartphones – A holistic view of its Evolution

The world has been technology reliant ever since Alan Turing created UNIVAC – the first electronic computer. It was used to crack Enigma – an encryption machine, profusely used by the Germans during World War II. Turing’s contribution towards cracking the code, ultimately allowed the allies to shorten the war by a few years. Thus our love for computers and electronic gadgets was solidified for all eternity.

We have come a long way since the time when we had to feed information to obtain a result. Through the development of faster processors, better hardware, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Algorithms and multi-billion dollar companies injecting huge amounts of money to create better and faster equipment – we hold in our hands a tool which is more powerful than the computer which was used to send Apollo-11 to the moon in 1969. The tool is none other than our ‘Smartphone’ or ‘Mobile Phone’ or a ‘Cell Phone’. This simple device has revolutionized how we live our daily lives, conduct business and interact with each other.

The modern smartphone has had a long and arduous journey of more than 26 years. What was once a large, bulky and considered a luxury item – is now compact, sleek and a device we cannot live without. In order to understand where the smartphone is headed, it is important to understand the journey it has taken thus far. This article will try to give a holistic view of the evolution of smartphones and how it has made our lives better. So without further adieu, let’s dive right in. 

General History

Cellular phones have been around for more than 26 years. In fact the first ever fully functioning portable mobile phone commercially available was developed by Motorola (DynaTAC 8000X) in 1983. With a hefty price tag of $4000 per unit and able to make calls on the go – it was viewed as the ultimate status symbol. Fast forward a decade, Nokia launched its first affordable version of the phone  the Nokia 1011 in 1994. Despite having a price tag of $400-700, the phone was capable of not only making phone calls but it was also capable of sending and receiving text messages. The phone also came with a built in game – Hagenuk MT-200. This marked the starting of the commercialization of cellular phones around the world. 

In 1995, Siemens launched Siemens S10, with a display screen capable of displaying in four color variations – it brought the phone displays to life. The same year Ericsson and Nokia also launched their own version of affordable phones – the Ericsson and 5100 series respectively, with keyboard swapping capabilities. Thus making it the first fashion oriented cellular phones in the market. In 1999, Nokia unveiled the Nokia 7100 – the first device to take full advantage of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) – which allowed it’s user to access various information over a mobile wireless network. 

With the turn of the century in the early 2000, Sharp launched its first camera phone – the J-SH04. Despite only being available in Japan, it signaled the world about the start of a new obsession – Phone Photography. This obsession was not fully realized until Sony Ericsson launched T68i with its own clip-on camera, in 2002, that the western phone manufacturers started taking a keen interest in camera phones. 

2003 saw its greatest evolution in the mobile phone industry, with the launch of BlackBerry’s 8100 Pearl. With the  capability of transferring 3 MB of data each second and end to end encryption capabilities and front facing camera – the phone became the go-to phone for the majority of governmental bodies around the world. It was most prominently used by the C.I.A, N.S.A and it was even the phone of choice for the POTUS (President of the United States). The same year, Sony Ericsson launched Z1010 with a front facing camera – enabling video calling a possibility, but it was not as popular as the company hoped.

2007 – the year in which one smartphone revolutionized the way in which we communicate with each other. This revolution was spearheaded by none other than Apple’s iPhone. Integrating a lot of functionality like touchscreen potential, 8 hours of battery life, capability of storing hundreds of songs in your phone along with video conferencing capabilities iPhone heralded a dawn of a new era in the cell phone industry. Life as we knew it would never remain the same.

Current Situation of Smartphones at the end of the decade (2007- 2020)

More than a decade since the launch of the first iPhone, we have seen a lot of major changes in the smartphone industry. Some changes are huge while some changes are small yet they have impacted the industry nonetheless. Some of the changes in this time frame include but are not limited to:

  • The phones have become faster, more powerful – because of high memory capabilities and state of the art chips to augment the memory. 
  • Ability to run multiple applications at the same time. 
  • 4K display screens with high megapixel HD cameras. 
  • Music and Video streaming and casting have become very easy and can be done anywhere with a stable connection. 
  • Mobile gaming has evolved into a multi-trillion dollar industry. 
  • The battery running the devices now lasts for days instead of mere minutes or hours. 
  • The prominent rise of Android Operating System – Google’s answer to the iPhone. 
  • Samsung and Apple lead the smartphone industry with companies like One Plus, Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, LG, Lenovo and  Motorola – among many other manufacturers are developing new and innovative phones regularly.
  • The rise of applications colloquially known as ‘apps’ and ways to monetize them.
  • The boom in a new kind of artist known as ‘Mobile Photographers’.
  • Texting, Video calling have become a norm which takes place through wireless connections.
  • It is estimated that there are 5 billion cell phone owners around the world, out of which it is predicted that more than 2.5 billion people own a smartphone. 

Key Milestones from the history of Mobile Devices

Smartphones - 1983 to 2002 History
Smartphones - 2003 - Current History

How have smartphones managed to impact the way Business is run today?

Till now, the article has been focused on discovering the history of how mobile phones developed into smartphones and how it has changed the way in which we interact with each other – now let us look at how these modern tools have impacted the way in which businesses are run in this modern age. The list henceforth briefly describes how the business industry has been adapting to this revolutionary device – the Smartphone. 

  • As smartphones give consumers unlimited access to almost any information of their choosing – raising the need of customers to be instantly gratified. They want prompt responses from businesses that have an online presence. Furthermore, smartphones have given the power to purchase any goods and services from across the globe – easily and instantaneously. Because of this, modern businesses have started allocating dedicated teams to monitor and respond to online queries and orders 24/7. 
  • Smartphones running applications like Slack, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype – have made it possible for people to gain access to virtual desks from anywhere in the world – allowing them to run their business without having to be confined within four walls of an office. 
  • Online Advertisements, which are ubiquitous in almost all the applications running on a smartphone – have opened up a whole new platform to serve contents to consumers through targeted marketing. The revenue generated through such ads are substantial enough to be the sole bread and butter of some businesses. 
  • The rise of smartphones have given rise to the culture spending significant time in applications such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Pinterest, WeChat, Tik-Tok etcetera. They account for 80% of the time spent online by people across the globe – which has hundreds of businesses spending a lot of time and energy vying to obtain customers through Social Media.  

The factors listed above are just the tip of the iceberg consisting of the changes that smartphones have brought about in just over a decade. With changes occurring on a daily basis, the only thing we can be sure of is –  we can expect to see businesses changing their practices according to the trend brought about by the changing smartphone culture. 

The Future of Smartphones

From the early smartphones developed by Motorola, Nokia and IBM’s Simon – which showed us a glimpse of the potential such devices hold; it was not until 2007 when Apple released the iPhone – was the potential fully realized. Now in 2020, the mobile devices continue to be a staple part of our everyday life. The device has replaced digital cameras, music players and voice activated assistants like Siri and Google Assistant – we have ceased using smartphones only to communicate to each other. Instead we use to do just about anything in our lives from ordering food, goods, services, keeping ourselves informed of things going on in and around the world. So what’s in store for the next chapter of Smartphones?  

As the technology continues to grow, it is not an easy job to predict what comes next. With the constant improvements happening in the mobile industry, all we can say with certainty is that –  smartphones will allow us the freedom to grow and work according to the way we see fit. Integrating it in our lives to make it easier to work and play according to our choosing. 

Suraj Aryal
Suraj Aryal helps businesses expand their digital footprint, devise engagement plans, and handle escalation of customers' marketing issues. For Suraj, helping the company grow and helping its clients realize their digital dream is the most rewarding part of the role. Outside of the office, Suraj enjoys reading books, travelling, cooking, watching movies and series and rocking out to some sick tunes.

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