While a cell phone was once a luxury item that only few possessed, smartphones are now an essential resource in most people’s everyday lives. Smartphones have enhanced communication and connectivity to astounding levels, providing us with interactive ways to be entertained and informed. As these devices continue to evolve with the latest technology, it’s inspiring to see how mobile phones with limited capabilities have transformed into smartphones with unlimited potential over the last 30 years. Let’s take a look at the history of smartphones and their possible future.
From Mobile Phones to Smartphones
What’s the earliest mobile phone you remember using? Whether it’s a Nokia or a Motorola, many people consider these to be different devices than the smartphones we know and love today. Unsurprisingly, many believe that it was Apple that invented the smartphone with their iPhone launch in 2007. Actually, BellSouth Cellular and IBM created “the phone of the future” fifteen years earlier in hopes of providing users with the combined convenience of a telephone, fax machine, computer and personal digital assistant in the palm of their hands.
The first smartphone was a prototype created by IBM in 1992. Known as the Simon Personal Communicator, its release marks when smartphones truly got their start. IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator was made available to the public in 1994 and changed the way users interacted with mobile phones. Merging the capabilities of a cellular phone and a PDA, the original smartphone — a term coined shortly after the Simon Personal Communicator’s arrival in 1995 — was surprisingly not so different from our smartphones today.
Its monochrome LCD touchscreen was way ahead of its time and even came with its own stylus for precise control. Though it was significantly larger than many of the smaller iPhones & Androids we have today, the Simon Personal Communicator’s measured only 8″ x 2.5″ x 1.5″ and weighed approximately one pound. Along with the touchscreen, this device featured a variety of built-in applications like an address book, calculator, calendar, mail, note pad and to-do list. You could even integrate third-party applications into the device.
With additional features like predictive text and the ability to send or receive everything from emails to faxes, the first touchscreen phone debuted at a time when other mobile phones were being invented. Although the first example of mobile phone usage can be traced back to 1973, the first portable phone did not go public until the next decade. That phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, was released in 1989 and led to the smaller-sized Motorola International 3200 in 1992.
Similar to IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator, the Nokia 9000 Communicator was released in 1996 and considered advanced for its time. This device was among the first phones with internet to hit the market, with web browsing capabilities added to their other business functions. Hot on its heels was Ericsson’s GS88 a year later, which is officially known as the first “smartphone” by name. Similarly, BlackBerry’s 850 in 1999 was known as the first wireless handheld computer to hit the market.
Throughout the 1990s, mobile phones changed significantly. Text messaging, email and various applications became necessary resources for business professionals and average consumers alike. One early problem with mobile and smartphones was the limited internet access and high fees associated with mobile phone usage. Experts believe that the Vodafone Prepaid Pay As You Go contracts launched in the mid-90s opened up opportunities for more users to afford these devices. In the ten years since these non-contract phone plans debuted, household ownership of mobile phones increased by 65 percent.
Moving through the 2000s, mobile phone technology continued to expand its capabilities. The sturdiness of the Nokia 3310, the T-Mobile Sidekick’s QWERTY keyboard, the Motorola Razr’s slim profile and the BlackBerry Pearl’s trackball navigation were all impressive features that made these devices desirable. Although the smartphone was technically born in the 1990s, the rise of the smartphone in pop and consumer culture definitely occurred after the millennium.
BlackBerry was a significant name in both mobile phone and smartphone technology during the early 2000s. Their first device that supported email and web browsing launched in 1999. By 2004, their devices had expanded to feature colored displays and full web browsing. As newer models were created, BlackBerry became a market leader in smartphones in part by catering their technology and applications to business professionals. Unfortunately, BlackBerry would begin a downward trend shortly after the debut of one of Apple’s most groundbreaking inventions — the iPhone.
When the first iPhone was unveiled in early 2007, Steve Jobs called it “five years ahead of any other mobile phone.” This was a dynamic departure from the mobile phones users were accustomed to. The traditional QWERTY keyboard was removed to provide room for a full touchscreen interface that utilized a multi-touch sensor. The iPhone had all of the features of other devices, such as the BlackBerry models, but the exceptional Apple OS X operating software also allowed users to stream movies, listen to songs, store photos and more.
The original iPhone was available in 4GB and 8GB models in 2007. By 2008, a first-generation iPhone was available with 16GB while the iPhone 3G debuted within six months of its release. From 2007 through present day, Apple has released either a new version of an existing iPhone or a next-generation iPhone at least once every year. Apple’s advancements over the last decade aren’t isolated — the first iPhone release defined what would be the future of smartphones for years to come.
The Evolution of Smartphones from the Late 2000s to Today
While mobile phones did provide exciting new features when they first came out, smartphones quickly took over. The iPhone did more than change the mobile phone industry — it changed the world. Once upon a time, simple pixelated games were an astounding achievement. Now smartphones can deliver multi-user gaming experiences with AR interaction. This is just one example of how smartphone development has redefined expectations and set a benchmark for which features are standard inclusions on every device.
The iPhone received a lot of hype during its release, and for good reason. However, by the end of 2007, Google made its move into the smartphone arena by offering a free mobile operating system called Android. This was designed to enable handsets to use the internet to its full potential. A direct competitor to Apple’s IOS operating system, Android enabled rivals of Apple to integrate a dynamic operating system into their smartphones.
The first Android phone was released in 2008. The G1 had limited touchscreen functionality, but by February 2010, Android phones had full touchscreen capabilities — so much so that Apple sued HTC and threatened Google’s executives for allegedly copying Apple’s products. Over the years, Samsung, Motorola, Windows and a number of other companies entered the fray. While some, like Samsung, continue to be successful today, others, like BlackBerry, were unable to sustain success long enough to keep them in competition with the likes of Apple or Android.
Smartphone evolution can be boiled down to a few key features. With larger memory systems and the inclusion of cloud-based storage, these devices can store more data than imaginable. Advances in smartphone hardware and operating systems have increased processing power and speed, which is ideal for downloading or uploading various media. Battery life has come a long way as well, with some devices staying powered on for days at a time. Upgraded camera capabilities and the ability to use multiple apps simultaneously is also notable compared to previous models.
Several other important design elements have also defined what makes a smartphone different than a simple mobile phone. The touchscreen has replaced the QWERTY keyboard as well as the trackball. Although the physical size of each phone varies, manufacturers still attempt to make the screen display as large and functional as possible. Of course, these design elements and features will continue to change by the year. Looking to the future, it’s evident that smartphone design, capabilities and contexts will continue to evolve and revolutionize the user experience.
2019 and Beyond
As of this writing, familiar brands top the lists of the best smartphones of 2019. Apple’s iPhone XR and iPhone XS are not a surprising inclusion, especially since they’re considered one of the best values for iPhones in years. Samsung’s flagship smartphone continues to evolve with the Galaxy S10 and S10E, while Google Pixel 3 increases in popularity. The OnePlus 7 Pro, Motorola Moto G7 Power and Huawei P30 Pro have also made their way into the top 2019 smartphone picks of industry critics.
Looking forward to 2020, the major manufacturers in the smartphone industry are looking to up the ante by debuting new generations of their best products with exciting features. The Apple iPhone XII may upgrade the current LCD screen to an OLED interface. Apple may also release its first foldable phone. Not to be outdone, Microsoft may reenter the smartphone industry with its own foldable phone.
Samsung will likely release their next Galaxy, the S11, but they could also try to improve upon their previous foldable phone by introducing the Galaxy Fold 2. Google’s Pixel 5, Sony’s Xperia 1R/2, the Nokia 10 and Xiaomi’s Mi10 are all rumored to arrive in the coming year at the earliest. Motorola may even bring back their extremely popular Razr from 2004 in the form of an impressive Razr V4.
It’s incredible to see how much smartphones have changed over the years. Regardless of which brands debut their next generation of products in 2020 or beyond, there’s one thing that’s for certain — the future of smartphones looks bright.
The Future of Smartphones
Think back to your first cellphone — it might have been a reliable Nokia or an ultra-slick Razr flip phone. As cool and exciting as these devices were, they were quickly outshined by the arrival of the iPhone and other smartphones. Since the first iPhone hit the market in 2007, the evolution of smartphones has awed and inspired us. While any advancement will be a welcomed resource, we are particularly excited about three developments that are on the cusp of breaking through to mainstream smartphone design.
- 5G: Using high radio frequencies, 5G will be able to provide users with up to 10 times faster download speeds than with 4G service that uses lower radio frequencies. It will also allow users to connect more devices to a 5G network, offering more interconnectivity without as much interference. A stronger broadband connection will change the digital landscape. The need for newer 5G infrastructure may also alter our physical landscape as cell tower technology is upgraded to meet the supporting needs 5G requires.
- Foldable Screens: Imagine using a smartphone that you can fold to reduce its size without compromising its integrity, making for a durable and shock absorbent device. Foldable screens aren’t in mass production yet, but companies like Samsung and Lenovo have created prototypes that are close to revolutionizing smartphone design. Although Samsung’s first test-run of their Galaxy Fold did not go as planned, it at least highlighted important issues with foldable design that will no doubt pave the way for practical solutions.
- Immersive Tech: Augmented reality and virtual reality are two immersive technologies that are on the rise. Currently being used in select contexts such as games and entertainment, there are limitless applications for advanced AR and VR, especially when it’s integrated with smartphones. Other immersive technologies integrated into smartphones, such as advanced voice commands, 3D screens, holograms, tactile applications and biometric authentication hardware, are just a few of the burgeoning tech features that will create a more immersive smartphone experience.
What will the future of smartphones be? The possibilities are endless. As new technologies revolutionize the industry, the small device in our pockets will open up entire new worlds of potential, connecting us to virtually anything we want right in the palm of our hands. When you’re ready to upgrade to the best the industry has to offer, let The Whiz Cells take your old device off your hands.
Sell Your Old Smartphone
Smartphones are in a constant state of evolution, and it’s no surprise that many users want the latest and greatest technology in their hands the moment it comes out. If you’re looking forward to the next generation of your favorite smartphone, offset that expense by selling your old devices to The Whiz Cells. We’ll buy your old tech — even broken devices — and help you save up for the next big smartphone.
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