The beauty about science and technology is that a device which was unimagined by generations preceding us, becomes a necessity of the present. Most probably our grandparents in their prime couldn’t have imagined that a handheld device could make phone calls, messages, play music, games,Yes, we are talking about cellular phone, which arguably is one of the everyday essentials of the 21st century.
All the credit in the field of telecommunication is rightfully given to Alexander Graham Bell for inventing the Telephone, but there’s another person who should be credited for the transformation in human communication techniques, but isn’t remembered much by the masses. Martin Cooper, the man behind world’s first cellular phone. The phone wasn’t very practical for those times but it had definitely opened up a door of possibilities for the future generations to cherish.
We are not here to discuss the people but the product, the product which changed the way we live. In April 1973, the first ever cellular phone was released to the media and the very first cell phone call was made.
Let us take a short journey through the history of mobile phones to mark 42nd anniversary of the device that’s has revolutionized the way of communication in today’s world.
On 3rd April, 1973 Motorola left the media awestruck by a demonstration from their Head Engineer, Martin Cooper. Cooper displayed a device and made a call to Dr. Joel S. Engel, Head of Bell Labs (Motorola’s chief competitor at that time) and said, “Joel, this is Marty. I’m calling you from a cell phone, a real handheld portable cell phone.”
Although the device ‘DynaTAC’ (in the picture) was not out for sale until the next 10 years, it paved way for an entire new sector of technology.
DynaTAC, although being a cellular phone, wasn’t practical as a portable phone considering its aspects.It weighed 1.1 KG and took 10 hours to charge against which it gave a talk-time of 30 minutes.
6 years from DynaTAC, Motorola launched MicroTAC 9800X. Arguably world’s first truly portable phone.
First steps in Smartphone era
The first smartphone in the world wasn’t the iPhone in 2008, but IBM’s Simon, back in 1993. The phone had a pager, fax machine, PDA, calendar, address book, clock, calculator, notepad, email, games and a touchscreen with QWERTY keyboard. These features are common these days but it was a revolution 22 years ago as it first introduced the world to touch screen phones.
Simon was good but the idea of ‘smartphone’ was bettered by Nokia in 1997 by presenting Nokia 9000 Communicator. It was the first cell phone that could also be called a mini-computer (though it had limited web access).
When opened, the longways clamshell design revealed an LCD screen and a QWERTY keyboard—the first on a mobile phone.
The phones were made for a certain class of people back then, those who could afford these very high priced devices. Gradually the focus off the phone makers shifted to the masses and devices with universal appeal were produced
Phones for everyone
In 1996 Motorola had launched StarTAC, world’s first clamshell (foldable) mobile phone. The phone worked on 1G network initially and was inspired by devices used in Star Trek movie series. The phone was a success and set a trend of clamshell phones.
Following iconic mobile phones upgraded the facilities and were intended for the masses at attractive costs
Beginning of mobile photography!
Sharp J-SH04 was the first mobile phone to have a built in camera. The pictures taken from it were not great but it began a category for mobile phone specifications.
Cell phone makers made gradual improvements in cameras, but nokia’s N90 achieved the landmark of creating a 2 megapixel camera in a phone. It also had Carl Zeiss optics, autofocus, and an LED flash.
Sony was the chief competitor of Nokia in the ‘better camera’ race as it brought a 3.2 MP in its K800i’s camera to beat nokia’s 2MP
The mobile photography scene exploded when iphone, samsung and other major players took the center stage, but thats a story for later.
The smartphone maker is not in a controlling position in the mobile market anymore. Nonetheless, it ruled the international smartphone scene for most of last decade. Waterloo-based Blackberry released its first smartphone Blackberry 6200 which did not require a headset to talk. Blackberry followed it with other successful products to dominate the market, most popular of which was the Bold series.
Last but not at all least, one of the greatest moments in the history of smartphones was the launch of the iPhone by late Steve Jobs. No product has made a bigger impact on the industry like the Iphone has. From its revolutionary OS to a totally original phone design, iPhone caught the world’s fancy since the very first day of its launch.
Apple has released 6 generations of iPhones so far, and quite arguably inspired competitors like Samsung, Sony, Microsoft etc.,to make better products.
Right when Apple started the iOS wave, Google launched its own smartphone OS- Android. Google made Android free to use and over the years it has become the world’s favourite Smartphone OS, as it is used by every Major phone making company such as Samsung, Sony, Motorola, Xiaomi, HTC etc (except Microsoft and Apple of-course).
The interesting present
The recent past of the Mobile world has been as interesting as the initial stages we discussed above, but for very different reasons. The Phone companies are in a race to better the product by upgrading the software, speed and features which were previously present in the earlier models/ generations of their phones to beat the competitors.
More often than not, interesting tech rivalries emerge among Giants. Most prominent of these is the ‘Apple vs Samsung’ story, both the companies have filed over 40 lawsuits against each other in past 5 years over patents.The Iphone made by Apple and Galaxy series by Samsung are neck to neck competitors for global market dominance, thus the rivalry can be understood.
The way ahead
Major tech companies have announced their Android wear (or iOS wear) devices such as watches and bands to be released out soon. So the question for the future isn’t What kind of phones will be there? but, Will phones be needed in future to communicate? considering the developments in Wearable Tech and Tablets, will the smartphones too become obsolete?