Bang Design

Smartphones: How We Got Here – The journey to having the world in our palms.

Picture from 2000 1990 Sowden IPM Outdoor Public Payphone

There used to be a time when you would have to cross umpteenth hurdles to call a guy to fix your heater. You would sift through the flimsy sheets of the yellow pages, punch in the number into a wired telephone, wait your turn to speak to an executive and finally, schedule an appointment. Today? The hassle has been simplified to just 2 clicks, with no need for any human contact! What about when you were away from home and needed to make an urgent call—you would look for the nearest payphone. What’s a payphone today? An aesthetic instagrammable photo op, of course! Man’s need for convenience and thirst to know have literally brought the world to our fingertips. The dark and painstaking times of patience and ignorance are behind us.

The word “phone” brings an image to an individual’s mind, an image that’s starkly different from the one it summoned 50 years ago. Taking a walk down memory lane and delving into the past shows us how eloquently phones have turned smart and changed the world, as we know it. From clunky devices that had us cemented to a corner to commanding AI to call someone, our method of communication has transformed.
While the last century’s developments catalyzed our procession into the future i.e., the invention of the first cell phone, the first smartphone, and the incorporation of mobile games in phones, the 21st century presents a treasure trove that we’re slowly picking apart. The newer versions of smartphones have catapulted us into a time where the absence of a technological device results in the absence of connection; cut-off, alone, isolated from our kind.

From Clicks to Taps

The beginning of the new century marked the year our world changed. 2001–the year we could hold the universe of the internet in our hands! NTT DoCoMo launched the first 3G network in Japan! Since then, innovations have been rolling off the line in the telecom domain.
BlackBerry dominated the smartphone market in the early 2000s. It offered a delightful experience, with its clicky keyboards and proprietary BlackBerry Messenger, its owners automatically became a part of the “Cool Club.” BlackBerry reigned over the world of smartphones with its colored display and easy access to the web. It shone bright and fast, dwindling when the first iPhone was unveiled in 2007. The keyboard stood no chance against the sophisticated touchscreen. It improved typing speeds and accuracy. A larger display size mesmerized audiences, they no longer felt the need for a physical keyboard that occupied half the space of their phone. The iPhone also boasted variants of storage as well–4GB level and 8GB along with a battery life of 8 whole hours of talk time and 250 hours of standby time. The best smartphone of all time had arrived; it was impossible to look back.

The Great Divide

Within merely a year, Google announced its arrival into the arena of smartphones by introducing Android–the first open-source OS. Being ‘open source,’ the manufacturers had almost near limitless access to distribute their own devices and even modify the base OS. The Apple-Google rivalry has shaped how we use smartphones.
Several manufacturers began releasing Android smartphones, the popular ones having a combination of QWERTY keyboards and touch screens. By 2010, Android phones caught up with the iPhone, they offered the full-touchscreen experience. It gave way to one of the most prevalent feuds–Apple sued Samsung. Apple claimed that Samsung and the Samsung smartphone copied several utility patents. Samsung paid the price but eventually, we were all beneficiaries of the products these two tech giants created.

Upgrading the Smartphone

The first iPhone had an internal memory of 8-16GB, a 2MP primary camera (no selfie camera!), and a 3.5-inch screen. Compared to that, today’s smartphones have progressed by light years. Steadily, the features have improved to serve users in ways that were unimaginable at the time. Back in 2007, it would be quite difficult to explain to a user that eventually, they’d be able to warp charge their phone or take pictures of the moon’s individual craters.
The manufacturers have kept up with the customer’s demands on all fronts–pixel count, camera quality (and quantity), and battery size and life. The standard screen sizes gradually shifted to ~6 inches. Apart from the customer’s demands and an improved experience, the size can be attributed to accommodate the larger batteries required to support these bigger displays. One of the most noteworthy achievements of the manufacturers is storage size. Another consumer of space–smartphones needed to house better antennas that maximize reach, speed, and efficiency. All the features we use on smartphones have storage as their base. The volume and speed of data needed for smartphones and their cloud storage are multiplying by leaps and bounds. Smarter storage solutions are becoming a reality and just like life finds a way, technology is finding its way.
Additionally, the communication companies have kept up as well, amping up their network speeds, improving their nexus of signals, and helping us connect seamlessly and faster than ever.

A Symbol Of Unification

With the rise in popularity and accessibility of the smartphone, it stopped being a device for the “elite.” The smartphone became a symbol that united everyone. In a sense, it bridged the gap between the rich and poor, making the internet available and accessible, far and wide. The secrets of how the rich live are a google search away.
Gone are the days when just 1-2 people in a family owned a phone. Most adults own a smartphone and use at least one social media platform or messaging application. With children having access to smart devices as well, the world’s connection to itself is at an all-time high. Information can be consumed from anywhere, at any time. With the pandemic further propelling us to embrace the power of our devices and moving online, the method of educating a developing world changed drastically. Smart devices have endowed the modern student with agency over their education and learning, allowing them to shape their approach to the ever-evolving world.
The growth we’ve witnessed in the smartphone has been remarkable but the consumer is hungry for more. Where do smartphones go from here? Foldable phones are making a comeback; but this time round, the screens have the capacity to fold over themselves. There’s a glimpse of hope for stretchable screens too! Smartphones are becoming quicker, sleeker and bigger than ever before. Cameras are able to capture the finest details. Technology is predicted to create holographic displays, over-the-air charging and a complete absence of ports. As for the world’s connectivity, more countries are adopting 5G technology. It is connecting us faster than ever before but there’s more; 6G is on the horizon! With AI and other budding technologies thrown into the mix of the devices we’re familiar with, another step of the smartphone revolution awaits us—the best smartphone is yet to come!
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