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  • Saarang P

How Mobile Phones took over the World

Mobile phones – that piece of technology, without which, we cannot define the 21st Century. It has revolutionized the entire digital technology in a short span of years.

But did you know that in their initial stages, mobile phones did not have big screens, fancy features, or even cameras? They were quite bulky, too costly, and did not come with any of those fancy features found in today's smartphones.

Gradually, as technology matured, certain additions were made. It was an evolution.

ITU (International Telecommunications Union) estimated the growth of mobile phone usage. It follows an S-shaped curve as below (from 1980 to 2024):

Mobile phone usage graph
Mobile phone usage graph

Evolution of mobile phones

The phones that we use today have evolved for a long time. But it was a gradual process. Let's look at this mobile phone evolution:

Motorola – a key player in pushing mobile phone technology

It all started in 1983 when Motorola published its first phone – Motorola DynaTAC 8000X.

Motorola DynaTAC 8000X

This phone was very popular at that time and a status symbol. Soon after a few years in 1989, Motorola improved this model with the launch of DynaTAC 9800X or MicroTAC. This new model had a foldable keyboard cover which paved the way for foldable phones throughout the 90s decade.

IBM Simon – the world’s first smartphone

In 1992, IBM launched Simon – the world’s first smartphone. It was a touchscreen PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) – a handheld PC. At that time, this touchscreen smartphone had email capabilities, many built-in apps including a calculator, calendar, sketch pad. It went on sale 2 years later in 1994.

This LCD smartphone sold around 50,000 units during that time. The main drawbacks of this device were it was too bulky and it had poor battery life.

Nokia 1011 – the world’s first GSM mobile phone

Nokia 1011 (named so, as it was launched on 10th November 1992) was the first GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) mobile phone. Its memory could hold 99 phone numbers and it was also able to receive SMS messages.

The ultimate successor of this phone was Nokia 1100 launched in 2003, which was the best-selling handset in the world and sold over 1.2 billion units.

Nokia 8110 – “The banana phone”

This phone from Nokia had a curved profile, hence nicknamed “the banana phone.” It had a slider over the keypad that users would slide down to accept a call and slide up to end the call. This phone was also featured in “The Matrix” film.

Nokia 9000 Communicator – the world’s first mobile with Internet access

This was the first mobile phone in Nokia's Communicator series, launched in 1996. It was capable of receiving email and fax via GSM and also had a web browser with business apps.

The successor of this phone was Nokia 9210 Communicator launched in 2000 which had a wide TFT internal color screen. The main change was the introduction of the Symbian operating system.

Siemens S10 – the world’s first mobile phone with color display

In 1997, Siemens launched S10 – the mobile that was capable of displaying pixels in red, green, blue, white. It displayed six lines of information and came with several apps like a phonebook, alarm, voice note recorder.

Blackberry 850 – the famous device in the corporate world

In 1999, Blackberry launched Blackberry 850, which was called RIM (Research In Motion) at that time. It was one of the first wireless devices to feature a seamless connection of corporate email and contacts. It had a fully-featured QWERTY keyboard, which became a quite popular feature in the market.

Nokia 3310 – the world's most popular and successful phone in the 2000s

This was perhaps the most popular phones from Nokia, launched in September 2000. It sold over 126 million units and it was very affordable, even at that time. Another reason that this phone was widely known was for its high durability and build quality.

It became an Internet sensation for its good toughness and many memes were also created on this topic!

Blackberry 6210 – the preferred phone by business professionals

This was the first Blackberry phone with an integrated phone (previous generations required a headset). It was also known as "Quark". With this, Blackberry also launched BBM (Blackberry Messenger), one of the most famous chat applications at that time.

Motorola Razr V3 – the most popular handset from Motorola

Launched in 2004, this is considered as Motorola's most popular mobile phone. The main highlight was its unique design statement and a relatively thin form factor. As 3G was also introduced during this period, this phone was 3G-enabled with WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) internet browsing, and also came with a VGA camera with video recording, a voice recorder, and downloadable MP3 ringtones.

Several other models of the phone were released subsequently and this phone was made popular by the famous "Hello Moto" campaign.

Nokia N95 – "It's what computers have become"

This phone was marketed as a "multimedia computer." And that's for a reason. It was a high-end phone at that time and had a 5 MP auto-focus rear camera with flash, a front-facing camera, a built-in GPS receiver, 2.6-inch display. It even had an accelerometer sensor and support for HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access), i.e., 3.5G

Nokia claims that out of all the smartphones sold worldwide, this phone sold 50% of that.

The iPhone – the dawn of a new era in the smartphone industry

In January 2007, Apple launched the iPhone – a phone with a full multi-touch screen with no physical keypads and buttons, except the one Home button on the front of the phone.

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple had said, "iPhone is a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone."

And it was a revolutionary device. It had a virtual keyboard, a beautiful 3.5 inches capacitive touchscreen with 16M colors, a 2MP camera, and a variety of sensors. It runs on Apple's iOS.

The first generation iPhone sold over 6 million units during that year.

Since then, there were several companies launching smartphones, adding new features, improved performance, and design. But still, there was no direct competitor as such to Apple….at least till 2010.

Samsung Galaxy S – one of the most successful phones in the history of smartphones

Samsung was already present in the electronics industry since 1969, with black and white televisions and other electronic devices in the market. But it was not until 2010 that Samsung emerged as a direct competitor to Apple when Samsung launched its first Android smartphone – Galaxy S.

The main highlight of this phone was a beautiful 4 inch AMOLED display that was unlike any other smartphone and slim design. It had Samsung's own 1GHz "Hummingbird" processor, 16GB storage that was expandable up to 32 GB with a memory card, 512MB RAM, 5 MP rear camera and 0.3 MP front camera.

Since then, Samsung released a variety of S series smartphones in subsequent years. With the "Note" series smartphones, Samsung introduced a new form factor that came to be called a phablet (phone + tablet) and had a stylus (S Pen) for added functionality.

Conclusion – The road ahead

Thus, such was the gradual process of evolution of mobile phones. It continues to grow at a faster rate. Few years ago, mobile phones were considered a luxury item. But today they have become a necessity. They connect everyone in the world seamlessly.

With technology advancing rapidly, mobile phones are becoming smarter and taking over the world; they already have taken over the world! Today's smartphones are 100 times better at doing many tasks in a faster and smarter way than previous generation phones 10 years ago.

Imagine what would happen over the next 10 years!

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