Mobile Phone Evolution
Six out of seven million people on Earth have access to one – a cell phone. We use it for almost everything, from all kinds of communication to services that aim to simplify our lives. But how did the cellphone evolve to what it is today?
Before the hand-held cellphone, we had stationary cellphones, mostly used in cars. But in 1984 the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X was released. It was the first consumer mobile available to the public. It weighed 6 times more than a modern smartphone and only had a talk time of about 1hour. Over the next 25-30 years, there were many technical inventions which have led to our modern cellphones. One of them was the flash-memory which was invented in 1984, that is used in today’s smartphones. A year later, the ARM1-processor was released. It is the ancestor to the processors used in many of today’s smartphones. The Motorola Dynatac used an analogue mobile network. It is sometimes called 1g, the first generation mobile network.
In 1991 the first digital GSM-call was made in Finland. GSM is the so-called second generation or 2G. The first SMS was sent by a British engineer in 1992 by using this technology, And the message was “Merry Christmas”.
The IBM Simon was launched in 1994. You could call it the first smartphone, with the touchscreen, calendar, mail, pager, fax, clock, games and predictive typing which guesses what the next characters might be while typing. It even had apps. You only had to insert an expansion card for the app you wanted to use. One thing the IBM Simon didn’t have was a colour screen. That wasn’t available on cellphones until 1998. And then only in 4 colours on the Siemens S10.
In 1999 the first phone with built-in GPS and the first cellphone featuring video call technology were released. But in the 21st Century when a cell phone with a fully integrated camera was introduced. Video calls technology began to rule.
2001 saw another milestone in network technologies with the launch of 3G. It made internet access widely available. Before, you had to dial up the internet via GSM and pay for every minute.
In 2004, the Motorola Razr with its slim iconic design was released. Slim would become an ever-lasting design trend. The first cell phone with a built-in MP3-player became available at the same time and the IP-telephone service Skype was born.
2006 was the year Facebook started its global campaign, and Twitter was launched in 2007. These services changed how we communicated with each other and are now an integral part of today’s smartphones.
2007 was another milestone for smartphones with the launch of Apple’s iPhone. It wasn’t the first smartphone, but the touchscreen, user-friendly interface, and later also apps, defined the new smartphone era.
In 2008, Google launched its mobile operating system Android. Today it is the most used operating system for smartphones.
From the first digital network, 2G in 1991, to 3G in 2001, different technical processes (also called protocols) of handling voice calls, SMS and data-traffic were used.
With 4g, which was launched in 2009, everything runs on the IP-protocol, the same that are used by the internet. Throughout those years, the number of cellphone subscriptions has grown enormously. From 12.4 million cellphone subscriptions in 1990 (that’s about 1/6 of the German population) to 6.8 billion in 2013. That’s almost the entire population of the world!