These days, smartphones are the default source of communication for many people. But it wasn’t always this way. In just 40 years, cell phone technology has evolved dramatically, from a bulky phone with a limited calling range that you carry around in a bag to a no-frills flip phone to the modern smartphone – an elegant touchscreen device that connects you with the world and fits in your pocket.
1983 - IT STARTS WITH THE CELL PHONE
In the beginning, there were cell phones and personal digital assistants (or PDAs). Cell phones were used for making calls – and not much else. Gradually, features like voicemail were added, but the main purpose was talk. Eventually, cell phone manufacturers began to realize that they could integrate other technologies into their phone and expand its features.
PDAs, like the Palm Pilot, were used as personal, portable organizers. A PDA could store your contact info and a to-do list, and could sync with your computer.
Eventually, PDAs gained wireless connectivity and were able to send and receive email. In the meantime, cell phones gained messaging capabilities, too.
PDAs then added cell phone features, while cell phones added more PDA-like (and even computer-like) features. The result was the smartphone.
1994 - ENTER THE SMARTPHONE
What is a smartphone? In a nutshell, it’s a device that lets you make phone calls, but also adds in robust features that – in the past, you would have found only on a personal digital assistant or a computer – such as the ability to send and receive email and edit documents. The smartphone uses an operating system that allows you to download apps and functions like a computer.
Eventually, cell phone manufacturers began to realize that they could integrate other technologies into their phone and expand its features. The earliest smartphones let users access email, and use the phone as a fax machine, pager, and address book. But that was only the start of the the smartphone revolution.
WHAT MAKES THEM SMART?
Today, the purpose of the cell phone has shifted from a verbal communication tool to a multimedia tool, often being called a “mobile device” rather than a phone. Now, we use our phones more for surfing the web, checking email, taking pictures and updating our social media status than actually placing calls.
Modern smartphones have advanced touchscreen features, more software options, better screen resolution and constantly improving interfaces. Plus, these phones can now hold as much memory as a computer would just a few years ago. The result – smartphones are now easier to navigate – and more fun to use.
KEY SMARTPHONE FEATURES
Smartphones use an operating system that allows it to run applications. The iPhone runs on iOS, Android runs on Google Android OS and HP runs on webOS.
While almost all cell phones include some sort of software, smartphones have the ability to do much more. They may allow you to create and edit Microsoft Office documents. And most give you the capability to download apps, such as personal and business finance managers and personal assistants. Plus, you can edit photos, get driving directions via GPS, create a playlist of digital tunes, or a million other useful and fun options.
More smartphones can access the web at higher speeds, thanks to the growth of faster and faster data networks, as well as the addition of Wi-Fi support to many handsets.
Smartphones also include a QWERTY keyboard. This means that the keys are laid out, in the same manner, they would be on your computer keyboard.
All cell phones can send and receive text messages, but what sets a smartphone apart is the way it handles email. Smartphones sync with all your email accounts, so you never miss an email – wherever you are. And all smartphones offer a way to send quick text messages.
Although the trend had been for smartphones to become smaller and sleeker, in recent years, smartphone designs have actually started to become larger and simpler, making room for a larger screen and fewer buttons. As phones have become mobile media devices, the most desirable aspect is now a large, clear, high-definition screen for optimal web viewing and a touchscreen keyboard that only appears when you need it.
Technology analysts say that the convergence of all our tech gadgets into one mobile device will continue to advance, with the majority of the hardware and the software moving to the cloud so that the phone is mainly comprised of the input and the display.
Within a few more years, regular cell phones may disappear completely, and will likely take the term “smartphone” with them into obscurity.
These tech insiders also predict that the cell phones of the future will be adapted to appeal more to our emotional senses, becoming more naturally in sync with our biological reflexes and processes – such as eye movement, thought processes, kinesthetic and cultural preferences. What comes next will be devices that are connected to us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.