Our lives are increasingly mobile and our cell phones are not only a way to contact anyone, anytime, anywhere but also our calendars, cameras, photo albums, inboxes, maps, weather reports, dictionaries, and entertainment. Payphones are disappearing as business users edit documents on their Blackberries, kids text each other furiously in class instead of passing notes and celebrities partner with handset manufacturers. We take our cell phones for granted now but it wasn't that long ago that a cell phone was much like a snow leopard - rare, expensive and exotic. So what happened? What were the technologies that really changed the playing field for mobile? How have our systems of communication changed over the past three decades?
Let us take you on a tour of the most noteworthy mobile moments - from telecomm inventions to handset debuts to appearances in popular culture, we've found the top 20 Moments in Mobile Phone History. From must-have handsets to advancements that moved mobile forward, we're hightlighting watershed occassions, developments and adaptations that made mobile phones an indispensible addition to our lives.
Complete with file organizer, large purse, laptop and coffee mug Barbie's notable accessory here is her included mobile phone. Also comes with a CDROM that allows girls to make business cards, stationary and calendars, WWBarbie says slogans such as "Going to work is fun!" Working Woman Barbie helped to broker the deal between toys and technology, and made the cell phone an in-demand must-have by a whole new generation of young girls. Current children's toys include a bevy of play cell phones, but Barbie broke the barrier.
The Hiptop/Sidekick appears with full HTML support and online connectivity, a 240 X 160 LCD screen, USB, POP3, a camera connector and a slick 180 flip screen that revealed a full QWERTY keyboard. Although it wasn't exactly super-slim, it was the only mobile of its time to factory integrate an IM client making it very popular with deaf users. In 2003, the Sidekick was the first mobile that could place unassisted TTY and Relay Operator calls via the web browser. It was, as they say, hip with the kids. Even Veronica Mars had one, and if it's good enough for a fictional teen sleuth then it's definitely good enough for the cool kids on the bus.
A flip handset remarked upon for its small size (enter obligatory chuckle here), the StarTAC could receive SMS text messages, used a lithium-ion battery and had the first vibrating alert feature on a phone. This was to telephony what color was to television. Initially set at a $1,000 price point, the StarTAC was so popular it was revived in 2004 for a South Korean market and redesigned for a V.I.P. 10th Anniversary Edition. Split handsets into two categories: flip and candybar, appeared in the movie 8mm with Nicholas Cage and paved the way for the Razr.
Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko flaunts his wealth with his super-hip FY8850 mobile (on a beach, with his shirt unbuttoned, naturally) in Wall Street. A character that epitomizes greed, wealth and power, his casual use of elite technology in an era marked by brand name status makes a clear statement about the divide between the technology have's and have-nots. In the past 20+ years, mobiles in movies have evolved from product placement, to thwarting victims in horror movies with poor reception to inevitably becoming part of the plot. In 2004, both the Chinese film Cell Phone and the William H. Macy dud Cellular were released; 2008 gave us One Missed Call.
Another first for NTT DoCoMo - using WCDMA technology, branded FOMA, DoCoMo's 3G allowed mobile users simultaneous use of speech and data services and higher data rates. 3G also offered increased security by allowing the handset to authenticate networks it was attaching to, addressing concerns about vulnerabilities while mobile browsing. Verizon and Monet Mobile Networks helped bring the first commercial 3G to the US in 2003. By 2007 there were 190 3G networks operating in 40 countries, with 154 HSDPA networks in 71 countries, cutting the path for mobile TV, video conferencing and location-based services.
The first Android phone finally appears in the form of the HTC Dream. With 256MB, 3.2inch LCD flat touchscreen (320 X 480 res), integrated GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3.2mp camera, expansion slot and background processing, the Dream was built as a Linux-based, open-source iPhone challenger. Also called the TMobile G1, the handset included a full array of Google candy: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Talk, YouTube and a limited Google Docs. Often touted with the Pre as the next contender in a long line of "iPhone Killers", the Dream pulled itself up by its handy notification bar and went to bat for a new non-Apple future. The latest incantation, Droid, is gaining Android plenty of ground.
By allowing its fans to choose their pop sensation winner by calling the singers assigned phone number to vote, AI was a front-runner in integrating mobile with entertainment. AI currently has involvement with both AT&T and Samsung for services running from unlimited messaging plans (for easier voting) and Idol text chat session to ringtones, SMS trivia, even a text reminder of contestant codes. AI, understanding both its fan base and the potential of mobile, was able to explode into a media giant surpassing even the democratic process: in 2007 74 million people voted for rocker David Cook as the "next American Idol," in 2004 64 million people voted for George W. Bush.
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Sharp Communications and J-Phone partner up to bring Japan the J-SH04: the first camera phone. With patents dating back to 1956, this 110,000-pixel CMOS made any moment instantly capturable. It also made anyone instantly photographable. Camera phones were instantly utilized for citizen journalism, political protests, business applications, invasions of privacy and voyeurism. In South Korea and Japan, camera phones must make an audible noise when a photo is taken to prevent up-skirt shots. In 2007 Mayor Bloomberg introduced a plan to encourage citizens to capture crimes in progress on their camera phones; "Camera Phone" even became a hit pop song by the Game in 2009.
Bluetooth technology is invented by Swedes Sven Mattisson and Jaap Haartsen while working for Ericsson and given an official introduction in 1998, much to the joy of thousands of cab drivers. Providing a secure way to connect devices such as mobiles, faxes, laptops, PCs, etc, Bluetooth allowed users to exchange information wirelessly. Bluetooth led to advancements in wireless communication between a PC and its mouse/keyboard, wireless video game controllers, wireless bar code scanners, traffic control devices and advances in medical equipment. It also made it increasingly difficult to tell who was on the phone, and who was simply talking to themselves. Current usage is down, but will likely grow as several states enact hands-free driving laws.
The first commercially automated cellular network (aka 1G) is launched in Japan by NTT. Initially covering the full metro-Tokyo area (20 millions users, 23 base stations) it had expanded to cover the entire population of Japan within five years becoming the first nation-wide 1G network. Using AMPS technology, NTT used FDMA to transfer between cells. Although its ability to cover an entire populace is impressive, it also gave the company the distinct advantages of a monopoly. Nordic Mobile Telephone was next to provide 1G service to Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The United States caught up to speed around 1983.
Also known as the Zach Morris phone, the initial Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage 8000X featured a red LED display, battery life that allowed for a call up to 60 minutes, cost $3995 ($8600 in 2009 dollars) and weighed nearly two pounds. Of the DynaTAC, inventor Martin Cooper has said "The battery lifetime was 20 minutes, but that wasn't really a big problem because you couldn't hold the phone up for that long." Still, that didn't hold the DynaTAC back – the same year of its release it was used by Ameritech for the U.S. 1G launch. Thus begins the adoption of mobile.
Reportedly inspired by watching Capitan Kirk use his communicator on Star Trek, Martin Cooper invents the first mobile phone for non-vehicle use while working at Motorola; uses it to call rival developer Dr. Joel S. Engel from Bell Labs. Cooper's mobile prototype went on to become the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, the first commercially available mobile phone, ushering in a new technology for the era. Of the momentous occasion, Cooper has said: "People want to talk to other people…Given a choice, people will demand the freedom to communicate wherever they are, unfettered by the infamous copper wire. It is that freedom we sought to vividly demonstrate in 1973." Hear, hear!
The first SMS message is sent in the UK to Vodafone Director Richard Jarvis (it says: Happy Christmas), becoming a new way to communicate as well as a new way to utilize mobile handsets. With a new functionality, a new and annoying shorthand language emerged as users found texting an increasingly easy way to touch base. Especially useful in situations where a user couldn't answer a call (meeting, movie, concert) texting caught on rapidly among younger generations. In 2008, over 4.1 trillion text messages were sent with the world record being 182, 689 texts in a month (that’s one text every fifteen seconds). Led to Twitter, TextsFromLastNight.com, and marital trouble for Tiger Woods.
I know, I know. But it's got to be mentioned. Innovation and design that demolished the mobile landscape, moved the power from the hands of service carriers to handset manufacturer, it's sleek, shiny, and incredibly intuitive. Upped the ante for mobile marketing. It's going to revolutionize everything. It's going to destroy civilization. It's undeniable. Ubiquitous. Something else that starts with U. It's a bloody cultural phenomenon. If the iPhone were a wrestler, it would be the Dominator. Rumored to have cost Apple $150 million to build, this handset had folks lining up around the block (literally) to get one and quickly found its way into the hands of everyone (Even Romeo Beckham has one and he's 9.) Let's give a quick shout-out to the ARM11 chip that enabled mobile processors to be fast enough to actually power this multi-touch screen beast.
Talk about your game changers. After all: what is the iPhone without the App Store? Just a fancy handset. As of April 2010 there were roughly 185,000 third party applications officially available in the App Store, with over 4 billion total downloads. Competitors were quickly forced to follow suit – Palm's App Catalog, Google's Android Market, BlackBerry App World and the Windows Marketplace for Mobile all scrambled to fill in the gaps for their customers. Even the Nintendo DSi and Sony's Playstation Portable now have related stores. With the BBC declaring that Apps "are to be as big as (the) internet", Apple's succeeded in recasting the handset – and extending the price-point past the point of purchase.