History and Evolution of Smartphones

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Follow along as we explore how smartphone technology has evolved over the last 20 years, and how it's gone on to impact how we conduct business.

A lot of things happened back in 1992:

  • The Olympic games were held in Barcelona
  • Bill Clinton was just elected POTUS
  • The Cold War was declared over

But amidst all of that social and political change, 1992 was also the year that IBM unveiled the very first smartphone. Fast forward two years and the device officially hit the market for a cool price of $1,100 a pop. And after only six months, it had sold over 50,000 units.

While personal cellphones have been around since the 1970’s, the creation of the smartphone excited American consumers in an entirely new way.

After all, the three decades between the first mobile phone and the first smartphone saw the advent of the modern internet. And that invention sparked the very beginning of the digital telecommunication phenomenon we see today.

So, where have we come since that historic day in 1992, and how has the invention of the smartphone gone on to influence us as humans and consumers?

A Timeline of The Modern Smartphone

Let’s take a walk through time and see when each revolutionary development came to be.

1994 – What Was The First Smartphone?

The first smartphone, created by IBM, was invented in 1992 and released for purchase in 1994. It was called the Simon Personal Communicator (SPC). While not very compact and sleek, the device still featured several elements that became staples to every smartphone that followed.

For example, the SPC was equipped with a touch screen as well as the ability to send and receive both emails and faxes. It had a calendar, address book, and a native appointment scheduler. It even featured standard and predictive stylus input screen keyboards!

These features were different and advanced enough to deem it worthy of the title “World’s First Smartphone.”

Where have we come since the first smartphone?
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

2001- Cellphones Meet the Internet

It wasn’t until the year 2000 that the smartphone was connected with an actual 3G network. In other words, a mobile communications standard was built to allow portable electronic devices access to the Internet wirelessly.

This upped the ante for smartphones now making things like videoconferencing and sending large email attachments possible. However, accessing the internet from your phone came with a price tag. While the price of the device had decreased to the $300 – $700 range, the cost of data wasn’t worth the squeeze for most.

Where have we come since the first smartphone: 2001 internet enabled device.
Photo Credit: Web Designer Depot

2007- Enter Steve Jobs

One of the most influential years for smartphone evolution was 2007. It was year Steve Jobs and the team at Macworld revealed the very first iPhone. Not only was this the sleekest touch screen device to hit the market, it was also the first device that offered a full, un-watered down version of the internet. The very first iPhone gave consumers the ability to browse the web just as they would on a desktop computer.

The device was offered at a 4GB level ($499) and 8GB ($599). It boasted a battery life with 8 hours of talk time (rivaling the 1992 smartphones measly 1 hour of juice) as well as 250 hours of standby time! And while there were kinks (don’t we all remember how much easier it was to type on a blackberry vs. the original one finger at a time iPhone?) it still made a mark on the industry that lasts to this day.

Where have we come since the first smartphone: Apple releases iPhone.
Photo Credit: T3.com

2019- The World At Our Fingertips

And just like that, we’ve reached modern day. Since the launch of the iPhone twelve years ago, we’ve seen:

  • 21 new iPhones
  • The advent of the Android— Google’s answer to the iPhone
    • Hundreds of hardware iterations of Android smartphones
  • The rise of apps (and the monetization of them)
  • A new kind of artist known as a mobile photographer
  • Texting and messaging taking place through wireless connections

It’s safe to say that smartphones have changed the way we live our lives. Of the estimated 5 billion cellphone owners around the world, it’s estimated that at least 2.5 billion of them own a smartphone. And that number is only predicted to rise.

How Have Smartphones Changed How We Run Business?

Now that we’ve seen how smartphones have changed the way we communicate over the last 20+ years, let’s evaluate some of the big ways smartphones have changed the way we do business:

  1. Creation of the “right now” culture Smartphones give us access to the world’s database of information within seconds. This has raised consumers expectations when it comes to immediate gratification. Not only do people expect prompt responses to communications, they also want to access the purchasing process for any good or service easily and instantaneously.
  2. Farewell to office space Well, not entirely. But thanks to smartphones, telecommuting is a realistic way of operating for many. Thanks to tools like Slack, FaceTime, Skype, you can access a virtual desk on your smartphone from anywhere in the world.
  3. Advertisers delight Smartphones (and the apps that are on them) opened up a completely new space for advertisers to serve content. The revenue generated from mobile ads is substantial and becoming the bread and butter for many businesses.
  4. Social butterflies Nearly 80% of all time spent on social media is on mobile devices. This radical change has resulted in millions of businesses flocking to social media and pouring their time and energy into interacting with customers through that space.

These four changes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to smartphones and business. With change happening so rapidly across the mobile landscape, there’s at least one thing we know for sure.

From the very first mobile device, to the first smartphone, all the way to today, one thing has stayed the same. Texting is and always will be a part of the mobile narrative. And as any text marketer knows, that’s the side of history we want to be on.

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