So many things have come together to create the modern smartphone. Screens now deliver high resolutions, communications are ubiquitous, flash storage can deliver enough at an affordable price point, cameras have become smaller and, perhaps most importantly, software developers have refined their craft and designed user experiences that don’t make everydays tasks as painful as pulling teeth.
While the early mobiles were all about making calls, smartphones add a lot more functionality into the package. For starters, they’re really portable data storage and management devices. Smartphones let us keep our diaries with us and up to date, manage our todo lists and keep track of our contacts.
IBM showed off a prototype smartphone way back in 1992. Called Simon, it hit the market with a feature set that we’d laugh at today. Apps like a calculator, calendar and the like were there as well as faxing capability. A few years later, Nokia’s Communicator hit the market. But while Symbian is still very widely used, it was RIM, Palm and Windows Mobile that really pushed smartphones in the consumer and business markets.
The honour of being first to actually market something as a smartphone goes to Sony Ericsson. Although the R380 had many of the features we take for granted like personal information management software and touchscreens, there was no support for third party applications. That came with Palm and Windows Mobile.
Smartphones keep us in contact in ways that go beyond phone calls and SMS. Smartphones can do email, instant messaging, VoIP and video calls. Well, unless it’s an iPhone as it doesn’t make video calls – yet. They can even tell us where to go with GPS and mapping software.
Two things have drive the development and uptake of the smartphone. With email becoming incredibly important, the ability to grab messages on the go has become imperative. RIM, with their BlackBerry, drove the uptake of smartphones with push email services becoming a business staple.
Secondly, while email might have been the business driver, it’s the rise of social networking that drove the consumer uptake. As people invest more their time and energy in Facebook, Twitter and other sites, the desire to have those close to hand has driven the smartphone revolution.
So, the smartphone has risen. Market share increases each year and it won’t be long until the term “smartphone” disappears, replaced by plain, ordinary “phone”.
MobileModo is Gizmodo Australia’s look at the rise and rise of the mobile phone, from Bell’s landline to the ubiquitous mobiles of today.