The Smartphone Buyer's Guide 2015 (2015)

From Mobile Phone to Mobile Device to Smartphone: The Evolution of the Cell Phone



Mobile phones have been around for over 40 years.  The original mobile phone was an oversized, plastic, shell ornamented by ginormous buttons.  It possessed minor capabilities and very limited technology.  But back then, mobile phones didn’t need to look stylish or cool.   The technology housed inside that heavy shell made the phone’s appearance bearable. 


The original mobile phone came equipped with technology that the world has never seen before.  Consumers were presented with options that they never had before.  Phone calls could now be placed from any location.  No more sending messages by carrier pigeon, no more frequent trips to make a call from your car phone, no more waiting nearly half the day to get home and make important phone calls, and no more loud, jiggling pockets running to the pay phone.  This revolutionary and sensational technology outshined the unattractive shell that it was in, because the technology that it housed was pure gold. 


In contrast, the current mobile phones are nicely designed.  These sleek, slim, and stylish devices contain technology that can outmatch some of the most advanced computers on the market today.  The new and improved mobile phone is a portable communication system that can do pretty much whatever we program or “tell” it to do.  It is sure to be around and evolve into something better in the years to come. 


Smartphones come equipped with carefully developed applications that surpass the functionality of the regular mobile phone.  Some of the applications programed into the smartphone can even be found on your regular desktop or laptop computer.  Applications and features such as a touchscreen, Bluetooth, Microsoft Office, email access, a QWERTY keyboard, a camera, Internet browsing, a media player, and contact management are some of the MOST BASIC features of the modern-day mobile phone.  The smartphone can even be synchronized with your other mobile devices, or even your desktop PC.  You can even take a trip back to the past (sort of), and use wireless connectivity to receive phone calls through your car.  The only difference is that there will be no wires/cords, better coverage, and fast connectivity.  You can even place or answer a phone call without even picking up the phone.  The future is looking very bright for the smartphone.  Yes indeed. 



Developing the Concept


It’s hard to imagine what communication was like before the invention of the mobile phone.  Sure, talking to a person face-to-face was and still is the most natural and effective way to make an announcement.  But what about the lonely grandmother that lives in Timbuktu?  I’m sure she is longing to hear the announcement, or to hear from anyone for that matter.  Or what about the crazy, daredevil brother that took a year-long escapade to the North Pole?  I’m sure he is dying for warm and cozy conversation, or really, anything that will keep him warm.  Why should distance cancel them out from partaking in a warming and heartening conversation?  Wouldn’t it be nice if they could be a part of the moment, witnessing every word without even having a physical presence?  With all things being considered, it is safe to say that the earliest composers of wireless technology thought about the same questions and scenarios in a similar of different form.


In 1918, The German Railroad System was the first entity to use the technology of “wireless telephony.”  They conducted the private testing of the first wireless telephone on military trains traveling between Zossen and Berlin.  By 1924, the testing of the telephony equipment went public, and the results turned out to be quite impressive.  The success of the testing inspired and founded Zugtelephonie A.G.,a company dedicated to supplying telephony equipment entirely for trains.  They began the task of installing telephony equipment on all trains traveling between Berlin and Hamburg in 1925.  The use of this wireless phone was limited only to the passengers traveling in 1stclass. 


Decades later, the United States began to develop a system that would allow the wireless telephone to be available for use in the automobile.  As a result, this caused the mobile phone service to be inaugurated on June 17, 1946.   This encouraged AT&T Mobile Telephone Service, to become one of the first mobile phone carriers in the United States.  Shortly after, a slew of companies arose from the shadows to offer their self-proclaimed, elite mobile phone services to the public.  However, the services offered by most of these companies were way past poor.  The coverage was not reliable and the service the companies offered were not compatible with most of the mobile phones available to the time. 


By the early 1950s, mobile phones were restricted for use only in automobiles.  The phones only worked in metropolitan areas and major cities.  This was because major cities were equipped with large antennas that were located in the most central part of the city, and these large antennas were assigned specifically to these automobile phones.  Automobile phones could only transmit a signal that spanned about 30 to 50 miles.


In 1983, when the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x arrived on the market, things changed.  Developed and invented by Martin Cooper, this phone became the first mobile phone to be sold commercially and was priced at a whopping $4,000, which would be about $9,500 at present day.  The phone weighed about 2 ½ pounds, and the dimension of the phone was 13 x 1.75 x 3.5.  Although fairly large and expensive, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x was considered small enough to carry around, thus making it the first mobile phone.  After its debut, there has been a steady progression of the mobile phone, radio technology, and wireless technology to transform mobile communication into something that is very different from what it originally started from. 


Because of the many technological contributions that have been invested in the advancement of the wireless communication and technology, the cell phone has become a hand-held system that can do virtually anything.  From sending text messages, to video chatting, to surfing the internet, or finding the nearest shopping mall.  The mobile phone has made life a lot easier with its unmatchable resources and constantly improving capabilities. 


From Radio Phone to Cell Phone


Originally, the mobile phone began as a simple radio that transmitted signals with central antennas located in a specific range.  This was not very effective, because the system only allowed extremely short-range calls, and coverage for these phones did not span very wide.  Also, the maximum number of people that could talk on their phones at once did not exceed 50.  Fortunately, a better alternative for mobile connectivity was introduced:  Cell Technology. 


Cell technology is a very unique, but seemingly simple form of technology that was developed to make wireless communication more accessible through the mobile phone.  In contrast to the earlier telephony services, cell technology allows millions of people to use their cell phones simultaneously.  The implementation of this innovative technology converted the mobile phone into a cell phone. 


The cell phone is considered to be a full-duplex device.  This means that the phone uses two separate frequencies to carry-out a phone conversation.  One frequency is used for talking and the other is used for listening.  This allows the caller and the recipient of the call to talk at same time, and even listen at the same time. 


The process of cellular connectivity requires each city to be divided into small hexagon-shaped sections or “cells.”  The cells measure up to about 10 square miles, and are equipped with a tower, base station, and a building made to house the radio equipment.  Cell phones operate within cells, and they can switch cells as they move around.  The frequencies used by the cell phones are recycled and reused within the confines of the city.  This is possible because the frequency will transfer over into the most adjoining cells, but not into cells that are more than one cell away. So, there is always coverage available and calls will rarely be out of range. 


Today, cell technology has taken over the mobile phone market, and has boosted the call capabilities of mobile phones and has made connected calls a task of ease. 


From Cell Phone to Smartphone


Smartphones are slowly replacing their predecessors.  And it’s due to their extremely advanced capabilities.  It’s no surprise that the progressions and popularity of the smartphone is constantly on the rise.  These high-tech phones are able to do just about everything a computer can do.  They have the ability to handle heavy weight computer applications like Microsoft office.  Smartphone are able to sync and manage multiple email accounts, handle large files, and execute wireless capabilities and fast data speeds.  These phones can do so much that you almost have to reconsider your personal computer or laptop. 


Smartphones are only able to accomplish this because of their advanced operating systems.  These operating systems grant you access to an endless world of information and accessibility that conventional mobile phones don’t have the ability to do. 


Early Years of the Smartphone


Device that integrated computing and telephony capabilities were first developed by Theodore Paraskevakas in 1971.  He is the innovator of applying data processing, visual display screens, and concepts of intelligence to telephones, which marked the beginning of the final stages of the evolution of the smartphone.  Paraskevakas’s first low-tech exhibition, which involved a transmitter and a receiver to displayed various way to communicate through remote equipment. 


The earliest device to demonstrate Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) abilities was the IMB Simon.  This was only a prototype, but it functioned well enough to complete a very successful demonstration in front of hundreds at the COMDEX trade show that took place in 1992.  Two years later, Bell South developed and released a similar model to the public, by the name of Simon Personal Communicator.  PDA included faxing abilities capabilities, telephony capabilities, and applications like the address book, scheduler, calendar, calculator, clock, and LED touchscreen.  This was considered to be the first smartphone in history.  However, the term didn’t become official until 1995. 


One year later, the Nokia 9000 Communicator was released.  This PDA device contained an operating system that was based on the GEOs V3.0.  This operating system was originally used on the Nokia 2110.  When the phone web browsing and the QWERTY keyboard were integrated, this became the blueprint for the first mobile device to be marked as a smartphone which was Ericsson R389.  It was released in 2002. 


The Dividing Factor


There are two small but major developments that sparked the evolution to the conventional mobile phone to the smartphone.  The introduction of text messaging, multimedia messaging, and advance mobile operation systems created the grounds for separation between the regular radio/cellular phones to the smartphone.  


The Development of Text Messages and Multimedia Messaging


Text messaging or Short Messaging Service (SMS) has definitely developed into something that has become very popular.  Most people would rather send a text message before even using their phone to place a phone call.  However, there was a time when the only text message that people could fathom, was sent and received through the mail.  That all changed in 1933 when RCA Communications of New York sent the earliest documented text message to London through Radiotelegraphy.  Within the first year, there were a total of 7 million words transmitted.  


German engineer, Friedhelm Hillebrand developed the original concept of text messaging in 1985.  His experiments led him to discover the amount of characters needed to successfully communicate through non-voice services.  He discovered this by typing out random sentences on his typewriter, and then counting each character.  After doing this numerous times, he found that each group of sentences averaged out to 160 characters.  This quantity of characters became the limit that would be allowed for communication through non-voice, wireless communication. 


In 1992, text messaging was first used by Neil Papworth, an engineer for the Sema Group located in the United Kingdom.  He was able to send, “Merry Christmas” to a colleague’s phone by way of Vadaphone through his personal computer.  This inspired Radiolinja to develop the first SMS phone service to be offered to the public in 1994.  The US picked up on this technology in 1995, and this led to Al Gore launching America’s first major SMS network, Sprint Telecommunication Venture.  Only a year later, international text messaging became available.  Text messaging did not become a primary means of communication until 1998.  Presently, text messaging is used by 74% of consumers worldwide. 


Multimedia messaging is phone service that is utilized to send pictures, videos, music, ringtones, and other multimedia content.  The first MMS was initially developed in Japan, and offered to the public in 2001.  The first picture messaging service was offered through J-Phone.  


Originally, Multimedia Messaging was developed to provide phone carriers with they call captive technology.  This means that phone carriers would be able to charge consumers a fee each time they snapped a photo with their camera phone.  The first deployments of this service were not successful, so was multimedia messaging service became available to the public.  However, the initial deployments of multimedia messaging were plagued by technical problems and extremely unsatisfied consumers.  The customers were experiencing problems with the quality of the multimedia messages they sent and received.  A large number of consumers were complaining of being billed for sending messages that the recipient never received.  Consumers also protested that they were billed for messages that had incorrect format and missing content. One of the main sources of these issues was the lack of MMS capable mobile devices during the early development of the concept.  This was due to the underdeveloped technology that this phone feature had.  However, in the recent years the MMS has been developed and improved, with the help some of the most elite technology companies in the world. 


Multimedia messaging involves using the same technology that is used to send Emails.  Whenever you send a MMS, your device will encode the multimedia content in the same format as an MIME Email.  Then the message is forwarded to the phone carrier’s service center and forward server, or Multimedia Messaging Service Center (MMSC).  The phone carrier then sends the message to the MMSC of the recipient.  From here, the MMSC will determine if the device receiving the message is enabled to for multimedia messaging.  If the content will be accepted by the device, the media from the message is extricated and sent to an HTTP-front end, storage server.  A text message containing the content’s URL is sent to the handset of the recipient to prompt the device’s WAP browser to open and extract the content from the embedded URL.  If the receiver's handset is not MMS capable, the message will be forwarded to a web based service.  Here the intended recipient will be able to view the content from the message through an internet service offered by their phone carrier.  


At present, multimedia messaging has become just as popular as SMS.  It is also one of the most used features on the mobile phone, followed by text messaging.  Since the development of the MMS, there has been a massive increase in the spread of information, its compatibility with social media websites, email platforms, and other internet-based media sites will allow the MMS technology to flourish. 


Mobile Operating Systems


Mobile Operating Systems or OS are programs that are assigned to the modern-day mobile devices.  Operating systems are usually running in desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, PDAs, portable media devices, and the list goes on.  The ingenious technology of mobile operating systems fuses together the capabilities of a regular desktop computer with the capabilities of mobile devices.   This merge of capabilities includes but is not limited to, wireless internet, mobile navigation, GPS tracking, Bluetooth, voice recognition, media player, touchscreen capabilities, video recording, camera, calendar, and Email.  The Read Only Memory (ROM) and Flash Memory chips found inside the circuit board or brain of the phone, supplies storage for the phone's operating system and features.


Most smartphones are comprised of two mobile operating systems.  The primary user-facing software platform is supported by a secondary real-time operating system.  This system operates the radio and other hardware.  The first mobile operating system used dates back to 1973.  The system was embedded in mobile phones to control the operations of the phone. 


Android Operating System – Based on the Linux kernel and developed by Google, the Android operating system has one of the largest installed base on mobile devices worldwide.  Most of the applications offered through the Android operating system are free and open-source software.  Designed for smartphones, tablets, and other advanced mobile devices, the OS uses touch inputs that correlates with real-world actions. However, most of the Android devices are exclusive to only Android applications. 


Apple Operating System or iOS – The Apple Operating System or the iOS is the second largest installed base in the world behind the Android.  However, this is the most profitable installed based in the world.  Phones that have this operating system are very expensive.  iOS is also proprietary and a closed source.  The user interface of iOS is based on the idea of direct manipulation.  The touchscreen capabilities allow multi-touch gestures.  All mobile phones and devices compatible with the Apple operating system are manufactured by Apple. 


BlackBerry – The BlackBerry operating system is based on the QNX operating system.  The system is closed source and proprietary.  Unlike the Android OS, the Blackberry software is limited to the BlackBerry devices.  All mobile phones and devices compatible with the Blackberry operating system are manufactured by Blackberry.  The BlackBerry brand is mostly used by government officials.


Firefox – The Firefox operating system is an open source and is powered by Mozilla, a non-profit organization that is best known for its Firefox web browser.  This is a Linux kernel based operating system exclusive to only smartphones, smart TVs, and tablet computers.  The software is designed to supply consumers with an alternative community-based system compatible for mobile devices.  This is accomplished by the utilization of open standards and various methods like JavaScript and HTML5 applications. 


MIUI – The MIUI operating system is based on Google Android Open Source project.  This operating system has a partial closed source.  Developed by Xiaomi Tech, the MIUI operating system is installed of the Xiaomi smartphone, but can be found on a small selection of Android devices. 


Sailfish OS – The Sailfish OS operating system is based on open source Android libraries.  It combines the Linux kernel and proprietary software that has been written by Jolla a smartphone manufacturer.  This operating system is exclusive to all Jolla mobile devices. 


Tizen – Tizen is sourced by the Linux Foundation and received support from the Tizen Association.  Tizen is an operating system based on the Linux kernel that is made for mobile devices, smart TVs, and car entertainment systems.  Tizen is an open source system that aims to provide the ultimate user experience for all of its associated devices. 


Windows Operating System – Windows operating system is developed by Microsoft.  It is closed source and proprietary. It has third largest installed base on smartphones behind Android and iOS.  However, Microsoft has a number of operating systems for various smartphones.  This phone includes computer based Microsoft applications such as OneNote, MS Excel, MS Word, and Outlook.