How Mobile Technology Evolved in the Past 20 Years


Mobile Phone EvolutionFor the past two decades, mobile technology has evolved around our society’s needs. From making calls to monitoring a patient’s health remotely, smartphones have become essential tools to run our daily lives. They became so pervasive that people can’t live with them anyone. Now, we’re entering an age where different devices are starting to merge via cloud computing, and high-speed broadband connectivity.

As we move towards a more mobile future, let’s look back at the last twenty years and see how this technology evolved, which helped us shape the Digital Age.

Mobile Communication: 1G to 4G

The first generation (1G) mobile communication was first launched in 1977. Called the Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS), it helped the mass market communicate via cellular technology. However, it was prone to eavesdropping via a cellular scanner which allowed for cellphone cloning. A decade later, the second generation (2G) network was established and it used digital signals instead of analog. During this generation, more cell sites were established to accommodate the increasing number of users, SMS or Short Messaging Service was made available, and prepaid services were also introduced.

As more people used their phones for their daily tasks, the demand for larger data increased and 2G isn’t enough for it. With that in mind, the industry started its development of the next generation of mobile communication—3G. It was faster, leaner, and it allowed for mobile broadband data transmission over a cellular network. People can now listen to podcasts, watch videos, and live streaming on their mobile devices, thanks to 3G technology. It was also during this time that mobile internet was truly realized. But with the introduction of bandwidth-intensive applications and smart devices, the industry needed something better—4G.

4G or the fourth-generation cellular communication provides users with ultra-broadband Internet access. It paves the way for faster web access, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, and cloud computing. In an article published on Verizonwireless’ website, 4G or 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) is clearly paving the way for the next wave of innovations. People can now access data in real-time, while improving the overall user experience.

From a “Brick” to a True “Smart Phone”

In 1983, the first commercially-available cellular phone was introduced—the Motorola Dynatac  8000X. Measuring 13 x 1.75 x 3.5, “The Brick”, as it was fondly called, let you talk for about 30 minutes and it boasted with 10-hours of standby time. But in 1993, IBM launched the IBM Simon Personal Communicator, which became the predecessor of our modern smartphone. It was a calculator, phone, pager, and an email device. The Simon was truly a power house during that time, but it was too big and bulky to carry around.

It was in 1996 when Motorola launched its new phone—the Motorola StarTac. Coined as the “Wearable Cellular Phone”, it was small enough to slip into your pocket and light enough to carry anywhere with you. Designed after the famous Star Trek Communicators, it had a clam shell design and it offered a discreet vibrate mode, instead of a loud and annoying ringer. However, things changed when Nokia unveiled their new phone—the Nokia 6110. Featuring a monochromatic display, it was the first phone to introduce Menu icons, an infrared port, and it was also pre-installed with their highly-popular game “Snake”.

Other phones followed like the Nokia 7110, which was made popular by “The Matrix” movie. The Handspring Treo had 16MB of internal memory, and it was the first one to offer the Graffiti Text Input. On the other hand, the Blackberry 5180 had a thumb keyboard, email, and it came with a headset. Modeled after the “Minority Report” movie, the Nokia 7650 was the first phone to feature a 4,096 color display and 30 ring tone options. The 7650 was also the first cellphone to include a built-in camera.

But 2007 was the year that changed everything, when Apple launched the iPhone. Its innovative design and use of a touch sensitive screen ushered in a new age of phones. Coupled with the App Store and iTunes, this phone still stands as the standard of modern smartphones.

Mobile devices aren’t just means of communication; they became integral parts of our lives. The evolution and revolution of these devices are just starting, and we will reap its benefits in the long run. With their nearly limitless possibilities, what can we expect from them in the next 20 years? Only time can tell.


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