We all know how the mobile phone has become an inevitable part of our daily life and changed the way we live. Today, how would you feel if you lost your phone suddenly? Won’t you feel isolated from the world for a moment just like Tom Hanks in the epic movie Cast Away?
Have you ever wondered how we would have communicated globally if mobile phones didn’t exist? Truly, it plays a crucial role in all our communication needs, but the evolution of the mobile phone didn’t happen overnight; it grew, just like all of us.
In order to understand how mobile has evolved, we need to analyze the evolution of all three streams of mobile telecommunication technologies — devices, networks and applications. In this article we are going to cover each one of them to help you understand how all this started.
To begin, let’s retrace the steps of how mobile devices developed from the heavy and bulky walkie-talkies to today’s slim and stylish descendants.
It was Motorola employee Martin Cooper and his team who designed the first cell phone named Motorola DynaTac and gave a new route to the telecommunication world. Although, it took many years to build a network and keep production costs under control in order to make it a viable product.
It was the mobile operating system which was the primary driver of device technology evolution starting from the Blackberry OS to Android, Windows or iOS.
Secondly, it was input device technology which revolutionized the user interface and made it extremely user friendly. It has moved from large keypads to touch screens. Even the touch screen has evolved significantly as it provides more features like multi-touch gestures. In the future, we may see haptic gestures even captured by sensors on mobile devices.
The evolution hasn’t ended here; in fact it has just begun. According to Cisco’s prediction, there will be 8.6 billion handheld or mobile-ready devices by 2017. It also states that, by 2018 there will be more than 10 billion mobile-connected devices, including M2M modules exceeding the world’s population which is expected to be around 7.6 billion by that time.
The evolution of the mobile internet has changed the way users access the Internet. It has evolved from an analog cellular network to a fourth generation network and is still evolving. Let us look at the different types of networks from the beginning until now to understand things better.
The 1G network paved the way for the networks we use today. This first generation network had analog-based protocols and served the need for basic voice service.
During the 1990s, new and first digital technologies evolved — the North American CDMA standard and European GSM standard. The 2G network was based on low-band digital data signaling and it was specially designed for voice with improved coverage and capacity.
There was another advancement which was SMS messaging and all the pre-paid cell phones and plans that emerged in the late 90s made it popular among users of all ages.
3G revolutionized the entire mobile industry as being the first mobile broadband. It was designed for voice with some data consideration like text and multimedia. With the rise of 3G, more and more mobile device manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and smartphone usage increased significantly.
Although 3G was the first mobile broadband, technically 4G justifies the meaning. The 4G network is an IP packet-switched network. It is almost four to ten times faster than the 3G network we have today.
According to a Cisco report, by 2018, 4G will generate around 6 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection.
“There is an app for that” — we all know this and use different types of apps extensively. However, do you know there are five generations of applications that have evolved so far? Let us look at those now.
They were designed for simple communication needs with low power demands and allowed limited customization opportunities to users. Calculators and memo pads are the perfect examples of such apps.
These applications allowed users to customize their devices according to their needs, but the capability to load new apps was limited. Examples include FM Radio and simple games.
These applications are specific to different operating systems, where users can access different app stores like iTunes or Google Play and download and run directly, but it requires the devices to have faster processors with larger memory. The latest complex games and media players are the ideal examples of such apps.
4th Generation Applications are cloud-based. However, to access these kinds of apps, users need to be connected to the Internet all the time. 4G apps are rich internet applications and run best on high speed networks. An example of this generation of apps is online streaming games.
Generation 5 apps are cloud based context aware smart applications and require less input from users. Research is still going on and it will evolve more in the coming years. In the future, mobile apps with richer features are going to dominate the market. A report by Forrester Research says the app market is expected to reach $38 billion by 2015. Another report by Gartner predicts that, “By 2017, mobile apps will be downloaded more than 268 billion times, generating revenue of more than $77 billion and making apps one of the most popular computing tools for users across the globe.”
We now have apps, high end digital cameras integrated with GPS trackers and most importantly, the Internet and it is going to continue to evolve. According to Cisco, there will be 25 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020.
It is not only about cell phones, tablets, networks and apps; instead a more innovative solution has risen, namely the Internet of Things or wearable tech. It is like having an identity tag on you so that your actions can be monitored. Right now, it is a bit vulnerable, but it has progressed pretty well since its introduction in 2009 and we expect to see it as the most significant evolution in the era of mobile devices.
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