30 Nov 2014

Evolution Of Smartphones

Smartphones, they are our every day tool. We cannot live without them. They are now a part of our lives. But how did these smartphones come about? Here's a brief history.

First things first: What is a smartphone? A smartphone is a phone that has the functions of a computer, a touchscreen, internet access and has an operating system capable of running third party applications.

Starting with just phones, Motorola was the first company to invent the mobile phone, and these phones were very big. This is the picture of the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X
(source: Google Images)

Yes, can you imagine putting phones like these in your pockets? Thankfully, our smartphones have evolved over the years.

Many say that the first smartphone was the IBM Simon, but at this point of time (in 1997) and even a decade later, smartphones weren't popular. The smartphone revolution began in 2007, with the release of the iPhone. Dubbed the 'Jesus Phone' due to its passionate launch, it was the first phone to run iOS. Then came the iPhone 3G releasing in July, 2008 with minor improvements and a year later, Apple unveiled the iPhone 3GS (here, the 'S' stands for speed).

Two months later, HTC announced the first Android phone called the HTC Dream or T-Mobile G1 in the United States. Now this phone had a touchscreen and used a QWERTY keypad and it ran on Android 1.6 (Donut). Other features included were a 3.2 inch screen with a resolution of 320x480 giving it a pixel density of 180 ppi. It had 192 MB of RAM and 256 MB of ROM. It used a Qualcomm MSM7201A chipset, a 528 MHz ARM 11 CPU and an Adreno 130 GPU.

The Nexus devices (excluding tablets) released were the HTC Nexus One, Samsung Google Nexus S, The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 5 and the Nexus 6.

Fast-forward 2012, HTC came up with the One X, a smartphone that was to compete with the iPhone 4s and the Samsung Galaxy S III but it did not sell too much as it was not as popular.

Before the smartphone revolution, BlackBerry phones were the most popular. However, after the iOS and Android became more popular over the years, BlackBerry's sales crashed. BlackBerry tried developing a new OS and released the BlackBerry Z10 in January and the Q10 a few months later. However, this was not enough to keep up the sales of BlackBerry and they went tumbling down. BlackBerry now has it's new BlackBerry Passport, a large phone with a big screen and a QWERTY keyboard. It is an Amazon.in exclusive in India and it is being bought my consumers (surprisingly).

Let's go back to the iPhone. Long story short, it was a huge success and it still is. The iPhone 4 was a huge success. It was covered in glass- the front and back with a stainless steel edge as the antennas. Remember "antennagate" ?

The iPhone 4s (here, 's' stands for Siri) was unveiled a day before Steve Jobs' death. This came with an upgraded chip and Siri, Apple's voice assistant.
Then came the iPhone 5, which was much thinner than the 4s and it had a bigger screen. It went from a 3.5 inch screen to a 4 inch screen, only increasing the height. Other differences include an upgraded chip.
The iPhone 5s (here, 's' stands for Sensor) came with a Touch ID and an upgraded chip. A new colour was also unveiled- a champagne gold colour. Apple also unveiled the iPhone 5c ('c' stands for colour), which had the same specs as the iPhone 5 but was available in different colours along with a hard plastic back shell.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus came with a change in design, thickness (a funny story), NFC, bigger screens and a better display and Optical Image Stabilization in the Plus. The iPhone 6 has a 4.7 inch screen and the 6 Plus has a 5.5 inch screen. Some iPhone 6 Plus users complained that the iPhone 6 Plus would bend in their pockets and this was termed "bendgate".

2009 was the year when the smartphone uprise began. Samsung announced its Samsung Galaxy S in the same year Apple released their iPhone 3GS. The Samsung Galaxy S used Android 2.1 (later upgradable to 2.3 Gingerbread) and Touchwiz 3.0 and from here on, Samsung ranked second in terms of Smartphone sales, just behind Apple.

I hate to say this, but Android (at least in India) became popular due to the Samsung Galaxy SII. While Samsung has truly "innovated", it has also come up with innumerable gimmicks which the general public somehow seems to love. Remember S Voice, Air View... all leading to one thing LAG.
We have more and more Samsung phones coming out at least once a month- all of them with the same or similar design as the Samsung Galaxy S III. However, they have now began changing their designs... by copying the iPhone. The Samsung Galaxy Alpha is one example. However, Samsung's sales are now falling (thankfully) due to Chinese smartphones and smartphones from brands like Motorola and Asus.

In recent years, Chinese brands like OnePlus and Xiaomi have been known for their smartphones with flagship specs and a low price. Xiaomi's popularity increased when Hugo Barra left Google for Xiaomi.

Indian companies like Micromax are also expanding. The implementation of Android One by Google started in India, producing budget phones that are to receive regular updates for two years.

Since the smartphone revolution, we have seen a huge evolution of this industry. Smartphones started off as having 528 MHz single core processors with 192 MB of RAM and now we have Smartphones with a 2.7 GHz quad core processors with 3 GB of RAM.

Modular phones like Project Ara by Google and Puzzle Phone have been in the news recently, but we will not be seeing them in markets anytime soon. This is a huge step for smartphones as users will be able to replace any part of their phones, making it usable for a long time. They have the option to change the battery, the camera and other components to boost the performance of their phone.

But how would a smartphone look like two years from now? I designed a rough diagram of what a smartphone would be like two years from now. (I apologize for my photoshopping skills not being as good as +Aabharan Hemanth's.)


Major upgrade in specs in two years is what I predict along with new Android versions (first Android 'M' and then 'N') with more or less the same Material Design UI. Dual speakers are now becoming more popular, as we have seen in the HTC One M8  (Boom Sound Speakers) and in the Moto X 2014. Some features I haven't mentioned are gesture controls and voice commands.

So, this is the end of my first post on The KHMD Blog. Feel free to +1, comment (that includes pointing out my mistakes) and or share this post. More content to come.

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