There was a time when cellular phones were as large as a brick, and had about the same appeal. Their functions were painfully basic – they could initiate and receive voice calls. Later the SMS service was added to their repertory, and that was about it. What followed was mostly cosmetic – the screens that were once monochrome have got colors, the phones got cameras and music player capabilities, and other functions – such as the ability to run Java games – that were mostly useless. Until 2007, when something important happened.
The pre-iPhone era
The concept of a phone with a large touchscreen was not new when the first iPhone appeared. There were several models in circulation before. But they were viewed differently – they were computers capable of phone calls, not the other way around. I had such a phone back in the day – it was an iMate (built by HTC) running Windows Mobile. It could send and receive emails and texts, it could access the internet, it could be used to browse the web and play some Java games. It was fun, but it was not something you WANT, but more like something you NEED to get things done on the go.
A revolution in perspective
But then the iPhone happened, and made the touchscreen phone cool. It had a powerful hardware and an intuitive, easy to use software, changing the way we look at phones today. The true revolution it brought on was not in hardware or software, but in perspective. It turned the PDA, appealing only to busy businessmen, into a gadget suddenly craved by everyone. And it shifted focus from productivity to entertainment, changing the way we play mobile casino games, listen to music and interact with each other.
Where are we now?
From there on we have all witnessed the process that led to the monsters we use today. Manufacturers have been struggling to make our phones smaller every year – until the iPhone. Since 2007, the phones have gotten bigger. The first iPhone had a 3.8″ screen, easy to use with one hand. Today’s average smartphone has a 5″ screen at least – the new Lumia flagship, called 950 XL, goes as high as 5.7″ – and that’s about the maximum screen diagonal for a phone. Anything larger and we’d have to change all our pants to ones with larger pockets, as these monsters will not fit in them anymore. And I think phones have also reached a plateau for their hardware – there is not much sense in improving something that already exceeds the needs of the majority of phone owners this much.
Where do we go from here?
It’s hard to imagine the future of a technology undergoing such a fast development. But I think the next step will be another shift in our perspective of communication on the go. Could it be augmented reality? A new generation of wearables? Something similar to Google Glass, to always keep us up to date with information?