We cannot conceive our life without Smartphones. Allow us to review the history of these little machines that have stolen our hearts.
The roots of Smartphone go back to the beginning of the 20th century, when the American naturalized Serbian inventor, electrical engineer and mechanic Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) first conceptualized the integration of data signals with telephony. Based on this theory, years later, Greek-American inventor and businessman Theodore Paraskevakos (1937), achieved to connect a transmitter and a receiver through remote equipment, which provided additional ways to communicate. The next evolutionary step in intelligent communication is found in PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant), which became successful in the 1980s and 1990s. These devices, also called pocket computers, functioned as an electronic personal organizer that included a calendar, contact list, notepad, reminders, etc., with an integrated handwriting recognition system.
In 1992, Frank Canova (1956), an IBM employee, discovered that chip and wireless technology was small enough to be used in a handheld device and created a prototype smart phone, which he called “Angler”.
BellSouth, the currently inexistent U.S. telecommunications company, marketed a refined version of the Angler to consumers in 1994 under the name “Simon Personal Communicator”. In addition to PDA functions, this device had a touch screen, could make and receive calls, faxes and e-mails, and included now-familiar applications such as maps, stock market reports and news. The first Smartphone was born, a slightly larger “baby”: it was 20 centimeters long, six centimeters wide and 3.8 centimeters high, and weighed 510 grams.
From SMS to whatsapp
Smartphones as we know them came into our lives in the first decade of this century and became popular, first in Japan, then in the United States and the rest of the world. The first IPhone in history appeared in 2007, and was named “Invention of the Year” by Time magazine. It cost 499 USD and could only be used in the USA and with the operator AT&T. The iPhone also brought the IOS mobile operating system to the market, followed by Android a year later.
The arrival of social media platforms (LinkedIn in 2002; Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006 and Instagram in 2010) boosted the use of these mobile devices tremendously. But what has undoubtedly made smartphones almost a part of our anatomy are social messaging applications, a better (and cheaper) alternative to the classic SMS. WhatsApp (2009), Facebook Chat/Messenger (2008 and 2010) and the most recent one, Telegram; are the undisputed queens in the kingdom of cell phones. According to Statista, WhatsApp registered 2 billion monthly users in 2021 while Facebook Messenger, accounts for some 1.3 billion monthly users.
We are mobile
Smartphones have made our lives easier at times and, in some other times, more difficult. But there is no doubt that they have changed it forever. The infinite possibilities they offer, coupled with their easy accessibility, mean that more and more apps are betting on them. Some platforms, such as Facebook, started as a web-based social network and evolved into a smartphone app (in fact, some of its functionalities are better in the smartphone version). Others, such as Instagram, were born to be used on mobile devices and then became accessible on multiplatform.
As for the use of cell phones in the world, according to Statista, in May 2021, the countries with the most cell phones were China (almost 912 million) and India (439 million). The smartphone penetration rate can be used as an indicator to measure a country’s economy: above 70%, for example, is common in countries with advanced economies. Japan is an exception as penetration rates in this country are below 60%. Smartphone market growth continues to grow in African countries such as Egypt, Kenya, Ethiopia, Congo, Tanzania and Nigeria.