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Feature Articles
A Call from the Past - 10 Years of Mobile Phone Development
By Seow Tein Hee - 11 May 2009,12:00am


10 Years Down the Mobile Road

You might be thinking that the phone in your hands is a natural accessory in your life. But the truth is, mobile phones
started off as a rich man's item, and if one were to take a trip down memory lane, the image of a big, chunky phone the size of a water bottle and its long and thick antenna comes to mind.

The years have progressed and gone is the concept of mobile phones being a luxury device for the business executives, and came the mainstream market seeking a new device to keep in touch with those around them. As mobile phones started becoming a mainstream product, manufacturers were on the move to pick up on the following trend: the smaller you are on the exterior and the bigger you are on the inside, the more valuable you are.

This philosophy was closely valued and guarded till the present day, when new focus areas such as speed, connectivity and multimedia delivery came into the picture as we see the evolution of these mobile phones into a media player, a web browsing device with high-speed Internet connection, and many more.

Within a decade, we've seen the evolution of the classic brick mobile phone... ...into the mobile device that houses numerous features that includes audio and video playback, GPS, Wi-Fi connectivity and many more.

CDMA, GSM, WCDMA and HSDPA - though the technical jargon for the cellular networks are of no interest to the general consumer, one must remember that these are but just the little things that matter for a mobile phone. There's also the matter of generations, and we are speaking of how the cellular network has evolved from a mobile phone having support for just a single GSM network to the current quad-band devices that spans itself on a global scale. Network generations have been seeing a steady evolution from its first generation all the way to its current 3.5G iteration with HSDPA (High Speed Data Packet Access).

Without a doubt, introducing a camera onto mobile phones was a wise move. The performance gap between dedicated compact digital cameras and camera phones was still quite evident in at turn of the 21st century. But by now, we are seeing mobile phones with integrated 8-megapixel cameras from the major players such as Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Nokia in the upcoming future.

Convergence is a major part of the mobile phone evolution and camera phones came into the picture at the turn of the century. Starting off as just a phone with a camera as an added bonus, the camera phone became serious business as it started a trend of self-portraits and image blogging with just a flick of the phone.

Improvements on the audio and visual front for mobile devices have been plenty. Just listening to the ringtones from your mobile phone would give you a clear indication of how far it has come along the way, from the dull monophonic ring tone, to the now defunct and short-lived polyphonic tunes, and finally the current truetone format which includes MP3 and WMA playback options. With the advent of the truetone format, it was just a matter of time before the phone doubled as a portable audio player.

Displays played just an important role in the evolution of a mobile phone into the multimedia device that it is today. From the monochrome days of pixilated displays, to display resolutions that support up to 16 million colors, this has made it all possible for you to have a more colorful interface and even rely upon it as your portable media player for photos and videos.

With more features such as storage capacity of 16GB (up to 32GB with an expandable storage), DVB-H support and an integrated accelerometer on devices such as the Nokia N96, this is only the tip of the iceberg when we are looking at the upcoming developments for mobile devices.

To say the least, in the last 10 years, the phone that managed to steal the thunder from many others, is the iPhone. And with the annual Worldwide Developer Conference coming soon, the rumored new iPhone might once again, steal the limelight for the year 2009.

And when we are talking about connections, there's more to look out for than just your normal cellular connectivity. Wireless connectivity took a front seat when the notion of phones being linked to PCs was realized with the aid of infrared connections. Data connection, slow as it may be back then, was still possible without wires. Fast forward to the present day and we have the Bluetooth standard looking out for wireless device users. And this is not just limited to simple data transfer from your phone to your PC and vice versa. As the Bluetooth standard evolved, so did the mobile device's connectivity options, with the added speed and capability to stream your music wireless from your device to a Bluetooth stereo headset.

Just a few years back, Wi-Fi was still off the radar for mobile phones, but the recent spate of mobile devices have shown otherwise, with a slew of them being Wi-Fi capable and providing you with faster speeds on the 802.11g/b speeds from an otherwise slower 2G or 3G GPRS networks. And though not exactly superior to Wi-Fi, the introduction of HSDPA, or more commonly known as 3.5G, gives you dedicated broadband Internet access straight from your phone.

In truth, the above mentioned evolution of the mobile device is only the tip of the iceberg. Predictions, as far as one goes, are varied for the future of mobile devices. Phones with 3D holographic projection or phones small enough to be utilized as an in-ear device, or even devices that are self-charging and require no external power source - these are just a few wild cards that can manifest in the years to come. The technological race is a fast one, and who knows, 10 years down the road, we'll be reminiscing about how small 16GB is, or how we ever coped with the H.264 standard video clip.

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