The mobile phone has changed significantly since the 1990s. Having begun to move from the novelty value of early mobiles like the DynaTAC 8000x in the 1980s, towards the development of 1G networks, better connections and more features in the 1990s, the mobile phone market hit new heights at the turn of the century, and has continued to accelerate to the present moment of smartphones and 4G connectivity. The particular development of mobile phones since the 1990s has also seen a handful of players, including Nokia, Ericsson, Apple, BlackBerry and Samsung largely dominate the market.
The first major development in mobile phone design of the early 1990s was to begin to replace the clunky, brick sized phones of the 1980s with sleeker models. The Motorola International 3200 and the Nokia 1011 were some of the first miniature phones to feature GSM and a design that was closer to what we currently think of as a mobile. Both were released in 1994, and overlapped with experiments in combining PDA devices and phones. Notable examples of these experiments included the BellSouth/IBM Simon Personal Communicator.
From the mid to the late 1990s, Motorola and Nokia particularly worked to improve displays, add extra features, and experiment with the potential for Internet enabled smartphones. The Motorola StarTAC further reduced phone size and added features in 1996, while the Nokia 8110 won praise for its flip screen design. The future of smartphones that could integrate a number of features alongside calls and texts saw the release of the Nokia 9000 Communicator in 1996.
With mobile usage becoming more widespread, Nokia led a series of smaller, text enabled phones with more notable games and features, which included the Nokia 9110i, the Nokia 5110 and the Nokia 8210 by 1999. Experiments with using phones to play MP3s were also made by the Samsung SPH-M100. By the turn of the century, Nokia’s 3210 epitomised sleeker design, games and predictive text messaging as one of the world’s most popular phones.
The early years of the new century saw mobile companies compete for touchscreen technology and extra sales. The Ericsson R380 experimented with the former design, while the Nokia 3310 produced 126 million sales as an extension of the predictive texting and size of earlier phones. Similar experiments were made with keyboards for the Nokia 5510, as well as a premium Nokia 8310 that included infrared, calendars and radio. The Ericsson T68 also featured colour screens.
The early 2000s also saw phone companies integrate faster processors with digital cameras and GPS technology. Early digital camera enabled phones included the Nokia 7650, while the Sony Ericsson P800 included a touchscreen. Other experiments in combining phones and gaming devices were, however, less successful, with the N-Gage a notable failure. Faster phones that used Symbian OS and better processing, as well as the rise of BlackBerries combining phone and PDA systems, also highlighted a future for smart-phones.
Mid 2000s to Present
One of the key races for phone development by the middle of the decade was enabling 3G connectivity and working around Internet features. The Nokia 7600 followed this approach, while the BlackBerry and the O2 XDA Flame made the most of dual processor speeds and better displays to boost features. However, the phone market was significantly changed in 2007 by the release of the Apple iPhone. With multi touch screens and connectivity, the iPhone overshadowed efforts like the Nokia E90 Communicator and the Motorola RAZR2 to boost smartphone appeals.
The past few years have seen the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 4 continue to lead the smartphone market in terms of Internet connections, multiple apps and features. Developments in Blackberries and HD screens and faster speeds by the Samsung Galaxy SIII, and the Nokia Lumia 610 have also attempted to establish competition for different OS platforms.
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