How Have Cell Phones Changed

Michael Kwan
Businessman holding a PDA smartphone

Few technologies have advanced quite as quickly as what the world has witnessed in relation to how have cell phones changed in the last ten to twenty years. The mobile phone is still a very modern and recent invention, but it has evolved very rapidly with new features, new functions, and new innovations.

How Have Cell Phones Changed?

The first major mobile phone to be made widely available to the average consumer looked like a large brick and it was very rudimentary in its feature set. The phone was used solely as just that: a phone. The Motorola cell phone could be used only for voice calls and it connected via an analog network. Since then, phones have taken on a number of additional functions and they make use of digital networks for the transfer of wireless data packets.

When asking how have cell phones changed, the single biggest change is the shift toward multifunctionality. It is no longer acceptable for a phone to be just a phone; most consumers expect their cell phones to have an increasingly large array of additional functions and this wealth of multifunctionality continues to expand each and every year. For instance, even the most basic of contemporary phones come with rudimentary PDA features like a calendar and a robust contact list.

The Emergence of Mobile Games

While the game may have existed on other platforms since the 1970s, Snake really came to the forefront when it was installed on Nokia cell phones starting in the late 1990s. This really pushed the industry forward in terms of using cell phones as viable mobile gaming platforms. Up until then, mobile gaming had largely been dominated by the Nintendo Game Boy series of devices, as well as smaller and cheaper handhelds from other manufacturers. With the rise of mobile gaming came an increased desire for more "fun" functions on cell phones in addition to ones that actually served a utilitarian purpose.

As color screens, touchscreens, and more powerful processors made their way onto cell phones, cell phone games got even more advanced as well. Many modern cell phone games, both as Java-based applications and as smartphone applications, are actually more advanced than many of the games that players would have enjoyed on traditional consoles several years prior.

Improving Cameras and Media Players

The first camera phones emerged in the late 1990s and they did not offer much in terms of a usable resolution. Digital camera technology was still being developed at that time for standalone point-and-shoot consumer cameras, so it's understandable that the less sophisticated sensors and technology implemented in camera phones were a grade or two below that.

Today, the more advanced digital cameras installed into higher-end phones can rival some standalone cameras. There are several smartphones from Sony Ericsson, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and other companies that push five megapixels or more, offering more manual controls, white balance options, HD video recording, and more. The same phenomenon is happening with mobile media players too, as some cell phones can be used to stream high-definition video content, as well as manage extensive music playlists.

Smartphone Apps and More

How have cell phones changed in the last two or three years? While cell phone applications have existed for several years already, the emergence of the Apple App Store really revolutionized the industry. Smartphone apps quickly rose to popularity since 2008 with the launch of the Apple iPhone 3G. Up until then, most applications were scattered around the Internet and the onus fell on the cell phone owner to seek out the applications he or she desired. With the App Store, iPhone owners were afforded a unified marketplace with a single point of entry, a single transaction system, and a searchable database.

This paved the way for other smartphone platforms to do the same, including the Ovi Store, Android Market, BlackBerry App World, and more. For non-smartphones, several carriers have set up specialized online app and game stores that can be accessed through regular phones too. These apps aren't as powerful, but they can expand the phone's functionality substantially.

Much More Than Phone Calls

Very few people use their phones strictly for voice calls anymore. Early smartphones and PDA phones opened up this opportunity for more functions and features, including calculators, calendars, mobile email, multimedia management, photography, videography, and so much more. Only time will tell what other innovative features will show up in future mobile phones.

How Have Cell Phones Changed