The global rise of the mobile phone

It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without cellphones, and yet the first mobile phone launched just a little over three decades ago – a blip in the bigger scheme of time.

The momentous rise in the popularity of smartphones worldwide has grown into an industry with global sales reaching $478.3 billion this year alone, and it’s difficult to think of a world where we are not connected 24/7.

When Motorola launched their DynaTAC in 1983, they probably didn’t see the wave of cellphone adoption coming. The DynaTAC is considered the first true mobile phone – because it was small enough to carry – and it’s a gargantuous device, compared to today’s mobile offerings.

Source: Motorola archives

The premise was simple: people didn’t want to be restricted to only receiving calls where a landline was available. The very first cellphone call was made by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper on 3 April, 1973, and in the conversation that followed, Cooper merely stated the obvious. “Joel, this is Marty,” Cooper said to his rival at Bell Labs, Joel S. Engel, “I’m calling you from a cellphone, a real handheld portable cellphone.”

The DynaTAC wasn’t only big (9 x 5 x 1.75 inches), it was also heavy, and it only had three features: dial, talk and listen. But, for the time being, at least, this was enough.

The global number of cellphone users has steadily risen over the years, and currently stands at 4.77 billion, with Statistica forecasting it to climb to 5.07 billion by 2019. Considering that the entire world’s population is 7.6 billion people, this number clearly shows how mobile technology has penetrated and sifted into every sphere of society, and has become something truly indispensable.

Today, premium smartphones can do much more than just facilitate verbal conversation. They have cameras that put many point-and-shoots on the market to shame, they have bright full-colour displays, they use biometric technology to lock and keep users’ data safe and, most significantly, they connect us to the world wide web, making information easily accessible at all times.

When the Times interviewed Martin Cooper in 2000, he said that “just as people got used to taking phones with them everywhere, the way people use the Internet is ultimately going to be wireless. With our technology, you will be able to open your notebook anywhere and log on to the Internet at a very high speed with relatively low cost… when people get used to logging on anywhere, well, that’s going to be a revolution.”

It would seem that the future is, indeed, now.

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