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A lot has changed since 2007. After the introduction of the first ever iPhone, closely followed by the first Android device, smartphones have evolved exponentially. If we go back even further to 1998 with the introduction of the Nokia 5120, the first phone featuring games, smartphones have certainly come a long way. Today, with the latest iOS 17 and Google Pixel 8, the evolution of smartphones is truly remarkable—and it has changed everything.
In this blog we will explore the history of phones, including how smartphones have evolved from inception to today. We will also delve into why smartphones have changed everything—from web development to everyday life.
The history of phones covers the period of time from the onset of Nokia 5120, which included basic games, through today, where smartphones have impacted nearly every facet of daily life.
Smartphones weren’t always so smart. Here's a quick history of the evolution of smartphones. Keep reading to go further in-depth.
Nokia 5120 featured 3 entertaining games.
Apple iPhone was seen as the prototype for the current generation of smartphones.
First major smartphone OS to allow manufacturers to distribute their own devices.
Android Open Source Project
Unique platform for open source Android projects.
Game-changer bridging the gap between smartphones and laptops.
Innovation that allows phones to open and close and easily transform into tablets.
Remember the Nokia 5120 mobile phone? It launched in 1998.
At the time, Microsoft and Netscape were fighting the first browser war. And Windows 95 users were prepping for weeklong upgrades to Windows 98.
The web was new and exciting. But who could type long URLs on a phone? And, what would be the point? Could you even recognize a cute kitten on that green and black Nokia screen?
Of course, we’d find that the market desired portability. As humans, we share a distinct need to put pictures of kittens in our pockets.
Apple’s iPhone debuted in 2007.
Steve Jobs’s idea — replacing a keyboard and mouse with a touchscreen — would change everything. The way the world computed and communicated would never be the same. Early iPhone sales were stunning. Over 6 million units of the first model were sold.
Our relationship with the web changed at that time. A desire for greater connectivity was growing.
But we still faced major challenges.
From 2009 to 2010, Android started catching up with Apple.
“Android’s share of the worldwide smartphone market rose from less than less than 5% in 2009 to 13.8% in the first half of 2010 and reached 24.5% in the second half to become the second most popular smartphone platform in the world. Shipments of Android-based smartphones jumped 561% from 2009 to 2010 to more than 55 million units in 2010.”
This shift was expected. Android is open source. It allows manufacturers to distribute their own devices. They can even modify the base OS. Apple doesn’t allow that.
Developer communities cropped up around Android in 2010: the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).
Android’s dominance was cemented by a long period of growth. The number of project commits per month doubled from 2010-2017. By 2017, there were 5,188 combined years of estimated development in the project.
Apple announced iPadOS in 2019. It branches from the core iOS code. It also comes with Apples’ “sidecar” concept. The iPad connects to the iPhone and acts like a monitor.
With this release, Apple is betting that users will make a final critical step. They hope they will embrace mobile over desktop PC for their work life.
“For years, Apple has been gesturing toward a future in which the iPad becomes your primary computer—both because its processing power rivals a desktop's and because younger consumers just won't know the difference between a "mobile device" and a "computer."
In what feels like a callback to the original 1998 foldable phones, only better, these new foldable phones are certainly the latest in smartphone innovation. These modern foldable phones feature a touchscreen that can not only open and close, but it can also transform into a tablet or easily flip outward.
Some examples of foldable touchscreen phones include the Galaxy Z Fold, the Galaxy Z Flip, Google Pixel Fold, and the Motorola Razr.
The Future of Testing: A Conversation About the Use of AI and MLNow that you've learned the history of phones, ensure your testing is future proof with this conversational-style webinar.
Now that you've learned the history of phones, ensure your testing is future proof with this conversational-style webinar.
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Smartphone adoption changed everything.
And it demanded a new internet. This time, it’s a new way to view the internet — from both the front and back.
Like the PC revolution of the 1990s, the last decade demanded innovation in API connectivity, data compression, protocols, and UI/UX.
In November 2016, mobile traffic (51.3%) surpassed desktop traffic (48.7%).
This shift changed the way we think about coding.
The need to push small, dynamic, reactive updates to mobile browsers has given way to the microservice API.
It cascaded to the type of data we store. Trillions of bite-sized session records are used rather than giant data structures. It’s leading us into edge computing. This forces us to rethink deployment on metal.
User behavior changed, too. We’re no longer bound to desktops.
Smartphones are extensions of us. They define and extend the way we communicate. They replace our need for physical memory. They help us navigate. And they help us share experiences.
Smartphones have also become the place for retail. In the 2015 holiday season, Amazon reported that 70% of customers shopped on smartphones.
Software matured alongside hardware. And there’s even a classification system for it. This system details just how close the app is to the mobile or desktop web spectrum.
Apps built specifically for mobile phones — fast but not cross-platform.
Apps that look and feel like apps but are just webpages. They are limited by carrier strength and the restrictions of HTML.
A blend of both, a native app that also relies on web components.
Web apps that provide native-like functionality such as push notifications.
Virtual reality (VR) is well on its way.
Google’s Cardboard SDK, part of Android, relies on a smartphone to be placed into a foldable cardboard headset. It proved to the world that next generation VR is possible and coming soon.
In 2019, Android also provided the mobile operating system for the Oculus Quest.
Foldable phones are on their way, too. But there are still some kinks to work out. The Motorola Razor may indeed rise again. It would force manufacturers like Apple to produce their own foldable phones.
As the entire industry evolved around smartphones, so did web.
We’ve experienced some very dramatic shifts and innovations in web. This includes:
In fact, there have been 5 key shifts in web.
Browser vendors are also embracing DevOps. And the market is seeing more advanced release schedules from browser vendors.
Mozilla recently announced a monthly GA release of its Firefox browsers. Apple will release their Safari browser in a more advanced cadence. It will be for both iOS/iPad OS and MacOS.
Such changes require adaptation in both dev and testing. This enables teams to respond to changes and prevent regressions.
Another change we’ve experienced in the past decade is WebDriver technology.
Selenium has been the de-facto framework. Selenium IDE now runs on both Chrome and Firefox. Selenium has also become a W3C compliant protocol. It requires adaptations accordingly.
From the first smartphone games of the Nokia 5120 to the iPad in 2019 and the latest foldable touchscreen technology, the history of phones has been a steady and exponential evolution. Perfecto has been along for the ride, offering first-to-market support for all new releases.
By embracing the history of phones and mobile testing with an eye on the future, Perfecto enables teams to create, test, and release high-quality apps that can compete on the market. There is a reason why Perfecto is the number one choice for mobile application testing.
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DevOps Chief Evangelist & Sr. Director at Perforce Software, Perfecto
Eran Kinsbruner is a person overflowing with ideas and inspiration, beyond that, he makes them happen. He is a best-selling author, continuous-testing and DevOps thought-leader, patent-holding inventor (test exclusion automated mechanisms for mobile J2ME testing), international speaker, and blogger.
With a background of over 20 years of experience in development and testing, Eran empowers clients to create products that their customers love, igniting real results for their companies.
Chief Architect, Perforce Software
Justin has over 20 years of experience working in various software roles. He is an outspoken free software evangelist, delivering enterprise solutions, technical leadership, and community education on databases, architectures, and integration projects.