Rise of the Smartphone

Navid Chowdhury
June 10, 2012

Submitted as coursework for PH250, Stanford University, Spring 2012

The first call ever made from a mobile phone was from a AT&T car phone in 1946. [1] But the first ever phone call to be made from a handheld phone was in 1973 by Martin Cooper, the man widely regarded as the father of mobile phones. [2] On April 3rd 1973, he held a 2 lbs Motorolla phone to his ear and walked down the pavement in midtown Manhattan, while onlookers looked with awe and utter surprise. [2] That phone was eventually commercially released in 1993 at a then cost of $3500 (now equivalent to $7000) under the name Motorolla DynaTAC 800X. [2]

Cell phones have come a long way since then and we are at an evolutionary stage where cell phones aren't only meant to be for phone calls or text messages. Today cell phone is used as a device to access the internet, as a GPS, an entertainment box and a full fledged video recording device. And all of these features have been possible through the advent of a new generation of cell phone called the Smartphone.

Smartphone are regarded smarter because it comes with many more features than its predecessor, the regular feature phone. The multi-tasking feature of the Smartphone is what sets it apart from a regular cell phone. IBM Simon Personal Communicator is generally regarded as the very first Smartphone ever. [3] It was released in 1993 and had mobile phone, charger, fax machine and PDA rolled into one. [3] PDA's until then were only used as a personal organizer, but with the advent of IBM Simon, PDA enabled with mobile phone became a major source of interest among mobile phone manufacturers of the mid 90s. Eventually PDA's multi-functionality coupled with regular cell phone gave birth to the generation of Smartphone. Some people liken PDA's as the Neanderthal of the evolution of cell phones and Smartphone as the natural successor. [4]

Since the leap from PDA to Smartphone, there has been very little change in the hardware arena of the Smartphone. Today software and network services dictate user experience when it comes to Smartphone instead of hardware configuration. [4] According to Adam Lynch, principal analyst at Ovum, it is the eventual convergence between mobile and desktop platforms that will define the success of Smartphone in the near future. [4] We can already see signs of Smartphone technology that is making other technological products obsolete in our life. Smartphone, with its ability stream live TV and movies, has potentially become a rival to the traditional TV entertainment. Also, according to Gartner, a major technology research company, by 2012 half of all business junket attendees will travel without their laptops as their Smartphones will suffice. [4] Smartphone is banking on improving user experience by making itself the sole device a man will need for all his technological needs. As software begin to emulate hardware (ex: cloud storage emulates hard disk), it is not impossible to imagine that we will be able to carry our life in our pocket in a few short years

© Navid Chowdhury. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] J. Wilson, "Gallery: The Evolution of Mobile Phones," CNN, 7 Oct 11.

[2] M. Shiels, "A Chat With the Man Behind Mobiles," BBC News, 21 Apr 03.

[3] K. Jaiswal, "A Short History of How Phones Got Smart," The Economic Times, 6 Mar 12.

[4] A. Charlesworth, "The Ascent of the Smartphone," Engineering and Technology Magazine 4, No.3, 32 (2009).