Discover What Smartphone Technology Can Do For You
Explore the possibilities. It’s a new frontier.
History and Growth of Smartphone Technology
You hear it all the time in today’s world – talk of “smart phones” or “smartphone technology.” Unless you’re a bit younger or a “techie”, you may be unaware of revolutionary changes transforming cell phones and how we use them. So, what’s changed and how did we get here?
In the late 1990’s, most mobile phones had only very basic features – you could receive or make a call and that was about it. As hand-held technology evolved, many professionals began carrying a Personal Digital Assistance (PDA) or pager to supplement capabilities not offered by cell phones. PDA’s served as personal information managers allowing users to store, share, and send certain kinds of information (think of your doctor sending your prescription to the pharmacy). Some of the more popular examples of PDAs include Palm OS, Blackberry OS, or Windows CE/Pocket PC.
Eventually, however, as technology and the marketplace evolved, “smart phones” emerged – devices that integrated cell phone technology, PDAs, and messaging features supported by third party applications. Today, smartphones can function as a PDA and cell phone while allowing users to surf the web, download and play music or movies, and take and store pictures. Many smartphones use high-resolution touchscreens and can display standard web pages as opposed to “mobile only” optimized sites. Most are equipped with Wi-Fi mobile and broadband access capabilities and GPS navigation.
Examples of widely used smartphone operating systems include:
- Microsoft’sWindows Phone 7
- Nokia’s Symbian
- Research In Motion (RIM)BlackBerry OS
- Embedded Linux distributions such as Maemo and MeeGo
Early Smartphone Models
While many people think the first smart phone was Apple’s iPhone, the true proto-type was IBM’s Simon mobile phone. First brought to market in 1993, the Simon served as a calendar, address book, world clock, calculator, note pad, and email client. The Simon could also send and receive faxes and be used to play games. Users could type in telephone numbers using a touch screen or write memos and send faxes using an optional stylus. Of course, compared to today’s smartphones, the Simon seems rather low-end as it did not have a camera or the ability to install and use third-party applications; however, in 1993, it was nothing short of revolutionary.
In many ways, between 1996 and 2000, Nokia and Ericsson set the precedent for smartphones and the development of smartphone technology. Ericsson was the first company to actually use the term “smartphone” when it unveiled its GS88 in 1997. Later, Ericsson’s R380 Smartphone came equipped with an easy to use touchscreen and was the first mobile device to use an open operating system, the Symbian OS. It was the R380 that combined the functions of a cell phone with those of a PDA.
Palm, Windows and BlackBerry
Fast forward to early 2001. Palm introduces the Kyocera 6035, the first smartphone to enjoy widespread use in the United States. Even though the Kyocera 6035 received favorable reviews in a number of technology-oriented publications, it never gained widespread popularity or market share outside of North America.
Later in that same year, Microsoft introduced its Window CE Pocket PC OS, offered as “Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphone 2002.” Initially, the Windows Smartphone did not have a touchscreen and its screen resolution was lower than that of other Window Pocket PC devices.
In early 2002, Handspring released the Palm OS Treo smartphone. The Palm OS Treo offered a full keyboard and combined wireless web browsing, email, calendar, and contact organizer with third-party applications that could be downloaded and synced with a computer.
The Blackberry, developed by Research in Motion (RIM), was also released in 2002. The Blackberry combined phone functionality with email capabilities. As a result, the Blackberry became the first smartphone optimized for wireless email use, resulting in a customer base of 32 million subscribers by December 2009.
Never one to be outdone by its competitors in the tech world, Apple Inc. introduced its iPhone in 2007. The first iPhone offered a multi-touch interface and came equipped with a web browser. While at first the iPhone was unable to install native applications beyond the ones built in to its operating system, a process referred to as “jailbreaking” soon allowed the iPhone to run third-party native applications. Steve Jobs admitted that the original iPhone could not support 3G, capabilities including a mobile phone, high-speed web, email, streaming video, and electronic agenda meeting reminder. Due to its size and power use, the original iPhone could not meet 3G chipsets at the time.
In 2008, Apple brought its second generation iPhone (with 3G support) to market. Released in conjunction with its newly created App Store, the new iPhone offered a wide range of capabilities that could be downloaded for free or for a charge. By early July of 2011, the App Store recorded 15 billion downloads of over 425,000 applications.
Apple’s next big step in smartphone innovation came in June of 2010 with the introduction of its iOS 4, which included additional programing interfaces (APIs) that allowed third-party applications to multitask.
The iPhone 4 became available in early 2011, equipped with a new device that allowed the handset’s 3G connection to function as a wireless Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five other devices. No other device at the time offered a similar capability. The iPhone 4 also came equipped with a 960 X 640 pixel display with a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch. The smartphone also includes a five megapixel camera with an LED flash capable of recording HD video in 720p at 30 frames per second, as well as a front-facing video graphics array (VGA) camera for video conferencing. The iPhone 4 also boasts a 1 Ghz processor in addition to other improvements.
In 2008, the Android operating system was released for smartphones. In essence, Android is an open-source platform backed by Google and certain major hardware and software developers like Intel, HTC, ARM, Motorola, and Samsung. Together, these companies form the Open Handset Alliance. The first phone introduced by Android was the HTC Dream, branded and distributed by T-Mobile as the G1. The G1 offered a suite of software that integrated Google’s proprietary applications for maps, calendars, and Gmail with a full HTML web browser.
2008 – The Android operating system for smartphones was released. Android is an open-source platform backed by Google, along with major hardware and software developers (such as Intel, HTC, ARM, Motorola and Samsung, to name a few), that form the Open Handset Alliance. The first phone to use Android was the HTC Dream, branded for distribution by T-Mobile as the G1.
Android supports the execution of native applications and a preemptive multitasking capability (in the form of services). Third-party apps are available via the Android Market (released October 2008), including both free and paid for apps.
Although a bit of a latecomer to the market, Samsung introduced its Samsung bada smartphone platform in 2010. In Korean, the word “bada” means “ocean” or “seashore.” According to Samsung, “bada” embodies the possibilities of the ocean, capable of accommodating any number of applications created by different developers. This freedom provides new possibilities and enjoyment for users. To make the proprietary platform smarter, developers added features such as multipoint-touch, 3D graphics, an enhanced UI, and of course, application downloads and installation.
The first Bada-based phone was the Samsung Wave S8500. Released on June 1, 2010, one million handsets were sold in its first 4 weeks of being on the market.
Samsung shipped 3.5 million phones running Bada in Q1 of 2011. The figure rose to 4.5 million phones in Q2 of 2011.
Smartphone Sales to End Users by Operating System
Share of worldwide 2011 Q2 smartphone sales to end users by operating system, according to Gartner.
Smartphone Usage for Social Activities
While smartphones enhance work-related tasks, users engage in a wide range of social activities with their mobile devices. In many ways, smartphones are part of the fabric of everyday life like cars, radios, televisions, microwaves, and other technological devices. In fact, from the chart below, it’s seems obvious that smartphones shape the way we interact with others and the world around us:
Future of Mobile Technology
Predictions abound on how smartphones of the future will look and what they will do. In an article in Computer World, Ginny Mies claims flexible displays, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence capabilities are features smartphones will offer in the future.
According to Mies’ research, flexible displays could help balance the demand for screen real estate with pocketable device size. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that some day smartphones may be bendable and wearable. A good example of what future wearable phones might look like is the Nokia Morph, a concept device that showcases the collaboration between the Nokia Research Center and the Cambridge Nanoscience Centre. The Morph uses nanotechnology to create a flexible, malleable electronic device. The Morph is constructed from fibril proteins that are woven into three-dimensional mesh, allowing the whole phone (screen included) to move and bend.
The article goes on to explain, that with near field communication (NFC), you will be able to make simplified transactions and data exchanges by touching your phone to an object or another phone. In fact, Google has big plans to make NFC even more useful in its next major Android update, known as the “Ice Cream Sandwich.”
Augmented reality (AR), currently in use in scattered applications, will become a standard, everyday features on cell phones as well.
What about artificial intelligence? In the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratorys Spoken Language Systems Group at MIT, researchers have developed a mobile system that can automatically comb through user reviews on sites such as Citysearch or Yelp and extract useful information and make that information searchable.
In the last month, Qualcomm announced that it is planning to ship 2.5GHz quad-core smartphone processors as early as next year (though the company didn’t give specific dates). According to Qualcomm, these quad-core systems on a chip will feature Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and FM radio. They will also support NFC and stereoscopic 3D video/photo (capture and playback) and support LTE networks.
Imagine if we do in fact see the first devices with these chipsets in just a year – how powerful will these phones be in five years?
In today’s digital world, a smartphone just might be an attorney’s best friend. No matter where you are, you can read email, speak with or text clients and associates, check with your office, use the audio recorder function to create a voice memo of a judge’s instructions (Audio Memo 2 on iPhone), or participate in a video conference. And, that’s not all!
As smartphone device functions and capabilities developed, a variety of legal productivity applications has emerged. In only a few short years, the are now legal apps for:
- Time tracking
- Child support calculators
- Personal injury toolkits
- Black’s Law Dictionary
- Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
- Appellate Procedure
In some areas, attorneys can use mobile applications to access:
- Court records
- Rules of the Court
- State Constitutions
Mobile Website Apps for Law Firms
Aside from third party productivity, reference and research apps, the latest trend is leveraging technology to launch website mobile apps for iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices. Different from separate websites designed specifically for mobile phones, a website app captures content dynamically from an existing website.
A website app does not necessarily mirror your entire website. Think of the app as a mini site.
Attorneys and Clients on the Go
Like attorneys, clients are often on the go. Whether business professionals, small business owners, or individuals with legal needs, your clients may be traveling, at conventions, in meetings, attending social functions, or relaxing at a sports event. Even so, they still need to stay in touch with their attorney and the status of their case, especially if a legal need suddenly arises. Not only does a firm website app increase visibility, but it will also let current clients and prospective clients interact with you and your firm in any number of innovative ways.
If you are away from the office and run out of business cards, not to worry. If you have a website app, you can invite colleagues and prospective clients to download your website app instantly.