Cell technology has seen solid shifts since brick phone

Devon Hailey

Wireless communications pioneer Martin Cooper knew the cellphone should be a “personal telephone – something that would represent an individual, so you could assign a number, not to a place, not to a desk, not to a home, but to a person.” As Cooper’s 1973 invention championed the freedom that comes from an anytime, anywhere phone, the device has evolved significantly from a 2½-pound, 10-inch DynaTAC brick to a slim smartphone that fits in your pocket. As April marks the 42nd anniversary of the first cellphone all, let’s look at how smartphones, tablets have transformed wireless landscape.

Cooper’s first phone weighed four to five times more than today’s devices. The DynaTAC had only 20 minutes of talk before it required a 10-hour recharge. In its early days, U.S. Cellular also sold large, heavy handheld models and installed car phones for $159. Car phones could not be put on vibrate. They came with “horn alerts,” which would signal your horn to honk with every incoming call.

In the 1980s and early 90s, bag phones were popular U.S. Cellular items that sold for about $99 with a one-year contract. Bag phone batteries provided up to 2½ hours of talk time and 48 hours of standby time. This was a big improvement over the previous devices, but far from the experience cellphone users have today.

In 1992, the first digital hand-sized cellphone hit the market. During the 1990s, cellphones had the capability to store 20 or fewer numbers and did not save contact names. In fact, most phones featured only one ringtone.

The 21st century witnessed the first cellphones that offered Internet service and featured a built-in camera. Of course, the cellphone landscape changed forever in 2007 when the original iPhone hit the market. Worldwide iPhone sales were 3.7 million in January 2008. Apple has since shipped more than 1 billion iOS devices.

Smartphone features today are designed to enrich customers’ everyday lives, making it easier to get things done and stay connected with friends and family. When you look at how people use smartphones and wireless devices today, you can see that Cooper was absolutely right.

Now, smartphones and tablets, such as the 4G LTE iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2, continue to be popular purchases. As of June 2014, 172 million Americans owned a smartphone, while 93 million had a tablet, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association. Wireless technology also is playing a role in education as some schools have switched from print to digital textbooks on tablets. After all, tablets are lighter than books, easier on the environment and have been shown to increase student interactivity and creativity.

In 2015, price, device and network quality are the main things that attract cellphone customers to a carrier. Currently, nearly 93 percent of U.S. Cellular customers have access to 4G LTE speeds, up from 25 percent in 2012.

At the end of the day, network quality is the absolute platform that wins long term. That is why it’s important for us to offer a reliable network that covers you across the street or across the country. Smartphones have become a ‘must-have’ device for many people because they can help simplify and enhance our lives.

So what can we expect from a cellphone and tablet in the future? The next few years will bring even more options to customize and revolutionize the way we use wireless technology.

For example, CTIA said mobile devices are expected to account for 61 percent of worldwide Internet traffic by 2018, compared to 39 percent from wired devices. Mobile payments are expected to increase to $142 billion by 2019, up from $50 billion in 2014.

Mobile technology also will play a bigger role in the growth of small and large businesses with a broader move to machine-to-machine (M2M) innovations. M2M technology allows wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices of the same type, such as vehicle or fleet tracking systems.

About U.S. Cellular

U.S. Cellular is the fifth-largest full-service wireless carrier in the United States, providing national network coverage and industry-leading innovations designed to elevate the customer experience. The Chicago-based carrier has a strong line-up of cutting-edge devices that are all backed by a high-quality network in big and small cities and rural communities. Currently, 93 percent of customers have access to 4G LTE speeds. U.S. Cellular was named a J.D. Power and Associates Customer Champion in 2014 for the third time in four years. To learn more about U.S. Cellular, visit one of its retail stores or uscellular.com. To get the latest news, promos and videos, connect with U.S. Cellular on Facebook.com/uscellular, Twitter.com/uscellular and YouTube.com/uscellularcorp.

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