Inquiry Project – First Round of Research – Smartphones, what are they, how do they work and what is their history?

Most of us probably know by now what a smartphone is. The little, surprisingly powerful computer that fits in your pocket. For almost all of us, they are one of our most important possessions. We can do so much with them; search the internet, post media, see what is going on in the world and see what everyone else is doing. For some people, their entire life is online. From their life achievements to their worst moments, it’s all there for everyone to see. But now, after years of using smartphones, I find myself not really knowing much about smartphones other than what is the new big thing. So I’m here to change that.

In essence, smartphones are intended to be the most useful and practical tool anyone can have. They can complete many of our everyday activities such as sending and receiving emails, sending and receiving SMS messages, browsing websites on the internet, setting reminders, viewing and using calendars, accessing and listening to music and videos and much more. They do this mainly by sending and receiving radio signals, leading some people to not call them mini computers, but mini radios instead. Cell phone networks are based on radio signals, essentially sending our voice data to a tower and then that tower sends the signal down the line until it reaches the tower that the person that you are talking to is closest to; it’s just like receiving music from a radio station, just with different towers. It’s the same thing if you’re using cellular data to view or browse content when you don’t have access to a WIFI network. Smartphones also need to take input to know what to do. Nowadays, they do this on a touchscreen, thousands of lights covered by glass that sends electric signals based on where you press [1], but some smartphones used to do this with a keyboard; Blackberry is probably the most known example of this [2]. Smartphones also use speakers to project sound, antennas to help with cell signal and a processing chip to process and calculate all functions [1].

Now for the history of smartphones. While mobile phones had been around for sometime, they were heavy, unpractical, had terrible battery life and a very small amount of features [4]; everyone was waiting for something better. And in 1994, they got it. Invented in 1992 and released in 1994, the first smartphone ever was IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator (SPC for short). It used a relatively modern touchscreen and had the ability to send and receive emails and faxes. It also had a calendar, an address book and an appointment scheduler. In 2001, smartphones finally started to become actually smart, now being able to access the internet with cellular data, letting users video and photo share and participate in video conferences. But then, in 2007, a real jump happened. That year, Steve Jobs revealed the very first iPhone. It was by far the most prolific smartphone ever, sporting SMS messaging, internet browsing, video and photo sharing, online video viewing, a maps application, sending and receiving emails and music listening [2].

Since 2007 though, smartphones haven’t really changed much. Sure, Android was released as competition to Apple and phones are getting faster, with better cameras, better and bigger screens, more applications and longer battery life, but the overall aspect of them is staying the same; it’s just improving [2]. The late Steve Jobs set a huge precedent that no-one has been able to surpass, not even his own company. His genius has changed our lives, giving us a platform to use for almost everything. His invention quite literally ushered in a new era of humankind; but are we better off because of it?







One Reply to “Inquiry Project – First Round of Research – Smartphones, what are they, how do they work and what is their history?”

  1. Hi Victor,
    I’ve never been very interested in technology although I can definitely appreciate it. Nevertheless, your post was so well-written that it kept me engaged the entire time. I know you said that smartphones have reached a point where they no longer change, only improve, but I think you could research other designs for smart devices that I’m sure have been made. You could look into theories for future technology that may be built to replace smartphones, and up and coming technology that may serve the same purpose. If you continue to research only the current smartphone, I think it would be interesting if you researched more of its history and from where all the ideas for it stemmed.

    I know I’m not knowledgeable on this topic, but I hope these sources are helpful:

    I can’t wait to read your next post!

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