Smartphones and smartphone storage: 1994 – 2003
Smartphones are devices that combine the functions of a mobile phone and a computer, typically having a touchscreen interface, internet access, and an operating system capable of running downloaded apps. They have become an essential part of our daily lives, enabling us to communicate, work, play, learn, and more. But how did they get to where they are today? And what role did storage play in their evolution? In this blog post, we will explore the amazing transformation of smartphones and smartphone storage in the 21st century.
The first device that technically qualifies as a smartphone was the IBM Simon, which was introduced in 1994. It had a monochrome LCD screen, a stylus, and could perform basic functions such as phone calls, emails, calendar, contacts, and calculator. However, it was bulky, expensive, and had a short battery life.
In the early 2000s, smartphones were mainly marketed towards the enterprise market, as they offered features such as push email and wireless internet. Some of the popular devices at the time were the BlackBerry, Nokia’s Symbian platform, and Windows Mobile. These devices often featured QWERTY keyboards or resistive touchscreen input.
The smartphone market changed dramatically in 2007 with the launch of the iPhone by Apple. It was the first smartphone to feature a capacitive touchscreen that supported multi-touch gestures, a user-friendly interface, and an integrated music player. It also introduced the concept of an app store, where users could download or purchase additional applications from a centralized platform.
The iPhone sparked a wave of innovation and competition in the smartphone industry, as other vendors tried to emulate or surpass its success. Some of the notable devices that followed were the HTC Dream (the first Android phone), the Samsung Galaxy S (the first Android phone with Super AMOLED display), and the Motorola Droid (the first Android phone with Verizon’s 4G LTE network).
Today, flagship smartphones flaunt a foldable display, triple and quadruple cameras, 144Hz refresh rate, and are 5G enabled. Even mid- to entry-range smartphones come with a touchscreen, great battery life, and double to triple cameras. These smart devices have become more than just a tool to stay connected with others. They are enriching our lives and reshaping the world; after all, never before has any other device combined almost every element of mass media in history.
Network speed, pixel count, camera quality, and battery size are often considered the benchmarks for smartphone performance and quality. However, the storage that powers and impacts the form factor and speed of these devices is often ignored. This unsung innovation, storage, is essential in enabling mobile handset vendors to deliver the latest innovations.
The first smartphone storage solution was the mobile disk-on-chip (mDOC), which was developed by MSystems in 1992 and used by several handset vendors. It was a proprietary system that offered more capacity, booting capability, security, and endurance than the existing flash memory solutions.
The smartphone storage standard also evolved with the introduction of e.MMC (embedded MultiMediaCard) in 2007 by JEDEC. It was based on the existing MMC standard but optimized for embedded applications. It offered faster speeds, lower power consumption, and standardized features than the previous proprietary systems.
As smartphones rapidly evolved and became more powerful and feature-rich, they demanded more responsive and faster storage solutions. Add to this 4G which proved to be game-changing for smartphone use cases such as gaming, streaming, and social media. The gaming industry in Kenya is a young but growing sector that includes gaming, lotteries, sports betting and prize competitions. According to Statista, the revenue in the video games market is projected to reach US$66.40 million in 2023, with an annual growth rate of 10.92% from 2023 to 2027. Some of the factors that contribute to the growth of the gaming industry in Kenya are:
- The young population, which accounts for more than 60% of the total population
- The rise of smartphones, which enable mobile gaming and online gambling
- The popularity of esports celebrities, who influence and inspire young gamers
As a result, a storage solution that addresses the current requirement of a smartphone is needed. Western Digital recently announced iNAND® MC EU551, its second-generation UFS 3.1 storage solution for mobile phones. It addresses the requirements of the latest versions of today’s smartphones such as mixed workloads, download speeds for rich media such as 8K, and faster application launch and upload speeds.
Smartphones are expected to continue to evolve and improve in the future, as they face new challenges and opportunities. Some of the trends that may shape the future of smartphones are:
- Cloud storage: As smartphones generate and consume more data than ever before, cloud storage may become more prevalent and convenient than local storage. Cloud storage allows users to access their data from anywhere and any device, as well as to backup and sync their data across multiple platforms. However, cloud storage also poses some risks such as security breaches, privacy issues, and network reliability.
- Edge computing: As smartphones become more intelligent and autonomous, edge computing may become more important than cloud computing. Edge computing refers to processing data at or near the source rather than sending it to a central server. This can reduce latency, bandwidth consumption, and energy consumption while enhancing performance, security, and privacy.
- Holographic storage: As smartphones demand more capacity and speed than ever before, holographic storage may become a viable alternative to flash storage. Holographic storage is a technology that uses laser beams to store data in three dimensions rather than two. This can increase the density, durability, and transfer rate of data while reducing the cost and power consumption.
Smartphones and smartphone storage have come a long way since 2000, and they will likely continue to do so in the future. They have transformed from simple communication devices to powerful computing devices that can perform a variety of tasks and functions. They have also adopted new technologies and standards that have improved their performance, efficiency, and features. As smartphones become more ubiquitous and essential in our lives, we can expect them to keep evolving and improving to meet our needs and expectations.