COLUMN: Mobile devices are ushering in a new era of communication
These days, the world is becoming more connected. The mobile phone generation has brought new communication possibilities thanks to global Internet coverage and the continuous innovations we have experienced in personal computing since the 1980s.
Today, many people have a smartphone, but there was a time when it was strange to see those devices.
The first mobile phone was developed by Martin Cooper for Motorola in 1973, and it weighed a little more than 2 pounds. It was not launched to the market.
The first commercially available mobile phone was Motorola’s DynaTac in 1983, and it was as big as the sole of a boot. It cost $3,995 in 1983, thus it didn’t see wide success. However, it set the starting point for a portable technology era.
On the other hand, during the 1950s and 1960s, computers occupied huge rooms and were owned by only a few organizations. In the 1980s, Apple released the Apple II series and revolutionized the personal computer market.
Over the years, PCs have become smaller, better and cheaper. In both markets (computers and mobile phones), the products follow that trend, becoming more accessible to everyone.
For example, the use of PCs has grown remarkably in the last 10 years. In 1993, there were about 100 million PCs worldwide. By 2008, that number had multiplied by 10 to more than a billion PCs throughout the globe.
And portable computer shipments also have increased in the last few years. In 2005, 150 million desktop PCs were sold, whereas 200 million laptops where purchased. In 2010, laptop shipments doubled desktops sales, approximately 300 million to 150 million.
Consequently, experts believe that by 2013, three times as many laptops will be sold than desktops (about 450 million). Prices on portable computers have fallen, and they are more affordable for the user. They occupy less space and can be taken everywhere.
These days, smartphones and tablet PCs have become the latest gadgets.
Both products have experienced a faster growth in five years than the PC in the previous 20. Experts believe that by 2020, there will be around 10 billion smartphone and tablet users. Thus, they will grow 10 times faster in the period from 2008 to 2020 than PCs did between 1993 and 2008.
Currently in America, there are as many feature phones — mobile phones that also operate as a personal digital assistant (PDA) — as smartphones (approximately 150 million each). But experts believe that by 2015, there will be just more than 200 million smartphones users as the number of feature-phone users plateaus.
Feature phones still are in use more than smartphones in developing countries. However, the forecast is that the use of new gadgets will overcome the old ones in the developing countries by 2015.
The success of the smartphone has spurred the appearance of tablet computers such as the iPad, RIM’s Playbook and Samsung’s Galaxy.
Now, all eyes are on the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s tablet launched one month ago at a lower price ($200) than Apple’s cheapest iPad ($499).
Although still small, sales of tablet computers are growing rapidly. A study developed by Morgan Stanley predicted that by the end of 2011, as many personal computers will be sold as smart phones and tablet computers combined.
Thus, a new communication environment is taking shape, and companies are aware of this fact. Having direct access to the Internet offers new ways of communicating.
This is a turning-point for personal technology, which is shifting our social life.
Facebook claims more than 825 million users, and it expects to reach a billion in the next few years. At that time, one in every seven people on Earth will be on Facebook.
At that point, the social network could be considered the third-largest populated country after India and China.
All these new gadgets make our social life easier, but our social lives are now artificial and less humanized.
Regardless, it is an unstoppable process because mobile devices will become cheaper, faster and smaller over the next several years, carrying us deeper into this hyper-connected 21st century.
Adrian Espallargas is a Spanish journalism exchange student.