Same As It Ever Was?

With Kindles, iPads, iPods, and a hundred different kinds of smartphones, it has become more and more difficult to distance yourself from your e-mail, voicemail, and social media.  And, with the world of 4G upon us, we will certainly continue this lifestyle.  While I love having the world at my fingertips thanks to my smartphone, I also find it necessary at times to put it away and enjoy life (that isn’t electronic).  I found a blog post that reminds us, it was only 5 years ago when we were all amazed at the flip phone, the Razr, and Facebook was something that those “college kids” played around with.

Technology is a fast moving subject, and if you don’t stay in tune with it, you’ll fall behind, fast!  So keep up with it, but remember to stop and smell the roses every now and then.

The blog post below “A Look Back at the Last 5 Years in Mobile,” originally appeared on Mashable and provides an interesting overview of this dynamic technology:

“Five years ago the mobile landscape was in many ways, a world apart from where we are now. The Motorola Razr was on its way to breaking sales records worldwide, the SideKick II was Paris Hilton’s best friend, and the BlackBerry was still all about business. While smartphones existed, the devices were really more like PDAs with a phone built-in rather than mobile computing devices as we know them today. There were mobile phone apps, but the app store concept as we know it now was still years away. And while many mobile phones had the ability to access the web, the experience was far different in speed and in scope than it is today.

Fast forward to 2010 and the world of mobile computing is strikingly different. As the feature phone has continued to cede ground to the smartphone, mobile broadband has become a reality and accessing the web, as well as social networks like Facebookand Twitter, has become not just a nicety but a requirement.

To paraphrase Talking Heads, “how did we get here?” Let’s explore the last five years and the changing face of mobile.

The Rise of the Touchscreen

The impact that the iPhone has had on the mobile industry — on the computing industry in general — cannot be overstated. Love it or hate it, there is a very clear delineation between devices released prior to June, 2007 and devices released after. A key element of this separation is the rise of the touchscreen for mobile devices.

While the original iPhone was not the first capacitive touchscreen mobile phone on the market (that would be the LG Prada), it was the first phone that really took advantage of touch and showcased the power of software written for a touch interface.

While the debate over physical or virtual keyboards still rages today, when it comes to interacting directly with content, making phone calls, interacting with applications and adjusting text, touch has become the expectation.

The smartphone touchscreen has influenced other products, from media players to notebook trackpads to mice and gestures, like pinch-zoom and swipe forward, have become ubiquitous in the world of human interface design.

The Socialization of Mobile

The early success of Twitter is intrinsically linked to mobile devices, thanks to the ability to send and receive updates via SMS. Likewise, the 140-character nature of Twitter was immediately easy to grasp by users who were already familiar with the limits of standard SMS and MMS messages.

Instant messaging and e-mail were the killer features of the BlackBerry and Sidekick devices of yesteryear. Today, that has evolved into the ability to post to Twitter and Facebook. In the current battle for smartphone supremacy, how well a phone integrates with social networks is a big part of how manufacturers and brands differentiate their devices.

Facebook’s mobile usage is off the charts and a tiny industry was created just around Twitter mobile applications — at least until Twitter started to release its own apps.

We’re entering a phase in social application and network development that doesn’t just treat the mobile web as a consideration, but as a central tenant and requirement. We’ve already started to see that with geolocation networks like Foursquare( ), Loopt, Gowalla( ) and SCVNGR that were built and designed for mobile.

Broadband in Your Pocket

Mobile broadband was just starting to come into its own five years ago. Today, we’re at the cusp of the 4G revolution that promises not just faster speeds but better coverage in areas that have previously had problems getting any sort of broadband at all.

We’re able to do more and more on our mobile devices in large part because the networks are faster and are capable of transferring more data. In some parts of the world, the only way that individuals get online at all is via mobile phones (and not even smartphones) and the promise of 4G technologies, like LTE and WiMax, is to get data to more rural areas even faster.

The 3G transition on the network side was happening just ahead of how mobile devices and software were evolving. With 4G, it may be just the opposite. We’re expecting more and more out of our mobile devices and the mobile connections themselves can’t always suffice. Or if they can, they come at a price — mobile phone companies are shifting from charging for minutes to charging for data.

Mobile broadband subscriptions for non-phone devices are on the rise as mobile becomes less about a “phone” and more about the freedom to connect anywhere.

There’s an App For That

Mobile applications existed long before the App Store but just like with touchscreens, Apple’s App Store is what really brought the concept of mobile applications to the forefront. The most innovative and exciting place in software development isn’t on the desktop but on mobile devices.

From iOS to Android to webOS to BlackBerry to Symbian to Meego to Windows Phone 7, the micro computer revolution from the mid-1980s is taking place, but at a much faster pace, today.

The definition of a mobile app continues to be difficult to define — especially as the lines between native programs and web apps continue to become blurry — but mobile as a platform and as a destination is not in dispute.

The immense success of the App Store — more than $1 billion has been paid to developers in just under two years — has caused many businesses to shift focus. Longtime desktop application developers have shifted entirely too mobile and new companies and developers have formed around a particular platform.

As unsettling as it may be to some enthusiasts, the reality is that the first application that most new programmers will write will be for a mobile phone – not for the desktop. The scales of mobile applications are often smaller and have fewer features than a desktop counterpart, however, that will change. After all, five years ago if you asked me if I could do 90% of my work from my mobile device, I would have laughed in your face. Don’t get me wrong, my magenta Razr was awesome but it was hardly capable of doing any real work.

The Future

The world of mobile computing continues to change at a breakneck pace. Just 12 months ago, only a handful of Android devices were on the market. Today, it’s a major contender and a big threat to the dominant smartphone platform, the iPhone.

In five years, we’ve transitioned from keypad to touchscreen, from 2G to ubiquitous broadband, from social as an afterthought to social as an intrinsic part of the mobile web and to a world full of app stores. It’s impossible to predict the next five years, but imagine that mobile devices will continue to get faster, consume less power and slowly but surely supplant workstations and notebooks. To quote Talking Heads again, “same as it ever was.””

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