Smartphones can do much more than telephones used to. However, some technological inventions paved the way for the development of today’s smartphones. What are these foundational inventions? Which organizations were the pioneers that made these inventions happen? We’ve gathered a few highlights of important technological innovations that facilitated the evolution of the smartphone.
The invention of GPS-enabled phones
Benefon launched the first commercially available GPS phone in 1999 called the Benefon Esc! They majorly sold the GSM phone in Europe, but many other GPS-enabled mobile phones would soon follow. In 2004, Qualcomm introduced “assisted GPS” technology, allowing phones to locate the user within a few feet.
This is the primary model for the current generation of smartphone GPS. Although it is often taken for granted, it provides one of the most fundamentally important features for powering all apps, from Lyft to social media to location-based services.
How seamless roaming came about
In the early days of cellular phones, making and receiving calls anywhere across the globe was impossible. The early roaming standards emerged when the European Telecommunication Standard Institute (ETSI) released phase 1 of the GSM specification in 1990.
Tech companies improved these capabilities over subsequent generations of the spec. These improvements now result in our phones’ ability to seamlessly cross network providers and geographic boundaries. This is another service we take for granted despite the significant infrastructure required in the background.
How Android-based devices came into existence
The launch of the T-Mobile G1, manufactured by HTC, in October 2008 was the world’s first Android-based mobile device. This paved the way for several other Android devices to the type of Android-based smartphones that compete with iOS today.
Although it was not up to par with what Apple had done with the iPhone, it signaled that Android would be a fierce competitor. Hundreds of devices have been produced since Android captured a majority share of worldwide smartphone sales.
The role of the first camera-integrated phone
Sharp introduced the first integrated camera phone in Japan in late 2000. Samsung also introduced one at about the same time. Both were very limited in capabilities and implementation. Since then, nearly every vendor of phones has integrated ever-increasing quality cameras into their devices.
With embedded cameras, smartphones became the ubiquitous go-to device for the vast majority of photos. Gradually, smartphones began to add built-in photo editors. We’ll likely continue to see advances in camera technology going forward, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and 3D.
What about fingerprint scanners?
The first mobile phones with a fingerprint scanner were the Toshiba G500 and G900 in 2007. The iPhone 5S, produced in 2011, was the first phone on a major U.S. carrier since the Motorola Atrix to feature the technology.
In 2016, Xiaomi unraveled a phone that incorporated ultrasonic fingerprint scanning. The phone used technology that Qualcomm acquired with its purchase of Ultrascanz, which enables more accurate and potentially ‘through the screen’ recognition. Today, from iPhones to Android phones, smartphones now use sophisticated fingerprint identification.