Futurelooks Looks Back at Some Major Cellphone Technology Milestones

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First Mobile Phone with a Color Display

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Just as moving from black and white to color totally changed how we enjoyed watching television, the same can be said about cell phones. Unearthing the first mobile phone with a color display took quite a bit of rummaging around the Internet, but I am reasonably positive that it is the Sony Ericsson T68.

Also sold as the Sony Ericsson T68i, this phone blew the world away in 2000, offering a 101 x 80 pixel display capable of showing a palette of 256 colors. Over the course of the next two years or so, it seemed like nearly every other phone adopted a color screen as well. Not surprisingly, the T68 pales in comparison to modern day devices like the Samsung Omnia HD, HTC Legend, and the “retina” display on the iPhone 4.

First PDA-Phone Combo Device (Touchscreen Too)

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Smartphones may seem like a relatively recent development, giving us a way to update Twitter and send emails on the road, but they’ve actually been around longer than you may think. No, it didn’t start with BlackBerry. Nope, not Palm Treo or Windows CE either. Ladies and gents, you’re looking at the IBM Simon Personal Communicator, initially offered by BellSouth way back in 1993.

It’s not really a smartphone in the contemporary sense of the word, but it was the first device to combine PDA functionality with a mobile phone.Interestingly enough, the IBM Simon is also the first phone to feature a touchscreen, predating even the Ericsson R380 (2000). While the iPhone certainly popularized the touchscreen cell phone, it was far from the first to offer that feature.

First with Internet Access on the Go

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What about surfing the Internet? I’m a little lost when I’m at my computer without web access and the same thing is starting to happen with my phone if I lose a data connection. And this all started in 1999 with the arrival of the Nokia 7110.

To be fair, this slider phone (featured in the Matrix movies) didn’t grant you access to the full HTML web as we know it today. Instead, it was the first device to let you surf through WAP (wireless access protocol) sites. These were the precursors to “mobile-friendly” websites and offer a mostly text-based experience. Contrast that to the “full web experience” you get on devices like the Motorola Droid and HTC EVO 4G today. The web on the phone really isn’t all that different from the web on the computer anymore.

More Notable Points in Cell Phone History

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Other milestones achieved along the way? The BlackBerry 5810 was launched in 2002, representing the first BlackBerry with integrated voice cell phone functionality. In 1999, the Benefon Esc! was released as the first phone with GPS integration. Sprint got the first MP3 phone with the Samsung SPH-M100 Uproar in 1999.

And who can possibly forget the Apple iPhone 3G in 2008. The first iPhone was alright, I suppose, but it’s the iPhone 3G that introduced us to the App Store. That totally changed the way we got apps on our smartphones, paving the way for Android Market (October 2008), BlackBerry App World (April 2009), Nokia Ovi Store (May 2009), Palm App Catalog (Jun 2009), and Windows Marketplace for Mobile (October 2009).

What will be the next huge innovation in the cell phone industry? We’ll have to wait and find out.

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About

Michael Kwan is freelance writer and professional gadget geek. He's been reporting on the world of technology for years, playing countless console games along the way too. Be sure to check out his personal blog, Beyond the Rhetoric, for posts on freelance writing, personal development, entertainment, video games, and more. Follow him on Twitter too: @michaelkwan

  • RJ

    The first phone with color screen was siemens s10, it had just 4 colors back in 1997.

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