It’s my third week since I’ve joined CTIA, and I’ve decided to introduce myself by writing a blog post on the incredible “rEvolution” of wireless handsets. I may be new to CTIA, but I’ve had a mobile device since 1999—and I’ve never looked back!
For those of us who are old enough to remember the original “Wall Street” movie, starring Michael Douglas, the status symbol of the 1980s was the Brick cellphone, Motorola’s 1983, two pound "DynaTAC" phone. Fast forward 20 years, and Motorola’s RAZR was the must-have accessory. In fact, the Motorola v3 RAZR was still the most popular cellphone in the third quarter of 2008…just over three years ago. Weighing only 3.4 ounces or about one tenth the size of the Brick, the RAZR was cutting edge and slipped easily in your pocket. In between the Brick and the RAZR, handsets from Apple, HTC, Nokia, LG Electronics, RIM, Samsung, ZTE and others had their reign as the sleek new status symbol.
Now Motorola is back with the new DROID RAZR. Motorola’s return to the iconic RAZR brand got me thinking about how far handsets have come since the original RAZR (let alone the Brick!), and all that is needed to make a smartphone work.
While we don’t usually highlight one member’s product over another, I thought a comparison of the two devices was a great illustration to explain how quickly the wireless handset market has evolved.
Just an ounce more than the original, the DROID RAZR packs a much bigger punch that is gift wrapped in KEVLAR. I don’t know about you, but I never thought I’d have something made of KEVLAR in my handbag. What’s inside is even more amazing.
The screen is twice as big, and it really isn’t only a phone. It is your camera, and a pretty nice one with all those megapixels. Remember when an 8 megapixel camera was a to-die-for luxury in 2004? Add a front-facing camera, a high definition video camera and three times the memory for good measure.
The computer inside has a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor. Again, think about that: in 2002, IBM introduced the ThinkPad X30 with a 1.2 GHz processor, weighing 3.6 pounds and in 2004, Apple introduced their desktop eMac with a 1.25 GHz processor, weighing a whopping 50 pounds! So, you can make a call, take a picture or a movie and surf the web all on a device that weighs 127 grams. Best of all, it’s water-resistant, and exceptionally thin for a smartphone. And if you happened to need a new cell phone contract over Thanksgiving, Amazon was selling this handset, among others, for a penny!
As described in CTIA’s recent Mobile Competition Report Comments, the full comparison of the old and new RAZRs is below.
The RAZR is, of course, just one example of the innovation going on across the industry. You can talk with it, text, email, instant message, take pictures and videos, stream audio and video and surf the web. The proliferation of high-speed, data-capable smartphones from all handset manufacturers accelerated each quarter of 2011.
These smartphones can handle the full panoply of services demanded by consumers and are doing so at an astonishing rate. As CTIA stated in its Mobile Competition Report Comments, the number of smartphones in Americans' hands have jumped from only 49.8 million in 2009 to more than 95 million as of June 2011 and I’m sure this number is even higher after the Christmas holiday new activations (as reported, Christmas Day alone saw 6.8 million Android and iOS activations). The growth in smartphone adoption is an important metric because data consumption associated with smartphones vastly exceeds the usage by prior feature phones. And even as smartphones continue to evolve, we are seeing greater data consumption in the newer smartphones. As recently reported, “in 2011, iPhone 4S users downloaded 2.76 times as much data as users of the iPhone 3G in 2011.”
The handset is one of the clearest ways consumers can see the wireless “virtuous cycle” at work. It takes networks, operating systems and applications for the smartphone to work, but it is the device itself that represents on a minute-by-minute basis so much of how the cycle benefits consumers. And of course we need SPECTRUM; the backbone of the wireless industry. Without spectrum, the applications, speed, devices and other innovations of the wireless ecosystem could be in jeopardy. That is why CTIA has been working with Congress to ensure that there is sufficient spectrum brought to market.
So next time you put your KEVLAR phone/camera/computer/video camera/movie player in your pocket or purse, take a moment to remember your last couple of phones, how far we have come, and all that is needed to make your smartphone the best device possible. Then remember that in about two years, you’ll want the newest smartphone with the hottest innovations. I’m picturing quad-core, voice-activated, mobile-commerce enabled… You know, at the rate manufacturers’ are innovating, we probably won’t even have to wait that long!