On the 3rd April 1973 the first ever mobile phone call was made. Who would have thought that 40-something years on we would be carrying them round with us every day, checking them every hour and thinking about them every minute? And while mobile phones have had an undeniable impact on our personal lives, they have also been hugely influential in shaping the world of business. Let’s take a look at the evolution of mobile devices to explore the role they have played in changing the way we do business.
The First Telephones
It was way back in 1876 when the first telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, but it wasn’t long before people started experimenting with the potential of this new technology. Bell himself immediately began to test how far he could develop the capabilities of the phone, resulting in the creation of the photophone in the winter of 1880.
By 1908 the traditional telephone had been around for over 30 years and was beginning to become more accessible. It is then that Nathan Stubblefield, a farmer in rural Kentucky, is recorded as having invented the first ever wireless communication device. Designed with an aim to ease business, Stubblefield hoped to enable communications between boats and trains. In the 1920s radiophones had become commonplace on ships after sailors realised the increased efficiency by improving sea to land communications.
Engineers continued to develop the phone and test its mobile capacities and by the 1940s AT&T and Bell Labs offered the first mobile phone service. Exclusively provided for customers in St. Louis, the initiative did not last long as users complained that the device was too bulky.
The First Mass-Produced Mobile Phones
Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union throughout the 50s, Russian engineer Leonid Kupriyanovich experimented with models of handheld mobile phones with great success. However, unfortunately in 1961 the inventor saw his funding stopped by the USSR and his experimentation inevitably ended. But elsewhere, engineers continued their mobile technology development, eventually leading to the historic moment in 1973 when Motorola released the first ever mass-produced mobile phone. However, it wasn’t until the 80s when mobiles began to become mainstream, confirmed by Japan’s introduction of the first commercial cellular phone network in 1981.
Mobile Phones Become Prevalent in Business
Throughout the 80s mobile phones gained traction with prominent business leaders and public figures alike who used them to take important calls whilst on the move. Excited and encouraged by the growing interest in mobile phones, companies raced to create new designs. In 1989 the Motorola Micro Tac phone was launched, which is the most direct precursor to the phones we use today.
Just a few years later, on the 3rd December 1992, the first ever text message was sent; the message reading simply “Merry Christmas” was sent by Neil Papworth to his colleague Richard Jarvis. It took a while for text messages to become popular but by 1999, when the first BlackBerry was released, they began to be used more frequently as a method of communication. After its release the Blackberry soon became the phone of choice for business people worldwide.
The Arrival of Mobile Internet
Communication was made even easier thanks to the arrival of 3G technology in 2001, allowing people to check emails out of the office. And by 2006, 45 billion texts were being sent a month, helping out-of-office communication. Just a year later another seismic event occurred for the world of business and phones when Apple released the first iPhone and quickly replaced the Blackberry as the go-to phone for business.
Mobile communications continued to develop, helped in-part by the creation of apps including WhatsApp, which was introduced in 2009. Skip to 2018, and businesses today could not operate without mobile technology; from 4G allowing emails to be checked, WhatsApp office chats enabling communication, Apple Watch scheduling meetings and Uber getting you there. And with 5G capability set to be introduced imminently, the relentless innovation of mobile technology shows no signs of slowing down.