The mobile phone has been a part of our day-to-day lives for around 25 years, with early handsets designed to offer businesspeople the opportunity to stay in touch with colleagues and customers while they travel.
These early devices were cumbersome and heavy. The battery life was very poor and they didn’t offer any functionality beyond making phone calls, with later models adding the ability to send text messages.
The late 1990s and early 2000s saw new features introduced, including colour screens, built-in games, the ability to play music files, and WAP internet access. The phone was entering into its first evolution towards becoming a multimedia entertainment device.
But the biggest innovations were still to come. But how did the advent of the smartphone change the way we use phones and influence how we entertain ourselves?
The mobile phone industry’s game-changing moment arrived in 2007 with the launch of the iPhone. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously described three distinct devices to the audience, explaining that the company would be revealing a phone, an internet device and a music player.
Jobs would instead unveil a single device, the original iPhone, but his introduction helped to perfectly illustrate the multimedia capabilities of the new advice, which offered the same functionality as an iPod and the ability to browse the internet.
Of course, being able to access a much fuller version of the internet on the small screen represented a major innovation for the mobile phone, but it was perhaps the launch of the app store that created the biggest opportunities for the industry.
In 2007, alongside the launch of Photographies, Steve Jobs launches the iPhone pic.twitter.com/XHexRnjG6A
— The Photographers’ Gallery (@TPGallery) May 17, 2017
Google quickly joined the smartphone revolution with the purchase of the Android mobile operating system and its collaboration with several leading handset manufacturers to launch its own line of phones.
Both Google and Apple offered a growing library of apps to users, with third-party publishers and developers offered the chance to launch their own titles on each platform. And with the latest phones capable of streaming high-resolution video and able to connect to the internet, many of the world’s biggest entertainment brands started to take notice.
Google’s own YouTube platform was quick to adapt its service for mobile audiences, with third-party operators like Netflix also moving quickly to offer their library of content to iPhone and Android handset owners.
I heard a rumor… that you’ve been asking for these:
The Umbrella Academy profile icons are currently uploading to Netflix! pic.twitter.com/zEslXj5FQr
— Netflix (@netflix) November 10, 2020
The introduction of 3G, 4G and, most recently, 5G data connectivity has unlocked new possibilities for the entertainment industry, with the gaming sector, in particular, growing its offering to smartphone owners.
The faster connections have enabled developers to deliver more realistic graphics, more complex gameplay and seamless competition between players remotely. This has provided a great boost to sub-sectors such as online gambling.
The technology allows online casino platforms to adapt their online offering to mobile audiences without losing much of the functionality. Mobile apps followed browser-based offerings, and this has just continued to grow. The colours are vibrant, the action is fast-paced and the connections between players around the world are easier to build than ever before.
Today, smartphone owners can access their favourite games, films and TV shows wherever they are in the world. Content can be accessed through wi-fi or data connections, while many handsets and platforms offer customers the chance to download and enjoy the content offline, making the possibilities truly limitless.
So much has changed since the launch of the iPhone just 13 years ago and it’s exciting to think about what the next couple of decades could hold.
Prone to fits of apathy. Music specialist. Extreme food enthusiast. Amateur problem solver.