Mobile phone evolution: Story of shapes and sizes

GSMArena team, 15 July 2010.
Pages: 1234567»

Tags: Misc

Introduction

This week we step away from our usual line of work to do some time travel. We’re looking back at the ten years that we’ve been following the mobile phone industry. It doesn’t start nor end with us, but we just couldn’t resist the temptation to pause and slowly rewind the evolution of mobile phones.

It’s a live show and tomorrow we’ll all be back to covering the whole thing as it unfolds. But today it’s the flashback episode, where we find out how it went from Motorola StarTac through Moto RAZR to the iPhone and a bunch of phones with the HD moniker.



People tend to romanticize the past but mobile phones seem to have no respect for their ancestors. Technology has advanced at breakneck speed and our humble database is nothing short of a time machine. Hop on for a journey in the history of mobile phones. And by the way, it’s history you – our readers – wrote.

We dug deep inside our server logs ten years back. We traced certain trends to present day and we have some interesting charts to show you. It’s all there: how form factor preferences have mutated through the years and how touchscreen has changed the game today.

You will also learn how slimness, weight and screen size went up and down over the years. As you see, we’ve got a long story to tell. But first, let’s explain how we sourced the raw data for this unusual research.

The stats are based on all the GSM phone models we have been adding and updating since 2000. We’ve put billions of page hits in the equation to make sure it’s accurate.

It seems nobody has done similar research so far so we didn’t have a way to cross-check our findings, but everything seems to tie in nicely with our personal observations.

There are two limitations we need to point out.

First off, back in the old days we used to put down only the phones’ announcement date in the database and not the actual launch date. So you may notice a certain time shift in the charts. For instance, a large number of 2003 models were popular in 2004, because it was when they were actually available. That shouldn’t be a problem though, the info is still there.

Secondly, we’ve broken down the raw data into two types of averages. With the absolute averages every model has the same statistical importance (same weight). The second type, the weighted average, accounts for the fact that models have different importance (varied weight) depending on their popularity (measured by user hits).

To put it simply – touchscreen phones have a simple average of 20% of all phones in 2008, but a weighted average of 35%. The absolute average tells us that of all phones one in five was a touch phone, which is a generally unimpressive share. But this same year touch phones generated one third of all the hits on our phone database. They were the most popular (and potentially most high-end) models.

Bear in mind though, that the weighted average is a wee bit skewed towards the more expensive phones, since those generate a disproportionately higher amount of traffic. You know people are not fascinated by run-of-the-mill handsets. They don’t look them up online, they don’t research them – they simply use them.

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