It started with a snake
Remember this? Sitting on a train, gripping a Nokia, playing the only game on offer on its monochrome screen: Snake. This addictive treat came preinstalled on the Nokia 6110 – which was launched in 1998 – charming generations of school children and commuters the world over.
Our commute had changed forever. Snake, now thought to be on 370 million devices, marked a new era. Looking back over the peaks and epiphanies of the past two decades, there are two resounding takeouts. First, our way of commuting and connecting has permanently changed, and second, the next-big-thing in mobile devices will keep on changing.
The reign of the Nokia
Nokia gave us more than Snake: it delivered a seemingly bullet-proof phone. Near-impossible to break; near-impossible not to own one. Remember the ubiquitous “candybar” shaped Nokia 1100 handset released in 2003? It sold an extraordinary 250 million units, culminating in a classic Nokia moment when it was the one billionth Nokia handset model sold in 2005 in Nigeria.
Nokias were the must-have phone of the mobile evolution – chock-a-block with cutting-edge technology such as calculator, stop watch and network monitor. At one point, it was almost inconceivable to think that Nokia handsets could be usurped. Just don’t mention the touchscreen.
Building blocks of mobile phones
But we’re ahead of the evolution. In the beginning, there was the brick. It cost around $AUD3000 and came in a carry case complete with regular phone receiver. Soon after, the brick was immortalised by Wall Street, in which Michael Douglas’s character gave street cred to the Motorola 8000 DynaTAC. Simply walking down Wall Street while talking on the phone made it a revolutionary item.
Subsequent handsets hastily decreased in size – until they morphed into slides and flips.
Tiny futuristic visions
The Matrix gave a nod to the utter modernity of the slide phone. Keanu Reeves opened it onscreen – we later discovered he had a Hollywood-boosted spring-loaded slider for heightened dramatic effect – daubing it with a futuristic aura. Then there was the flip phone, or clamshell. The Motorola StarTAC was the world’s first “flip” in 1996. In all, it sold around 60 million handsets. Flip phones earnt a loyal following – my dad still has his, bless him – for their robustness, small size and ease-of-use.
The day the future arrived
Snake was still winding its monochrome way across millions of screens when the future arrived. For Australians, this momentous day came about two years after most of the rest of the world. It was 2008 when the iPhone 3G was launched in Sydney. The first one in Australia was bought in the George Street Apple store just after midnight!
The race to secure a new iPhone saw people camping overnight in front of Apple’s George St store in Sydney’s CBD, with its uber-cool, double-storey glass-frontage soaring over traffic snarls and pedestrian chaos. Finally we Aussies were getting a piece of the Apple smarts. Apple mainstreamed the touchscreen smartphone. In 2008 the iPhone sold 13.7 million units; in 2015 the 500 millionth iPhone in the world was sold.
Interfaces and impermanence
Need we mention Samsung’s launch of the trusty Galaxy S Series in 2010? At the time it was the bomb: it had the fastest graphics processor on the market, a huge 5MP camera and the thinnest handset chassis available. The smartphone united the power of the 3G network with an array of apps – Snake diehards from circa 2000 with their monochrome screens could not have envisaged a world where the commute involved real-time strategy gaming across the globe on Clash of Clans.
The next device is around any corner, and it can harness the increased speed of our 4G network. And when it does, we’re braced: the Optus 4G Plus Network now reaches 86% of the Aussie population. Next time you’re on a train updating your status or catching the news, spare a thought for the survivors of Snake.
Optus is interested in partnering with like-minded innovators. Learn more at Optus Wholesale.