I’ve been a believer in the power of mobile devices to help people organize and access information since 1999 after purchasing my first consumer mobile device, the Royal Davinci, and using it on a daily basis. The Palm Pilot had made it’s appearance not long before, in 1997. I enthusiastically upgraded to the (incredible at the time) Compaq iPAQ in 2000 and have owned a long series of mobile devices ever since.
In my view, nothing especially game-changing happened in consumer mobile technology between 1997 and 2007. It was a period of experimentation and attempted innovation. Being a PC guy for most of my life, I generally bought Windows Mobile phones, and while every new phone seems cutting edge and impressive at the time of release, for the most part they were just more of the same. It still shocks me how Microsoft botched the mobile opportunity. And sure Blackberry had a good run, but also ultimately failed to deliver on the true promise of the smartphone.
The release of the iPod itself in 2001 certainly set the stage for Apple to incubate the mobile revolution. But to me, the day that the iPhone was released (January 9, 2007) was the day that the world and our lives actually began a radical technology-driven transformation. Symbolically, the same could be said about the advent of Google search, and of course many other recent technologies. But the reason the high-quality smartphone is ultimately more significant to me is that it puts the entire world in our hands, including everything that Google can find for us and so much more, and enables us to carry it with us 24/7.
The most profound impact of the ubiquity of the consumer smartphone is the acceleration that we feel all around us, in our access to unlimited information, in our ability to communicate, and ultimately in the pace of life.
The advancements in chip miniaturization that are driving the truly amazing performance of the most average smartphone or tablet in 2014 are starting to spread to other mobile technologies, which will continue to accelerate and transform the world around us as we know it. Augmented reality/contextual intelligence and wearables are the two areas I’ll be watching the closest.