- Written by Jeff Summers Jeff Summers
The evolution of communications is progressing at breakaway speed. During my lifetime I witnessed incredible changes that leave me pondering where this medium will go next. To give you an example let me chronicle how phone communications have changed.
As a child growing up in Idaho we had one telephone in our house. It was a black rotary phone mounted to the wall in our kitchen. Our neighborhood still utilized the “party line” system. For those of you unaware of what a “party line” is, everyone with a geographical area shared a common phone line.
Each household had a distinctive ring that signaled when you were getting a call. If the ring sounded differently that meant the call was not for you but rather was destined for one of your neighbors. This also meant that at any given time you could lift the receiver and listen in to your neighbors phone conversations. I cannot even imagine what the personal privacy lawyers would do if these were still in use today.
Ultimately we received a “private line” specific to just our house. We did retain our rotary dial phone until after I graduated from high school so please don’t be too impressed with our technological advancement.
My first cell phone did not come along until after I was married and had moved to Arizona. I remember how amazed I was that there was technology that would allow you to communicate with each other without having a wire connecting the two parties.
I completely glossed over the fact that this phone was the size and weight of a brick and could only make or receive calls and even that was not consistent. I would go through several iterations of cell phones before I finally had one that allowed me to store a list of phone numbers or contact information.
I felt I was fairly well connected having a cell phone, a two-way pager, a personal digital assistant, and a Sony Walkman. Of course with all of this gear I ended up needed a Batman utility belt to carry it all with me. Heaven forbid all of these devices go off at the same time. I feared the power would be like having my own personal defibrillator.
My life became significantly simpler on January 9, 2007. During a presentation Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. It set a new precedent for managing information. For the six months following that date the hype around the iPhone reached epic levels. Finally on June 29th the iPhone was released to the public and was an instant success.
While the original iPhone was an amazing device, it was the second generation that realized the dreams I had for using a “smart phone”. The iPhone 3G was release on July 11, 2008 in twenty-two countries around the globe.
I happened to be in Idaho on vacation when the iPhone 3G was released and I ventured over to the local AT&T store to see this new device. People had been camped out for days waiting for the introduction. I had no intention of camping for a phone and as luck would have it I didn’t have to. As I stood there in line the three people in front of me were from outside the country and therefore ineligible to purchase the iPhone 3G.
The iPhone 3G was the most amazing device I had ever owned. It not only allowed me to call anyone but also check my email, text my family, surf the Internet, and more than a million other things.
When Apple introduced the iPhone 3Gs I did not anticipate upgrading. That changed when my daughter needed a new phone. I gave her my iPhone 3G and I moved to the newer model. The 3Gs was much faster than the 3G and the battery life was much better than I could manage with the older model.
Apple again pushed the envelope with the redesign of the iPhone 4. I eagerly awaited the release of this new generation phone. It just so happened that my youngest daughter had an accident with her iPhone where it fell in the pool killing it. She was therefore very motivated for me to upgrade so she could have my iPhone 3Gs.
This time I realized I would be forced to camp out at the AT&T Store if I had any hopes of getting a new phone. So in an early summer night I spent the night in a parking lot in a sleeping bag along with several other crazed individuals all for the opportunity to buy a phone.
I would have never guessed it would come to this that I would be so enthusiastic about a product that I would be willing to spend the night sleeping on a concrete parking lot just for a chance to buy a phone. We’ve come a long way from a rotary dial “party line”.
While I loved the iPhone 4 I am always interested in the next great thing and that was announced in October 2011 at Apple's Cupertino campus in the form of the iPhone 4s. It had all of the features I loved in the iPhone 4 but with more speed and power. This was an interesting purchasing experience as well. I didn't camp out all night in a parking lot but instead stood in line at Disneyland and while waiting to ride Space Mountain I ordered a new phone from my phone. Who would have thought things would progress that far this quickly?
Not even a year later on September 12, 2012 Apple announced the iPhone 5 that would succeed the 4s. This was the last iPhone that Steve Jobs worked on as he passed away just a few days after the iPhone 4s announcement. The iPhone 5 was a major design breakthrough. It went to a form factor of nearly 16:9 that was great for watching video and provided an extra row of icons on the screen which was eagerly accepted as we were all collecting applications like baseball cards and had pages and pages of them on our phones.
The yearly update cycle continued in September 2013 with the introduction of the iPhone 5s. This model marked a new way of securing our information. For the first time Apple introduced "Touch ID" which allowed the user to digitize their fingerprint on the home button to lock and unlock the phone. This was met with much skepticism but once you used it you wondered how you ever got along without it. Soon we were asking for Touch ID to be incorporated into all of our devices. During this time Apple also introduced the iPhone 5c which was a colorful lower cost phone that captured the imagination of the younger crowd including my kids.
On September 9, 2014 Apple held their fall press announcement which saw the introduction of not one but two new phones. The iPhone 6 would replace the iPhone 5s and included another new form factor with a screen size of 4.7 inches. As if that was not hard enough to fit into your pocket Apple also introduced the iPhone 6 Plus with a whopping 5.5 inch screen! The Plus seemed way too big as if you were trying to make phone calls using an iPad. I settled for the iPhone 6 and for the first time went from black to a gold finish. It was an incredible phone.
As cool as the iPhone 6 was, I was once again online in the middle of the night on September 12th 2015 to pre-order the iPhone 6s. Apple once again was offering two form factors, the 6s with a 4.7 inch screen and the 6s Plus with a 5.5 inch screen. The two most exciting aspects of this model was a 12-megapixel camera and 3D Touch which introduced the aspect of pressure on the screen to change how the phone and operating system reacted. But the thing that made the biggest difference to me was what Apple referred to as Live Photos that not only captured a single moment but captured a few frames before and after the shot to give movement to pictures. It was incredible and a changing point to how we looked at photos.
When Apple introduced the iPhone 7 on September 7, 2016 I decided to move to the larger iPhone 7 Plus. While I was not thrilled about the larger screen, the camera system really sold me. The iPhone 7 Plus had two lenses on the back to capture wide angle and zoom. The coolest feature though was Portrait Mode which allowed the camera to focus on a subject and slightly blur the background bringing focus to what was important in the frame. This has taken phone photography to a whole new level and there are now times when I leave my camera at home and venture out with just my phone.
For 2017 Apple did something unprecedented. They introduced the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus keeping the form factor similar to the iPhone 7. This was a departure from years past when odd years they introduced a model with an "S" component meaning that features were evolutionary coupled with a speed bump. But that is not all they did. To commemorate the tenth year since the iPhone was introduced Apple created a revolutionary new phone called the iPhone X. All three phones were announced on September 12, 2017 with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus going on sale September 22, 2017. The iPhone X would follow with pre-orders starting on October 23rd and the product being available November 3. While the iPhone 8 was an amazing device, it was the iPhone X that everyone wanted.
The screen size is slightly larger than the iPhone 8 Plus at 5.8 inches but the overall dimension of the phone is just a little larger than the iPhone 8. The entire front is an OLED screen that is just amazing. The home button and Touch ID are gone on this version replaced by something called Face ID which uses a digital scan of your face to lock and unlock the phone. This is the one I wanted which meant a lot pacing and web site reloading when it would go on sale.