From Bricks to Smartphones: The Kids Are Unimpressed

A guy I know recently bought a landline for his home (it’s a long story). The thing completely confounded his 10-year-old kid.

It doesn’t have a camera, you can’t text on it, it’s kind of heavy, and it doesn’t fit in a pocket. Can’t even watch Justin Bieber videos on it. She’s one of a whole generation that doesn’t remember or appreciate a time before smartphones. For her and her friends, 2006 was a lifetime time ago.

Maybe that’s for the best. In this post, we present a brief history of smart phones, and introduce you to a company in India that’s bringing the technology and design forward into the next decade. And just to add perspective, we asked that same tweenager for comment.

The famous brick

In 1983, the first commercial cellular call was placed to the grandson of Alexander Graham Bell in Germany from an American executive at a ceremony held outside of Soldier Field in Chicago using a DynaTAC cellular phone.

Weighing nearly two pounds and 13 inches long, the phone provided only mere 30 minutes of talk time. It offered an LED display for dialing or recall of one of 30 phone numbers and it cost a cool $3,995. And, sure, there were car phones before 1983 but they were considered too heavy to carry (and we’re assuming more than two pounds). It wasn’t going anywhere near a pocket.

To give you an idea of its design, here’s a similar phone from the “Most 80s Commercial Ever” released in the late 80s:

The kid’s take: “That thing is bigger than our cat.”

Flipped out

The next evolution of the mobile phone was the flip phone. No, not the tiny flip phones from the mid-2000s. In the mid-90s, the clamshell/flip mobile phone folded UP from the above display and was the one of the first mobile phones to gain widespread consumer adoption – blowing minds and selling more than 60 million units.

Mobile technology today owes a lot to this workhorse for many of today’s familiar functions like SMS messaging, stronger battery life, vibrate alerts, and a flashing green light to indicate to users that there was a network connection.

Millions of people simultaneously threw their pagers in the trash and bought one of these.

The kid’s take: “I think I saw one of those in a drawer in the kitchen.”

Building the revolution

By 2006, mobile phones had evolved into smaller, sleeker, hipper designs, most being the flip variety but with features unheard of even five years before. For instance, LG’s Chocolate slider phone was also an MP3 player hybrid, while Nokia’s N73 came loaded with software applications, including contacts, messaging, picture and video galleries, and a music player.


Image: LG’s White Chocolate by The Random Editor

We recently heard from the LG team in India, a group that is continuing to push the design envelope (using PTC Creo, by the way, for its easy, intuitive 3D modeling that lets their engineers and designers modify designs on-the-fly with faster design time as they create the next generation of smartphone design).

Although now a few years old, take a look at the styling on their GS200 model.


LG Electronics GS 200, released in India in 2010, included a 2” screen, MP3 player, etc. Reviewers raved that it could stay charged for 2 weeks, and the sound quality was “super.”

Try to picture the engineering and design behind an 80s phone versus one of LG Electronics designs– the differences are astonishing. 3D design what?

The kid’s take: “Now we're talking!”

2007- The Year of the ‘I’

When it comes to design and breaking rules (from technology to user-interfaces) Apple’s iPhone helped launch a revolution in how we use our phones. Have you recently purchased an appliance or an electronics device? How thick is the manual that came with it? From the touch-screen technology to storage to purchasing apps, the game has changed.

The kid’s take: “Quit bugging me, I’m texting.”

The number of smartphone users worldwide will surpass 2 billion in 2016, according to figures from eMarketer. And while this year’s models will no doubt wow even modern preadolescents, we can be certain of one thing: 2026’s 10-year-old kids will be wholly unimpressed.

[Ed. The industrial design team at LG Electronics India is already working to please the next generation of consumers, and we’re proud to say that they recently told us that PTC tools are helping them “create our best cell phone designs.” Check out PTC Creo Interactive Surface Design Extension and PTC Creo Advanced Rendering Extension to see the tools they use.]

Inventor Martin Cooper with the DynaTAC. By Rico Shen

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