The technological contributions of Alexander Graham Bell and Nikola Tesla have paved the way for the modern cell phone industry. Current estimates suggest that 4.6 billion mobile subscriptions are issued world wide; this market has surpassed that of landlines. With Nokia, Samsung and Apple leading the surge of cellular innovation, consumers have access to an assortment of products that once were thought to only exist in James Bond films.

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The Early Days
Cell phones didn't always nicely fit in the back of your pocket, nor did they have a wide variety of games and features. Even though such a concept now seems absurd, there was once a time when cell phones were meant for talking.

Taxi drivers and police officers were the first target users of mobile devices. The primitive gadgets were two-way car radios that basically helped drivers coordinate their destinations with fellow workers. 1910 marked the initial usage of these car radios, whereby the Swedish inventor Lars Magnus Ericsson would travel across the country and test his machine. Similar to the popular "Can you hear me now?" advertisement by Verizon where a mobile user travels the country checking for reception, Ericsson would physically attach telephone lines to his device.

By 1940, the concept of the mobile radio had been transformed into the military used Walkie-Talkie. However, the obvious need for such technology pushed the industry to pursue innovative methods to bring mobile communication devices to the public. (Discover how phones and other technology changed the way we exchange information when trading, check out The History Of Information Machines.)

The First Cell Phones
On April 3, 1973, it finally happened. A 1 kilogram Motorola DynaTAC prototype was used to make a call on the streets of New York. The next step in the revolution, before cell phones could become an everyday consumer item, was a focus on making these machines smaller. Yet, when Nokia emerged onto the market with the Mobira Senator, this device was a whopping 21 pounds. Obviously, it was not the technological breakthrough that the industry was anticipating.

A Brief Recap of the 1990s
Early 1990As the cell phone market began to emerge from its primitive state, the second generation of cell phones had been introduced. The overall trend was a movement away from the brick appearance of the previous decade.

1993 – This was an important year in the cell phone industry with two huge innovations: text messaging and PDA functions. Cell phone started being used as calculators, pagers, e-mail devices and address books. These additions have shaped the next revolution of technological push as texting and computer like functions became increasingly popular.

1999 – The Canadian company Research in Motion was placed on the international technology map. The Blackberry allowed users to have fast access to email, easy to use web browsing and an assortment of fundamental wireless features. The stage for the smart phone had been set.

Today's Cell Phones
Apple emerged onto the scene in 2005, but not through the iPhone. A joint venture between Apple and Motorola brought mobile communication and entertainment into a single multi-purpose device. The original Motorola Rokr combined the manufacturer's sleek product with iTunes, allowing users to download, share and listen to music on their cell phones.

Modern cell phones are equipped with tons of fascinating features and capabilities, not to mention their reduced weight compared to their ancestors. Apps are now available to help users watch movies, choose restaurants, do online banking, provide medical reference material, trade stocks, lose weight, navigate directions, read barcodes and performs millions of other fun and useful features. In fact, it is almost safe to say that we have more in common with apes than cell phones have with their predecessors.

The transformation within the industry has been nothing short of remarkable. International manufacturers even allow users to use their phone as a debit card. Osaifu Keitai - meaning the wallet cell phone - enables customers to input their credit card information into their mobile device which can then be scanned to make a purchase. Other interesting innovations coming out of Japan concern home security services and environmental awareness features. Similar to phone activate remote car starters, the Japanese can lock their doors and operate household appliances through their cell phones. DoCoMo created environment telephone sensors that monitor UV rays and air quality. Some cell phones can even monitor your vital signs and send the results to the doctor, saving you the trip.

A Look into the Future
It seems that cell phones are saturated with useful/useless apps and capabilities. However, the $5.3 billion and $3.2 billion that Nokia and Motorola are dedicating to research and development respectively suggest that further innovation in the industry is likely to continue. With the help of Steve Jobs and other imaginative players in the market, the design, speed and features of these once brick-like structures are quickly evolving. (For more on how much innovation can matter, check out Buying Into Corporate Research & Development (R&D).)

Redesigning the shape, weight, and functionality of future mobile devices is the ongoing concern of the market. For example, future concepts such as the "TripleWatch" serve multiple purposes such as a trendy wrist watch, alarm clock and phone. Basically, the cell phone is being combined with other devices into a multipurpose gadget that can also be used as a phone. (Check out one way to evaluate the stocks in this sector in Dial Up Choice Telecom Stocks.)

Still feeling uninformed? Check out last week's Water Cooler Finance to see what's been happening in financial news.

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