The Facebook Phone: The Better side of 40?

On the day after the mobile phones 40th birthday, Facebook is holding an event to possibly usher in the next generation of mobile devices. The mobile phone has been a humble and understated piece of pocket technology that has changed the way we communicate and share in a number of ways. Companies are always looking for the next big thing to become a hit in the consumer market. The mobile has seen several remakes since its birth and most notably is now our own personal organiser and internet browser. The mobile has come along way since its beginnings and the industry has adopted it under its wings. The scheduled hype and crowd drawing receptions that every mobile phone launch now entails on a yearly basis is far to common for most brands. The mobile is a money making phenomena for the market leaders and it seems the consumers just can’t get enough.

Birth of the portable era: Martin Cooper

ff_prototypes6_fThe mobile phone has, like any other invention, has gone through several stages of development before the end product that the world is familiar with appeared on the table today. Martin Cooper – an engineer at Motorola had the brainwave of taking the cellular technology found in most common carphones and decided to make it portable. Cooper knew there would be a market for a free phone – that people would be liberated by the dismissal of cables and power plugs. He originally made a statement at the time as the race between his team at Motorola and the opposition at the likes of Nokia heated up:

“personal telephone – something that would represent an individual so you could assign a number; not to a place, not to a desk, not to a home, but to a person.”

The mobile phone would a revolutionary piece of home technology that we be small enough and cheap enough for the masses to use. Cooper’s original inspiration was said to have been the Communicator of Captain Kirk during Star Trek. Motorola saw the project that Cooper and his team were undertaking as a new direction for the company – Motorola had placed Cooper inside the Carphone devision. But the carphone was about to be made prehistoric compared to the next revelation. During the 70’s cellular phones where unheard of an the only mobile telephone was the one welded into the dashboard of an expensive public car. Wires tracing around the interior a battery and transmitter would be housed in the boot.

Cooper himself was no pampered child and faced a ‘modest’ upbringing. As a child of a Ukrainian immigrant, his parents managed by selling door to door goods. To fund Martins education at the Illinois Institute of Technology, his father joined the Reserve Forces and was deployed to North Korea during the Korean war. Martin Cooper has appeared on many occasions as the father of the mobile phone and thanks his family for his motivation and spirit: “My resourcefulness and persistence come from watching my folks digging in,”.  He can be credited for the development of paging technology in the 60’s and later the adoption of Quartz watches and the police radios distributed by Motorola. From joining the Motorola division he became known for his paranoia with portability and wanted to change the direction of mobile technology:

“I became a zealot for products being portable,”

In a few years Motorola would invest $100 million into the Mobile phone project – before the thought of any return on their investment. The development of the prototype began and Martin Cooper held a design contest in 1972 to certify the phones final appearance. “We ended up picking the least glamorous phone,” says Mr Cooper, but he insisted: “It was the simplest.”

On 3rd April 1973, after a tense Motorola Press Conference to welcome the new mobile in New York, although tested to successfully work – Cooper gambled with his reputation by taking the journalists and press outside onto the streets to demonstrate the device. This would be a marketing sensation:

“I was talking and stepped into the street and almost got hit by a car,”

he recalled years later.  The handset, called a DynaTAC, could be used for 35 minutes of talk time and weighed one 1kg. But by four revisions later in 1983 the battery had been reduced in weight and now had a price tag of $4,000. He noted the original price tag was rather lavish and the uptake of consumer mobiles was slow. But Motorola had set forth a motion in which, not even it could hold back. Leaving Motorola before the company fully launched a consumer targeted mobile he went on to form his own company before selling it on to Bell, and later worked on Smart Antennas. Now 80, Martin Cooper can be recognised as the father of the modern mobile and the bringer of doom – if you feel the likes of suicidal birds killing green pigs and the constant access to Facebook is a bad thing. Either way he now sits comfortably in the history books of technology and will likely be watching closely in the next few years.

Facebook Phone: the next generation?

Mark-Zuckerberg_5Facebook is holding an event on the 4th April to gather the worlds press ing Menlo Park, California  to see the companies “new home on Android”. This move marks their latest foray into becoming a more mobile company and moving away from their reliance on social networking through a traditional PC web browser. This may mean the fabled launch of the ‘Facebook Phone’ so many have been waiting for  or a half baked app that integrates better with the mobile phone. Today a mobile phone is used for several tasks, noted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology these include: “an array of technologies, resulting in the average mobile being used to take photos, play music and games, send emails, download maps, watch video clips, all as well as talking and texting”. Facebook and Mark Zuckerburg on Thursday will be trying to fill these demands while at the same time offering a new unique user experience to warrant possible consumers voiding current long term contracts to heft out for the latest smartphone. If rumours turn out to be true then Zuckerburg may announce the following such as: the launch of a Facebook skimmed Android OS or new revamped Facebook app, Facebook Graph search as a primary search feature of the phone over Google, widespread adoption of Facebook Messenger and a possible stab at the Google Play store. Again rumours have suggested that Facebook has partnered with HTC to produce the HTC First and this would not be surprising. HTC had previously attempted a ‘Facebook Phone’ with a smartphone that featured a dedicated social button.

Currently Facebook is access more on a smartphone than a desktop and bridging the experience between the two via a Facebook Phone, will allow the company to increase traffic at least six times over. Nevertheless as social networking becomes an integral part of the average life; Facebook has realised that it too needs to step up to the podium and produce a phone that can be a fundamental part of everyday life.

So as Facebook ramps up to launch a contender to the other beasts of the market, we expect Zuckerberg to be quaking in his shoes as he announces that HTC will indeed produce a Facebook Phone that will have a Facebook tweaked version of Android. Either way it will be a thousand worlds away from the DynaTAC, but don’t expect to many bells and whistles. We will have to wait and see what Facebook can offer, if they can engage at a basic everyday level to ensure that Facebook’s communities continue to grow and avoid stagnation. Facebook faces tough times as it moves into the mobile market, the competition is stiff – and this could be another market flop… We will have all the latest here for you on Gadget Nibble. 

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