Tech talk: Mathew Dickerson


With a plethora of new smartphones having been released into the Australian market recently – including the iPhone 7; the Google Pixel; the Sony XZ and the ill-fated Note 7 – I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the features of these latest smartphones with a comparison back to the beginning of the market segment.

The phone that started it all was the Apple iPhone. It was introduced in the US on 29 June 2007 with a typically creative Apple slogan that promised a lot – and delivered. “This is only the beginning. Apple reinvents the phone.” Considering where we are today, it is hard to believe that it has only been nine years since thousands of people lined up outside Apple stores to be one of the first to own an iPhone.

To say the world was ready is a massive understatement. It only took 74 days for one million phones to be sold and 17-year-old George Hotz had his fifteen minutes of fame when he exchanged the first unlocked iPhone for three locked iPhones and a Nissan 350Z! The current count for iPhone sales is over one billion!

The phone had a 3.5-inch screen at a 52 per cent screen to body ratio and the resolution was only 320x430 pixels. The 2-megapixel camera was good for basic photos but no video was available. At 135 grams and almost 12mm thick, it was relatively bulky and the 412MHz processor didn’t set the world on fire. With 8 hours of talk time, it was enough to get people through most days. The concept and specifications were good enough that Time Magazine officially declared the iPhone the Invention of the Year.

The latest phones to market wrap up the best of what we have seen over those nine years and would be completely at home in the hands of Ethan Hunt or 007. For a start, to access the phone you don’t need a password. Biometric access – via fingerprints and iris scanning – is available on a product we can buy off the shelf. A mere touch or glance at your phone and it is unlocked and ready to use.

The sensory equipment on the phone is quite incredible and I can see app developers frothing at the mouth with excitement in working out apps that will take advantage of these sensors. As with many off the million+ apps available today, they will have absolutely no practical use – but they will be really cool! With heart rate sensors and Sp02 – or oxygen saturation level sensors – I can picture a health check app that you can use from the comfort of your lounge room. With accelerometers; gyros; proximity sensors; compass and barometer it is hard to imagine what a modern phone can’t measure.

One cruel fate that often awaited a shiny new phone was… moisture. Not anymore. Many of the latest phones have an IP68 rating which means they can withstand 1.5 metres of water for 30 minutes and the Corning Gorilla Glass helps reduce the likelihood of damaging the huge screens with up to 80 per cent screen-to-body ratios and that original 320 x 430 display has been increased up to 1440 x 2560 in a chassis that is typically less than 8mm thick.

The camera technology on phones has increased to the point that they are better than many dedicated cameras with cameras ranging from 12-megapixels to 23-megapixels with 4K video capabilities.

If you thought getting through a day of talking was good with the original smartphone, compare that to 38 hours of talk time on some modern models. It is hard to believe that the first mobile phones I sold back in 1990 had to come with two batteries to get you through a single day of standby! The impressive battery life is even more remarkable when you consider the phones have dual-processors running at over 2.15GHz.

The last feature is only a rumour and I can’t confirm this yet but apparently these latest phones are also capable of actually making and receiving phone calls! With so many features on a modern phone, I am sure there are some who forget you can still actually talk to people. 

Smartphones have come a long way since the first Apple iPhone was released on the US market on 29 June 2007.

Smartphones have come a long way since the first Apple iPhone was released on the US market on 29 June 2007.