gekko_mobile_phoneYou may have noticed the stories doing the rounds that today (3rd March 2013) marks 40 years since the mobile phone call was made – cue the traditional picture of the large brick-like mobile that those of a certain age will remember sharp-suited ‘yuppie’ types brandishing in the mid-80s.

And they did actually do this. A former boss used to tell the team repeatedly that back in the 80s he had once been able to pull over in a lay by on the motorway and secure a crucial deal because he was one of the only ones of his sales team to invest in a mobile phone. Gordon Gekko eat your heart out.

The first call was famously made by Martin Cooper, a Motorola employee who tells the tale of confused New Yorkers gawping at him in confusion as he walked around the street apparently makes a phone call – not something that up until then could have been done without the aid of a very long phone cable.

It’s called the shock of the new.

I clearly recall the experience of encountering a man in a bank who was patently a bit mad. He was walking around seemingly having a conversation with himself at the top of voice despite that fact that he wasn’t holding a phone. I remember staring at him wide-eyed as he walked around bellowing, and literally moving away to avoid this clearly crazy person. Except of course he wasn’t crazy. I didn’t realise it at the time (it was 1997) but he was just a man with a hands-free headset and no sense of the need for privacy.

Martin Cooper, a senior engineer at Motorola, who made the first mobile call

Martin Cooper, a senior engineer at Motorola, who made the first mobile call

While Cooper garnered his first amazed looks in 1973, it was 10 years for the first truly mobile phone models to appear at a cost of around $3,500, which incidentally makes the £600 SIM-free smartphone handsets we have now appear to be reasonable value.

However, these days that ‘shock of the new’ advance in mobile phone technology has arguably all but disappeared. The last time I experienced anything like it was at the launch of the Apple iPhone when I attended back in 2007. After all, it was an event which ushered in a new era of the mobile phone as a truly multi-faceted tool – a combination of mobile phone, internet device, and music player.

That was 10 years after my confusion at the loud shouty man and his hands free cable, but the muted responses to the latest models of smartphones, whether they be from Apple, Samsung or Blackberry point to a slowing down of innovation. Will it be 2017 before the next truly game changing leap is made?

In our recent interview with Eric Hoving, the CSO of KPN suggested that LTE will enable that new level of generational leap but that it won’t be to the devices – it will be to the way the internet presents itself.

“You’re going to see a different internet now as a result of LTE. What we have today is not a mobile internet — it’s mobile access to the internet…. If I go to the McDonalds website when I’m walking in Amsterdam I want to experience a different website to when I am at home. LTE will finally allow the internet to go mobile.”

To me, this sounds like Hoving is trying to describe Web 3.0 – just as dynamic web sites and enhanced interactivity defined Web 2.0, mobile will define web 3.0.

The game changer can’t be said to be LTE itself – as in the first instance it provides a smoother and more pleasant smartphone experience – it doesn’t change the game in and of itself. However, whatever device or service will come next it will certainly rely on widespread, if not ubiquitous, fast network coverage, and LTE and its immediate successor LTE Advanced will be crucial to that.

So happy 40th birthday for the mobile phone call, and here’s to the next ground-breaking milestone in mobile technology.

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