I found my old mobile phones recently in the loft. These go back to my original Motorola MicroTAC International 5200 which I bought in 1994 and was one of the first GSM phones launched in the UK. I remember the instructions mentioned SMS but I could not get my head around that as nobody else was using it at the time. My first smart phone was the HTC Titan II – I think I bought it in 1996 and it had HSDPA+ which was very advanced for the time. Being able to access the internet on the move was a novelty but getting apps for a Windows phone was not the easiest thing to do. You can also see my old Palm PDA (from 1999) which was fine until the batteries ran out and it needed syncing again with the PC – via a cable.
So what does this have to do with the internet of things? Maybe not a lot except there are some lessons we can take from the evolution of mobile phones which may be of use for IoT innovators:
- successful services are often unexpected. Mobile operators never expected SMS to be so popular or profitable. Anticipating user behaviour is not easy;
- the most advanced technology does not always win in the market. My 1996 HTC Titan II had more features (front-facing camera, 3G, sliding keyboard) than the first iPhone launched in 1997 but we know who won that battle;
- supporting ecosystems need to be accessible and easy to use. Finding software for early Windows phones was not easy and required downloading to the PC before installing via a cable to the phone. The app store model showed what users want and creates a dynamic environment for third party developers to sell their software;
- users are prepared to compromise on some features. The battery life on my first Motorola was about 12 hours ( I seem to recall that was the standby time). My current Galaxy Note 3 can be used for a whole day but that is nothing like the week or two you can get from a 10 year old Nokia feature phone. However, we accept the battery life trade-off for the advanced features which modern smart phones offer.
- bundling features is important. Who still carries a PDA, a camera and a phone around with them? Anybody?