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20 Years Of Smartphones

20 Years Of Smartphones

This month Fone King turns 20 years old and as anyone who has been in the tech industry for this long will tell you, things have changed A LOT in the last two decades!

In our time we have seen, repaired and accessorised hundreds of different models of phone, from timeless classics like the Nokia 3210 to long forgotten niche devices (who remembers the Motorola Flipout?) So, we thought, what better time to take a look back at some of the best smartphones to come across our tech benches since we first opened our doors back in 2003!


When RIM released the Blackberry 6210 in 2002 it was their first device to have an integrated phone that could be used without an additional headset, and it was an absolute gamechanger.

The smartphone before smartphones, the ‘Quark’ was a major hit with the business world thanks to the ability to access emails, Blackberry Messenger, a full keyboard, and high-level security features. It established Blackberry as THE major player in this space for the next 10 years.


The phone that launched an obsession with thinness, the Razr was a huge success for Motorola with people even camping out overnight to get their hands on it when it hit the shelves back in 2004.

It was hardly a trend setter in regards to its features, but the attractive design and slimline profile has made it one of the most iconic handsets of all time, with Motorola even releasing a remodelled smartphone version on Android in 2020 hoping to recapture the nostalgia of the early 2000’s.


Whilst this may not be a device many people have strong memories of, especially here in Australia where it wasn’t officially released, it was significant for being the first phone to have a touchscreen that could be used with a plain old finger. Previously, all touchscreen devices had required a stylus.

Unfortunately for LG, 2007 was also the year we saw the next phone on the list, essentially consigning this trendsetting smartphone to history’s footnotes...


As we sit here in 2023, just weeks away from the launch of the iPhone 15, it is hard to argue that any smartphone has left a bigger legacy than Apple’s first foray into the market in 2007.

It wasn’t that the first iPhone did much that hadn’t been seen before (refer back to the LG Prada for example), but it was how it did it that established the iPhone as the preeminent smartphone on the market. Apple was able to build on the success of the iPod, which had revitalised the company, and build the most loyal tech fanbase in the world with a range of super user-friendly, attractive devices that continue to draw consumers in their millions to this day.


Whilst the South Korean tech giant has been making mobile phones since 1988, it was the release of the first Galaxy model in 2010 that made them a major player in the smartphone market.

The Android OS had been around for nearly 2 years at this point, but for many consumers the Galaxy S was the first time it felt like genuine competition to Apple’s iOS. Boasting a front facing camera of only 0.3 megapixels, it certainly feels like we’ve come a very long way in the 13 years since.


The year after the release of the Galaxy S, Samsung hit the stores with the Galaxy Note. What the Razr had done for the slimline trend 8 years before, the Note did for the big screen trend, wowing audiences with its 5.3” display.

The popularity of the device revolutionised the market with competitors forced to introduced their own king size phones and continually look for ways to increase the size of their screens - a trend we still see today with the introduction of folding screen phones.


Some may call it the last great Nokia phone. Released in 2013, the Lumia was a flagship for the Windows OS, and the success of this device led to Microsoft buying Nokia a year later.

The popularity of the Lumia was largely due to being a cheap yet functional alternative to the much pricier iPhone and Galaxy, making it a go-to handset for businesses, which all but brought an end to Blackberry.


In 2013 Apple released the iPhone 5C and 5S. Whilst the former was more cost effective option that didn;t quite see the success that Apple had anticipated, the 5S was perhaps the biggest leap forward for iPhones since the original model back in 2007.

The iPhone 5S gave us a 64-bit processor, Touch ID, panorama photographs and dual tone LED flash. As is Apple’s way, none of these features were exactly unseen, but the quality of delivery and execution brought them into the smartphone mainstream.


In 2016 the search engine giant parted ways with Motorola and began developing their own device with long-term partner, HTC, who had delivered the first ever Android phone in 2008.

The big advance the Google Pixel brought was to smartphone photography. Google developed a dedicated chip for the cameras and the algorithms and systems the first Pixel pioneered are still mainstream today.


Four years after the iPhone 5S and Apple were once again flexing their technological might with their 10th Anniversary edition of the iPhone, the X.

The iPhone X brought two major changes. Firstly, the home button was ditched, making way for a fully touchscreen ‘All-display’ smartphone. Secondly, the notch was introduced to integrate the front camera beneath the screen.


Technically the first folding screen smartphone was the FlexPai, released by Chinese tech startup Royole on 31st October, 2018. However, just 8 days later and Samsung had showcased its Infinity Flex Display, which would be released as the Galaxy Fold early in 2019.

The folding screen was perhaps the biggest hardware development in smartphones since touchscreens in 2007, and the natural progression from the push for bigger and bigger screens started by the Galaxy Note. The impact can’t be ignored, with every major smartphone manufacturer, with the exception of Apple, now having a folding screen device in their repertoire at the time of writing.


Alongside the Galaxy Fold, Samsung also released the Galaxy S10, and where the previous device represented a huge leap in hardware technology, this phone was notable for being one of the first 5G compatible devices to hit the market.


The last iPhone launch in 2022 saw two significant changes to Apple's smartphone range. Firstly, they scrapped the unsuccessful Mini model in favour of a Plus model, swapping smaller for larger and giving consumers a larger screen option at a lower price point to the Pro Max. The other change was the Dynamic Island.

Having pioneered the Notch with the iPhone X, Apple made the decision to bring in the Dynamic Island to ‘hide’ the front camera behind an interactive island that also operated as a sort of in-screen control panel. It met with a mixed reception, but Apple hasn’t indicated any intentions to get rid of it for iPhone 15, so it looks like it is here to stay and could become one of Apple’s most iconic features.

The tech world is always evolving and moving forward, and it’s impossible to imagine what we will be using in 20 years’ time. Will a device come along that starts a new trend? Will any of the current crop of smartphones be considered classics in years to come?