Tony Stark's Transparent Phone Coming from Samsung?
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"Joel, this is Marty Cooper, I'd like you to know that I'm calling you from a cellular phone." Exactly 40 years ago, on April 3, 1973, Motorola engineer Martin Cooper placed this call -- the first ever on a cell phone -- to Joel Engel, his rival at AT&T’s Bell Labs.
Cooper, now 85, made history in downtown Manhattan using the bulky prototype he had developed.
Cooper's prototype arrived on the market a decade later at the staggering price of $3,995. Designed by Rudy Krolopp, it was known as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, or simply "the brick.” Featuring 20 large buttons and a long rubber antenna, it measured about 11 inches high, weighed almost 2 pounds, provided one hour of battery life and could store 30 phone numbers.
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Released in 1984, Nokia’s Mobira Talkman was advertised as one of the first transportable phones. It was sold for use both in and out of a car -- if you could lift it.
Nokia's concept evolved in 1987 with the handheld mobile Mobira Cityman 900. Weighing 28 ounces, it was one of the lightest phones at that time and cost 24,000 Finnish marks ($5,178).
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Ahead of its time, the Motorola MicroTAC was the smallest available phone when it was released in 1989. Featuring the flip-phone form later adopted by the fashionable StarTAC, the first clamshell cellular phone, the MicroTAC was 9 inches long when open and weighed only 12.3 ounces.
Launched in 1992 -- also when the first text message arrived -- the Nokia 101 was the first commercially available GSM mobile phone.
Although it lacked the famous Nokia ringtone, introduced in 1994, it featured a monochrome display and memory for 99 phone numbers. Its design anticipated the successful "candy bar” phones.
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Released in 1993 as a joint creation of IBM and BellSouth, this was the first smartphone. A fax machine, a PDA, a pager and a mobile phone, the IBM Simon featured no physical keys, but used a touchscreen and optional stylus. Amazingly, it included applications such as games, email, a notepad, calculator, world clock, address book and a calendar. It only sold in the United States, for $899.
Launched in 1999, this was the first mobile phone with integrated GPS.
Featuring a large grayscale LCD screen, it offered a 12-channel GPS navigator and maps to trace position. It also sent coordinates via text messages to a list of emergency numbers and featured a "friend find” service to track other Benefon Esc users.
Launched in 2000, the Samsung SPH-M100 Uproar holds its place in history as the first mobile phone capable of storing and playing MP3 files.
Cell phone photography arrived in 2000, with Samsung's SCH-V200, a VGA-camera-equipped phone. Released in South Korea, it featured a digital camera with a 180-degree rotating lens and a maximum resolution of 352 x 288 -- a far cry from the 41-megapixel camera phone that Nokia will release in European markets in May.
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Motorola brought contemporary design to mobile phones with the Razr V3 in 2004. Thin, trendy and stylish, it featured a VGA camera, quad-band compatibility and Bluetooth support.
The phone became an icon. According to Motorola, more than 110 million units sold worldwide.
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The launch of Apple's iPhone in 2007 changed everything. With its unique design, easy-to-use operating system and a multitude of apps to download, the multi- touchscreen phone set the standard for all cell phones to come.
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Once an accessory for the privileged, Martin Cooper's vision is now a staple of life. Today the world has nearly as many mobile phone subscriptions as inhabitants.
Indeed, 6 billion people, out of the world's estimated 7 billion, have access to mobile phones.
Tony Stark’s transparent phone was just a fancy prop in Ironman 2, but it looks like a real see-through device is coming our way, if a recent Samsung patent filing is any indication.
Samsung Electronics registered a patent in Korea this month for a digital camera with a transparent display that “allows the person taking the photo and the subject of the photo-shoot to look at each other and have direct eye-contact for photo shooting,” the Wall Street Journal’s Min-Jeong Lee reported. Hat tip to Dvice for the Tony Stark reference.
Lee goes on to describe a diagram of a compact camera device with a lens and a wide transparent display. Other than having a button on the side, not much else was revealed. I do relish the idea that amateur photographers won’t be able to hide any more: Their subjects can see right through to the person snapping the picture.
Curious to see the details firsthand, I searched for Samsung’s filing on the Korean Intellectual Property Rights Information Service site, but was unable to pull up anything that resembled the camera Lee described. (There could be a number of reasons for this. Just know that I did try.)
Perhaps it’s similar to the transparent prototype phone from Taiwanese company Polytron, which made some buzz last year for its smartphone made of glass.
Even though Samsung is just proposing a camera, a phone can’t be far behind. The number of people who only want a compact digital camera that doesn’t do anything else has been dwindling in recent years.
In Ironman 2, the drool-worthy transparent “phone” actor Robert Downey Jr. used was actually just a piece of glass with graphics added in post-production. Just because it wasn’t real then doesn’t mean it might not be in the future. Without any movie magic.
Image Credit: Korea Intellectual Property Rights Information Service via the Wall Street Journal.