Consigned to History by the Smartphone
Steven Watts

It might seem hard to believe, but the mobile phone was first introduced to the UK in 1985. Just twenty-seven years later, the device that we now love is hardly recognizable to those first Motorola handsets. And it’s not just the size and battery life that’s changed. Let’s face it: if you were to upgrade your handset tomorrow, would you just be looking for one that can make calls?Considered the top executive toy, the mobile phone became the status symbol of the Yuppie—short for “young urban professional” or “young upwardly mobile professional.” Today, with more handsets than people on the planet, it’s changing more than the way we communicate, consigning some parts of every day life to the history books.

Making calls: It’s almost easy to forget, especially with increasing functionality, but the primary reason for having a mobile phone is for making and receiving phone calls. Spare a thought, then, for the humble phone box, or phone booth. Last year, British Telecom announced that almost a quarter of phone boxes in Wales were making less than one call a month! Apparently, at that time, only 3% of adults across the UK used a pay phone.Sending letters: Many contracts and pay-as-you-go packages include a text bundle. You only have to travel on a train or bus and you’ll witness people busily tapping away on their phones. It is this phenomenon that the Hooper Report gives as a primary argument for the privatisation of the UK’s Royal Mail.

Fax machine: With many completely ignorant to its predecessor, the telex, the fax machine is also close to becoming obsolete. While it’s true that email is the greater villain, the fact that many phones offer the ability to scan (via their cameras) and send a document as an email attachment means, in my book, that they’re hardly blame free!

Cameras: Speaking of cameras, how many megapixels is your handset capable of? While digital cameras obliterated film cameras, they are now facing their own nemesis. The iPhone is reportedly more sophisticated than traditional compact cameras, and it’s not the only device to boast superior resolution. It’s hardly surprising that both cameras and video cameras are on their way into the nearest museum.

Music: Hands up if you remember the walkman! For those of you too young to know, these were portable cassette players. Of course, there was also the boom box blasting out in the park, way back when, on a warm summer’s day. With even the most basic smartphone capable of storing the entire Elvis back catalogue without even flinching, and playback that most dream of, you too can have music wherever you go.TV: As screens become bigger, with better resolution, it is now possible to watch your favourite programmes when out and about. That said, I don’t think the HD TV has too much to fear just yet—but perhaps the set top box suppliers may need to watch their backs.

Games console: Video game consoles have been in decline for a few months, with many experts blaming the trend on the increased popularity of casual mobile gaming. While IDC is hopeful the end is not yet sealed, the fact that a major high street gaming retailer only just managed a stay of execution suggests its days could be numbered.

Signature: Mobile phones are becoming so integral to everyday life, they’re capable of confirming our identities. This could mean, one day, we’ll no longer need to sign for things. For example, two-factor authentication (2FA) combines something you know with something you have. An existing example of 2FA in action is ‘chip and pin’ for authorizing credit and debit card payments. When accessing corporate networks, completing financial transactions, etc., mobiles offer the perfect tokenless 2FA solution. A passcode is received as an SMS, which you then key in to confirm your identity.

Tracking device: Of course, with GPS functionality, it’s hardly surprising mobiles are replacing maps, satellite navigation specific devices and telephone books. You can use them to pinpoint your position if you’re not entirely sure where you are, while services offer to send you numbers based on your location, for example taxi firms or curry houses. But, perhaps rather controversially, you can now download an app for an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch that allows you to track your friends. While handy for checking if your child is at school, your partner at the office, or how far away your mate is when you’re waiting for them, I’m not sure how comfortable I would be that someone could locate me at their will and not mine.

Banking: Today, you can practically carry your high street branch on your handset. Natwest and Barclays are just two that offer mobile banking apps that allow you to make payments, transfer money between accounts, check your balance and view recent transactions.

Money: And its not just banking you can do with your phone—you can also carry cash. While not quite consigned to history, could the smartphone be eyeing up the credit card or even physical change as its next casualty? For some time now people have been able to pay for things, such as make charity donations or pay for parking in car parks, but that’s almost immature when compared to Barclays Pingit. It’s the first mobile app to launch in the UK that allows payments of between £1 and £300 to be made. While the jury is still out as to whether it’s secure enough, or will even prove popular, I’m sure Dr. Martin Cooper never imagined it would be possible when he invented the first practical mobile phone.

I’m sure you’ll agree, your smartphone is so much more than just a way to talk to people—you’re practically carrying your life on it. If you lose it, how devastated would you be? The risk is too awful for organizations to contemplate and for that reason many are adding encryption to prevent any information on the device being stolen. Perhaps it’s time we all follow their lead and take pre-emptive action to protect these modern miracles. SecurEnvoy offer SMS passcodes, the equivalent to a chubb lock, so only you can access all your important information and it remains secure from prying eyes.

Love it or loath it, the smartphone has completely revolutionized our lives. And our living rooms, bedrooms, offices, cars … The question on my mind is, in the next twenty-five years, will there by anything smarter than the smartphone or will it have taken over the world—cue villainous laughter and white cat stroking.

Steven Watts is the Co-founder and Sales and Marketing Director of SecurEnvoy. Before setting up SecurEnvoy, inventors of tokenless two-factor authentication, Steven worked in the Channel, clocking up over 18 years experience in Security and Networking Sales. His particular value is to market and partner strategy, having assisted in the development and design of the six products in the suite and designing a recurring revenue model that has led where the market follows. Steve’s input into the growth of SecurEnvoy has successfully increased 100% growth year on year.