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June 14, 2018

Caps & Apps: 18 Years of Wireless Innovation .

Caps & Apps: 18 Years of Wireless Innovation


Riley Davis & Anderson Sullivan

It’s high school graduation season, a momentous day (obviously) in a young adult’s life. Students about to turn their tassels are sure to document the day with their mobile phones, using technologies that didn’t even exist when they were born. This most recent wave of grads are able to track college applications, apply to jobs, and plan their summer vacations, all using wireless products and services. Let’s take a walk down memory lane to highlight the wireless innovation that these grads have seen in their lifetime:


The year many of these grads were born also marks the year that text messaging became widely adopted in the U.S. Text messaging existed in the 90’s but really “took off” in 2000—with the average number of texts sent per month coming in at a whopping 35 (compared to over 3,500 a month today).


We’re all used to posing for a picture snapped on a phone, but it didn’t always used to be that way. The first camera phones came to the U.S. in 2002. Photo resolution was about 0.3 megapixels on those cameras—for context, today’s high end smartphone cameras range from about 12 to 16 megapixels.


Touchscreens—the style almost all smartphones use today—hit the mass market in 2007. Before the touchscreen interface, most smartphones sported the physical QWERTY and numeric keyboard.


There’s an app for the year 2008. App stores made their launch this year, and have since grown into an $80 billion industry.


Wireless Subscribership:

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Wireless Subscribership:

Wireless is a necessity. Today there are more than 400 million connections in America, equal to 1.2 wireless devices for every person in the country.

U.S. carriers first starting rolling out 4G coverage in 2010. Today, 96.6 percent of Americans have three or more choices in 4G service providers.


Carpool took on a new meaning in 2011 when rideshare services first appeared commercially. Virtual assistants on mobile phones also made their first appearances in 2011.


2013 marks an important year in the “wrist revolution”, as cellular data-enabled smartwatches started to adorn more users’ wrists.


Smartphones in Active Use:

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Smartphones in Active Use:

The number of smartphones in active use grew 31% from 2014 to 2017.

Wireless-enabled digital wallet services became popular in the U.S in late 2014/early 2015. Online banking and early versions of digital wallets existed previously, but the ability to keep your wallet safely and securely on your phone was popularized in 2014. In other words, starting this year, all you needed to leave your house was your phone.


This group of grads, like many who came before them, inevitably grew up with a litany of chores—take out the trash, clean your room, walk the dog. In 2015, however, apps began popping up to help people (and pooches) out—dog walking apps in particular started hitting the market this year.


Wireless Data Traffic:

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Wireless Data Traffic:

Wireless data traffic increased by nearly four times between 2014 and 2017.

Augmented reality gaming took off in the summer of 2016 with the release of the Pokémon Go smartphone application, bringing together gamers in public parks and spaces to catch ‘em all!


Facial recognition features became a new form of phone security. Facial recognition has existed for years, but models sophisticated enough to work as a phone’s primary security feature started rolling out in 2017.


5G services begin to roll out later this year, and will unleash a new wave of innovation.

A lot has happened in 18 years. Many of the technologies these graduates use every day didn’t even exist when they were born. And with 5G services rolling out this year, we’re poised to see even more innovations in the next 18 years—like smart cities, agricultural advancements, telemedicine, infrastructure improvements, and more. Imagine what those born this year will see before their graduation.

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