The advent of the smartphone as the personal computing device of choice is still relatively recent — only in the last half-decade or so have people begun to consider smartphones to be their primary computer. That being said, smartphones actually have a long and illustrious history — if they were human beings, some would be old enough to vote and nearly old enough to legally drink. To remind us of this, popular data-visualization YouTube channel ‘Data is Beautiful’ charted the rise and fall of popular smartphone OSes in the last two decades into a nail-biting video.
What stood out most to me in the video was the utter dominance of Android and iOS in the past few years, with the competition dropping out like flies. It also surprised me how insignificant Windows Phone ended up being, despite all the mind-space it occupied in the media. While market share isn’t the end-all metric (Apple still eats up the lion’s share of profit despite a ~20% market share), a real competitor to Android looks unlikely given how dominant it has become.
That being said, it was interesting to see KaiOS gaining some serious volume in the ultra-low-end range of the spectrum. It should be noted that the source data is Gartner’s quarterly reports on smartphone shipments, so it’s not an exact representation of smartphone OS market share.
Watching the video took me down memory lane, thinking of the smartphones I used to own before the rise of the green robot — like Symbian, which ruled the roost in the mid-2000s. In those days, hardware innovation was commonplace, with smartphones that twisted (like the Nokia 3250), slid about (N95), and come with components today’s smartphones could never pull off — like Xenon flash (N82), a built-in tripod mount (N93), and physical QWERTY keyboards that were actually usable (E75). Sadly, Symbian started showing its age right about the time iOS and Android changed the paradigm and established monolithic blocks of glass as the only viable form factor.
What smartphones did you use before Android? Did you rock an N-Series by Nokia or a Palm Pilot, or were you a BlackBerry boy?