How Safe Are Cell Phones Now Compared to the Past?

Cell phone development

When mobile phones first became popular, they were attached to the car. Then there were bag phones. Then the walkie-talkie looking big mobile phones. No one was concerned about product liability or what the future state of cell phone technology would be. Today’s phones are smaller and smarter than almost anyone could have imagined.

History of Mobile Phones

Prior to 1973, mobile phones were limited to the ones installed in vehicles. Motorola designed the first handheld mobile phone in 1973. The phone weighed nearly 2 ½ pounds (1.1 kg), was more than 9” (23 cm) long and 5” (13 cm) deep. A 10-hour charge time yielded just a half hour of talk time.

1G to 4G

The first cellular network used in the U.S. was analog, Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS). It was easy to listen in to calls via scanner since the data was unencrypted. The first 1G network in the U.S. was launched by Ameritech and took a decade to complete. AMPS was shut down by most U.S. carriers in 2008.

2G emerged in the 1990s, and with it came the first smart phone (IBM Simon), SMS or text messages, prepaid phones, downloadable media such as the first ring tones, mobile advertising, mobile payments and the first full internet service on a phone. Web pages accessible by mobile phones at this time were generally in the wireless access protocol format (WAP) because of their simplicity. Since load speeds in this realm are quite slow, most WAP sites were text-only.

The dawn of the millennium saw the dawn of 3G service. The new 3G allowed for more content to be streamed to phones, and faster than ever. Streaming media, such as music, videos and TV could be watched on a phone. Convenient internet access was possible and popular.

By 2009, companies were developing 4G networks to directly connect phones via IP. Speeds were 10 times faster than with 3G. 4G has taken on many names with different spectrums from HSPA+ to LTE, however, the speeds are fast enough for people to view standard desktop websites and stream media quicker than ever and maintain the high quality that we’ve become accustomed to as of late.

Now On To Safety

As you’ve most certainly extrapolated, today’s phones are infinitely smarter and more complex than versions of the past, which were only for talking. Unfortunately, the barrage of media – text, email, social media – that is now on our phones is also a distraction to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

Distracted Pedestrians

An Ohio State University publication shows distracted walking injuries total from 2010 at 1500, up from 559 in 2004. During that same time, total pedestrian injuries dropped from 97,000 in 2004 to 41,000 in 2010.

Distracted Cyclists

Texting or talking while biking is dangerous. It also goes without saying that it requires a lot more coordination. It may also be illegal in your state. Chicago and California have both passed ordinances prohibiting texting while biking.

Distracted Driver

Injuries caused by distracted drivers are more common than ever. You’re two times more likely to be involved in an accident if you’re texting while driving. Your reaction time is equal to a drunk driver. Using hands-free devices doesn’t help these statistics, as evidenced by the Texas A&M study.

So while today’s mobile phones may offer a sense of security, with apps for GPS and voice-to-text SMS message and email reply, these modern phones are actually dangerous for us all. Until we learn how to shut down our need to be connected – at least while traveling – we will be at risk of complicating things further.

Posted in: Phones
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