iPhone: History Of The Cellular Mobile Phone And Field Research

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The cellular mobile phone has become a necessity in contemporary society and can be seen as the basis of communication in the 21st century and has transformed from being the size of a suitcase to it being able to fit in a person’s back pocket. Through the process of globalization, the world has become more interconnected and this has been assisted with the development of technology, especially communication devices. The development of this technology has allowed for people across the globe to have almost instantaneous contact with each other at the press of a button.

With the mobile phone technology only being developed in the last century, at the end of World War Two (Farley, 2005, p: 22), it is still a fairly new idea that is continuously developing, with the handheld mobile phone only appearing in the mid-nineties (Farley, 2005, p:32-33). This essay will discuss the production history of the cellular mobile phone and how it has become essential to modern living especially is western societies, with a focus on everyday use in Perth, Australia. The focus brand of this essay will be the Apple iPhone, its production and how it is places in current society.

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History of The Cellular Mobile Phone

While radio mobile technology had been in development since the end of World War Two, by multiple different companies (Farley, 2005, p: 22-23). Cellular technology wasn’t developed commercially until 1978 by the Bahrain Telephone Company (Farley, 2005, p:27) before being rolled out by other companies within in the same year. The first portable mobile phones were large and bulky compared to what is on the current market and looked very much like a traditional telephone, which it is an adaption of. Whiles today’s phones are slim and light, the first mobile phones where the size of suitcases and backpacks and weren’t designed for everyday casual use. As technology was developed throughout the eighties and nineties, the mobile phone became a hand held device in the mid-nineties that revolutionized communication as it was now something that could fit in someone’s pocket. It wasn’t until 2000, that the basis of the phone we know today came into the digital market in Japan, with Sharp creating the first phone with an integrated camera (Farley, 2005, p:33). In Japan, it was estimated that by the end of 2004 75% of all phone sold were camera integrated (Farley, 2005, p:34). In 2007, with the announcement of the first iPhone, the development of smartphones became revolutionary (Wilson and Wesley, 2009, p:1).

The Apple iPhone

The first ever Apple iPhone was announced by Steve Jobs in 2007 and was a slim design, the is an adaption of the multimedia smart phones previously produced (Wilson and Wesley, 2009, p:1). Since that announcement and release there has been a cult following with long queues that have attracted media attention (Goggin, 2009, p:20). The original iPhone received invention of the year by Time magazine the year of its launch in 2007 (Grossman 2007). The iPhone has continuously developed to allow for better features that allow generally entice consumers to purchase the next generation of phone. Also, with each generation new iPhone, there are more than one release with one being more ‘affordable’ and the other a more high-end version of an already high-end phone (Nast, 2019, p:16).

Apple, company is based in Cupertino, California, in the Silicon Valley, and has complex, demanding and expensive development process from design to physical product. Apple headquarters mainly employs software engineers and developers, as well as holding their corporate office. The headquarters has little to do with the manufacturing of the product and focuses on the programming of the IOS software that is used on all Apple products at their headquarters. Apple outsources there manufacturing labour to China, specifically a Foxconn, a company that due to its work with Apple, has become one of the world’s largest technology contractors, and supplies Apple with most of their workers (Qiu, Gregg and Crawford 2014, p:573). The manufacturing of the Apple iPhone is not an ethical process creating a human cost of the production of the product. The CEO of Foxconn, Terry Guo while referring to his 1.4 million workers he calls them ‘animals’ (Qiu, Gregg and Crawford 2014, p:573) and the company itself has swept injury and suicide cases concerning their workers under the rug, prioritising productivity over safety. While Apple is the ones that put further demands on Foxconn to met time constraints and increase production, they take little blame for the ill fate of the workers creating their product and have diversified their production with Taiwanese-owned Pegatron due to backlash on the subject (Chan, Pun and Selden, 2013, P:105-106). It is apparent that Apple as a brand is more concern with protecting their brand rather than their workers.

By Apple outsourcing labour and receiving large discounts for parts, they receive 58.5% of their total revenue, whereas they pay Foxconn US$10 for every phone made (Chan, Pun and Selden, 2013, P:105-106). This also means that China as an economy receives very little boost from the production of the iPhone whereas Apple estimates it would have contributed $350 billion to the US economy by 2023 (Aten, 2019). This means that China, who is still classified as a developing country by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), is missing out on nearly all of the economic benefit of the production of Apple productions, especially in this case the iPhone.

Apple is predominantly traded in western countries, though the production takes place in China, those who produce them are unlikely to ever see the final product due the high profit margins on the product that are enabled by the cult following of the brand. Due to the being a constant and high demand for the iPhone and other Apple products, as it has become image of wealth status, this enables them to continually increase profit margins. Apple and the iPhone itself have become a cultural icon in western society.

Field Research

Apple iPhones dominates the mobile phone market in Australia with 55.09% of the market share as of September 2019 (Statcounter Global Stats, 2019) and with the recent announcement of the latest version and was released on the 20th of September 2019. The observations were made on Curtin University, Perth Campus during lunchtime (12:30-1:00pm) and mainly focused on those ordering from food trucks and those city on bean bags in a grassed area. The initial count of people in the area using a phone was 31 at the initial count with, and from what could be observed 19 were iPhones. This was determined by the camera on the back of the phone as iPhone cameras and position of camera differs from Android (Samsung and Google Phones).

The main observation was with how people interacted or used the phone was using it as a distraction while waiting for the food that they had order or someone that they were meeting. The body language of those waiting was eye gaze down and head tilted down with a slouched posture. By using a phone or having headphones in that are connected to the phone, this can create a deterrent for other people to interact with the person using the phone so that they can be left in solitude. It can also be seen as something that can keep your hands busy or occupy your hands and gives people something to do while eating which could just be scrolling though apps or watching something with their headphones in and propping it up on their knees or a drink bottle. Another key observation is people using it talk to others through phones calls whether it was general discussion or using it find each other in the area.

Through these observations it can be seen that smartphones are used as a distraction and a way to consume media and entertainment; but it can also be seen as a tool to fuel isolation. Phones allow for people to stay interconnected with each other but there is also the potential for phones and other similar devices to reduce physical human interaction with those in the surrounding community (Srivastava, 2005, 124) and can be connected to depression, stress and anxiety among users (J.D. Elhai et al, 2017, p:257; Seo et al. 2016, p: 289).


Cellular mobile phones have revolutionized communication worldwide, though the Apple iPhone is focused in the western world though its manufacturing takes place in developing China. The mobile phone has developed from radio technology post-World War Two to two-way pagers in the mid-nineties to the modern smartphone that is known today. The Apple iPhone revolutionised the mobile phone and has become a ‘necessity’ in the western world.

As seen in the field research conducted, the way that people use their phones across the sample size is consistent, with it generally being used as a distraction or a way to pass time or as a form of communication. The use of mobile phones has become universal in modern society and a globalised world.


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