How are Mobile Phones Made? A Brief Overview from Conception to Consumer
March 31, 2015
Did you ever wonder how your cellphone came to be? Cellphones are used every day, but few realize all the planning, effort, and work that's tucked into that neat little package. Creating a mobile phone from scratch is an extremely complicated process with thousands of individual contributions and years of research and planning.
Without delving too deeply into the details - and this rabbit hole is a deep one - here is a summary of how that cellphone went from being a thought in someone's head to becoming your most used tool.
Before reaching the design phase, phone manufacturers need to decide which technologies they want to include in a cellphone. While components such as a screen, buttons, a battery, and memory are all essential, it's up to the manufacturer to decide which components are the most important.
For example, if a manufacturer decides that it wants this particular phone to appeal to consumers that are photographers, they may decide to invest in the latest camera and screen technologies. This gives the phone an advantage that will appeal to a specific demographic which may give that phone an edge when it gets to market.
Once the components, or selling features, of that phone are decided, a team of designers and engineers will mock up what that phone should look like.
Jonathan Ive is arguably the most famous cellphone designer. He has overseen designs for Apple and its iPhone's numerous iterations. While he is the face for the design ideas, it actually requires a team of hundreds to coordinate the design of a cellphone like the Apple iPhone.
The design is crucial. While a phone needs to function well, no one is going to buy a cellphone that doesn't appeal to their fashion sense!
When it comes to smart phones, there are two main operating systems (the 'OS') and one is locked to one manufacturer, so if you're entering the smartphone business there's only one real option when it comes to software. The iPhone uses the iOS software exclusively. Unless you run Apple, the best bet is to go with Android OS which is open and free to use, which is why so many manufacturers now offer it.
Other OS include the Blackberry OS, which is exclusive to Blackberry phones; the up-and-coming Windows Mobile OS, which deals primarily with Nokia.
After deciding what's going to be under the hood of that phone and the decisions on how it's going to be made are chosen, it's time to actually build that phone! The parts are sourced from their respective manufacturers (although parts are sometimes built by the same manufacturer) then shipped to a central manufacturing facility where those phones are put together.
These manufacturing facilities, often constructed overseas to reduce costs, are tasked with putting those phones together quickly and efficiently. Once constructed, the phones are then tested, packaged, and shipped to distribution centres around the world!
From there, cellphones still need to be marketed, stocked on shelves, and then sold to consumers like you!
Phew! Who would have thought there was so much to making a cellphone? That's a complex piece of electronics that sits in your pocket and it's difficult not to appreciate what goes into making a mobile phone. There are thousands of steps from conception to consumer and this summary barely scratches the surface. Keep an eye out here for more detailed breakdowns of the steps to making a mobile phone!