Cell phones have had a transformative effect eclipsing that of any other personal electronic device, and as such are ne plus ultra of Lucent's Technology 360 series. The book opens by situating cell phones among a spectrum of communications technology, conquering distance to allow for simultaneous communications. The popularity of the handheld wireless phone in the United States increased dramatically over the last decade, rising from 35 percent of the population owning cell phones in 2000 to 85 percent in 2008.
Surprisingly, early test markets for cell phones in 26 cities immediately followed the deployment of the radiotelephone in World War II. Those first eighty-pound models could drain a truck battery in a few minutes, foreshadowing the perennial issue of battery life. A more pressing demand for bandwidth for television broadcasts delayed Federal Communications Commission action for phones. Consumer models became available in the early 1980s, but earlier cell phones were more vulnerable to eavesdropping, as the British royal family can attest after both Prince Charles and Princess Diana had conversations unwittingly intercepted by hobbyist radio operators. But today's improved networks and hardware, in conjunction with increased miniaturization and personalization, mean fewer and fewer individuals are ever out of touch.
Each capability of up-to-the-minute devices is discussed, including Internet access, SMS and MMS, both single tone and polyphonic ringtones, phones as music and video players, and GPS. The mechanics of the vibrate function are also explained. There is hard information about bandwidth, frequencies, microprocessors, and integrated circuits to interest electronics enthusiasts.
Students will find fodder for research topics in the chapters on texting (and the legality of texting while driving), the possible role of cell phones in causing cancer, and descriptions of municipal attempts to stop cell phone towers. Other meaty topics include the use of global positioning data in rescue efforts and law enforcement, as well as the myriad security and privacy concerns that attach themselves to unobtrusive cell phone cameras. Some of the most interesting information in the book surrounds norms for cell phone use in other countries, and the appeal of texting in Chinese and Filipino culture is demonstrated.
Text boxes discuss issues such as cell phone application development and protest organization via SMS. One interesting diagram looks at the component parts common to all phones in a breakaway format. There is a comprehensive index, a bibliography of books, online sources, and periodicals. A thorough glossary is provided, but new vocabulary is not indicated in the text, which will probably appeal to the readers of this sort of nonfiction. The endnotes offer source information. There is great effort throughout to keep the volume relevant. The map on laws relating to driving and texting, for example, gives a URL for an updated online version - an important resource on an inescapable technology. Recommended for school and public libraries.