Evolution of Smartphones

Written on: December 26, 2011

If smartphones could reproduce and pass on genes, then the smartphone population would expand and diversify, and the world would become dominated by smartphones. Of course, there has to be a place where these smartphone progeny can niche on, and currently there is.

A species can diverge into two separate “species” when there is some sort of barrier between them (e.g. mountain, river, ocean, etc), resulting in things like allopatric and sympatric speciation. This barrier for a smartphone can be the human users, who customize the phone (say, a Google Nexus), such that the many human users equate the many forms of niches and barriers for the smartphones. Essentially, if all these customized smartphones were to reproduce and propagate, with the various forms of customization equating to their “genome due to environmental changes”, then you would get variations within the Google Nexus, which would be considered a “species”. So here, you get the microevolution of the Google Nexus smartphone.

Obviously, the Google Nexus isn’t the only smartphone out there. Before the Google Nexus’ existence, there are other smartphones (in the order from more recent to less recent): Samsung Galaxy S II X, Samsung Galaxy Q, Samsung Fascinate, etc. Each newer version comes from some human developers’ modification of the previous design (not an expert in technology here, but I would assume that is the case), such that a Google Nexus is a modified and upgraded version of the Samsung Galaxy Q, for example (not directly, as there are other smartphone models in between). In evolutionary terms, the Google Nexus would be said to have evolved from the Samsung Galaxy Q; but this kind of evolution is at a different level than the evolution of the differently customized form of the Google Nexus mentioned earlier. That is, one results from human developers’ modification (i.e. Samsung Galaxy Q to Google Nexus) and the other results from different human user niches (i.e. different customization of the Google Nexus). Therefore, if Google Nexus is a “species” of smartphone, Samsung would be considered a “family” of smartphone; and the first Samsung smartphone would be the common ancestor of all the newer smartphones.


Staying within the genus of Samsung Galaxy smartphones, and say that “survival of the fittest” also applies, it would mean that unfit phones would result in the fate of extinction. That being the case, doesn’t it seem likely for phones like the Samsung Fascinate, which no one has ever heard about (or at least based on my lack of knowledge in trends and technology) to go extinct, at least in Canada? If no human users like them (i.e. no niche for these smartphones), there would be no chance for the survival of this version of smartphone, as human developers would stop making them (since smartphones cannot reproduce and currently rely on human production).

As for mass extinction, if USA declares bankruptcy and destroys the stock market, and if that affects Samsung to go bankrupt as well, the production of the entire family of Samsung smartphones would be wiped out! And because this catastrophe is so huge, other families like Sony Ericsson, LG, Nokia, etc. might also get wiped out. As a result, with the production of smartphones costing so much, this lack of monetary resource would mean that smartphones would be gone from the market forever. This creates an open niche as human users would no longer have phones to use (after their smartphones broke). Human users might then take out their flip phones again. Since the production cost of these traditional cell phones are cheaper (i.e. using less monetary resources; again based on my assumptions from my lack of knowledge in economics as well), phone developers of different companies might decide to dedicate the monetary resources on the production of flip phones. As a result, flip phones would diverge and speciate the way that smartphones did before the bankruptcy. In evolutionary terms, this would be called incumbent replacement (and previously, with the Android smartphones outcompeting the rest being called competitive displacement).


Therefore, while you have the K-T mass extinction in the Mesozoic era, resulting from an asteroid crash that killed all dinosaurs on earth to lead to the current Cenozoic Era; for the smartphones (or the dinosaur equivalence), this asteroid could be USA bankruptcy.

The Mindlessness of Natural Selection
Of course, since natural selection has no goals nor purposes and is purely stochastic, there was no prediction of the asteroid crash that wipe out dinosaurs in order to have mammals flourishing. However, geological timings are predictable, and even though it is said that there was no prediction for the asteroid to crash on earth, tracing the path of that asteroid and the celestial bodies that it encountered on its path would lead to its final destination on earth. Likewise, many have said that USA would eventually declare bankruptcy. If and once that happens, and if flip phones do end up filling up that niche, perhaps rather than having Android smartphones again, another line of phones, maybe called brainyphones, would flourish. After all, because everything is stochastic, flip phones created in the past was not to prepare for the creation of the smartphones in the present. Rather, smartphones just happened to find itself a niche.

Final Remarks
Now, the only piece missing to make the evolution of the smartphones matching the evolution of life on earth is that smartphones cannot reproduce and propagate on its own. Cloning can occur, as one system fully backed up from one smartphone can be restored fully to another smartphone of the same model to get two identical smartphones. If this process does not require human involvement, it would be known as a form of asexual reproduction. And of course, whenever you copy such a huge system, it is likely that some of the information might not get transmitted properly, resulting in error. Most of the time, the system can detect this error and will fix it automatically. And this error is usually so minor that it would have no effect on the overall function of the cloned smartphone. In evolutionary terms, this error would be called a mutation. In some cases, the error would be damaging enough to make the smartphone nonfunctional, equating a deleterious mutation. However, in very rare cases, these errors might actually result in the better performance of the smartphone. Hence, there is also a very rare chance that this beneficial error might be backed up and restored to another brand new smartphone of the same model. In evolutionary terms, this beneficial error would be called a beneficial mutation.

This cloning process of backuping and restoring would only work if the backed-up data is compatible with the new phone (hence the above was based on cloning within the same model).

That’s all the terms I remember from my Principles of Evolution course. I hope I passed the exam. To be continued… maybe.

1) New phone
2) Course on Principles of Evolution
3) Course on Diversity of Fishes
4) Course on Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy
5) Course on Avian Biology

Published on December 29, 2011

One Response to Evolution of Smartphones

  1. Pingback: Nerdy time! | Mysteries of the Mind

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