Before the iPhone we were not primitives. They were smart phones years before the iPhone was released. The big players was Blackberry and a slew of windows mobile phones, and Palm. They had a keyboard you could browse the web you could even get apps, and watch videos. Android OS was in development. But the idea of smart phones were all centered around a full keyboard and some sort of pointing device. The key features where there. So it would make sense for Google to look for ways to improve bandwidth without the iPhone designed phone.
However after the iPhone was released it put the smart phone market in shock. It seemed that a larger screen was preferable, people picked up in using gestures quickly, and was willing to sacrifice a physical keyboard for it. This made all the other companies future plans obsolete thus giving Apple a two year lead.
But saying before the iPhone we wouldn't imagine trying to get faster mobile data is naive.