Mobile phones are now an essential part of our lives, but how did we get here? In this article, we’ll take a look at the history of these handy devices!
The Beginnings of Mobile Telephony
The technology behind mobile phones extends further into the past than you might think. In fact, the initial testing phase of wireless telephony began in Germany in 1918. Car phones made their debut in the United States in the late 1940s, and by the late 1950s, early mobile phone subscriptions services had become available throughout major cities in the United Kingdom. But, the first fully automated mobile phone network debuted in Finland – the home of Nokia – in 1971.
Motorola was the first company to produce a truly handheld, wireless mobile phone – a prototype of the iconic DynaTAC – in 1973. It weighed two and a half pounds, took 10 hours to charge, and could only manage 30 minutes of call time. Still, it ushered in the concept of handheld mobile phones as a viable area of innovation and paved the way for technological leaps throughout the decade. By 1979, the first analogue cellular (1G) network had been established in Tokyo.
The ’80s Brick Phone
The 1G revolution quickened the pace of advancement in mobile technology. During the 1980s, the mobile phone quickly transformed from an experimental concept to an aspirational status symbol. After a long period of refinement, Motorola’s DynaTAC became commercially viable in 1983. Thanks to its iconic silhouette, the brick phone was one of the most recognisable gadgets of the decade, coinciding with a period of prosperity exemplified by the buying habits of well-off yuppies. Mobile phones had truly arrived, but at a price!
The ’90s Boom
As is the case with most technologies, mobile phones went through a rapid transition that simultaneously improved their performance and made them cheaper. Digital cellular (2G) networks were established, and key producers such as Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola developed iconic models, such as the 5110 (with its customisable front cover!), 3210, T28, and StarTAC. Mobile phones were no longer the preserve of the super-rich; they were now in the pockets of millions of people across the globe!
Getting Online in the 2000s
3G networks – which offered mobile internet access – sprang to action in South Korea in 2002. The rest of the world soon followed, and with new technology came handset innovation. The first internet-enabled phones entered the market, and a new era of iconic design – integrating cameras and media players – was ushered in. The Motorola RAZR is perhaps the most memorable phone of the early 2000s; its thin, razor-like profile with a clamshell closure (perfect for dramatic cut-offs!) made it hugely popular. In fact, over 130 million units have been sold!
The Smartphone Era
A Canadian company called Research In Motion (RIM) debuted the world’s first smartphones under the BlackBerry brand, with the Quark, Electron, and Pearl becoming the most notable. These nifty devices combined the power and security of a laptop with the portability of a phone.
However, Blackberry was soon overshadowed by the introduction of Apple’s iPhone in 2007. Not only was it a beautifully integrated machine, but its design revolutionised the mobile phone market. Samsung have largely kept pace with Apple, thanks mostly to its flagship Galaxy S and Note ranges, while Huawei, LG, and Xiaomi are hot on their heels.
With so little difference in hardware, operating systems have become a battleground. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are the current leaders, but in such a fast-paced industry, you never know what innovation is just around the corner!
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