The Evolution History of Mobile Phones: 1973 to 2023
People have always been obsessed with technology, but nothing has had an impact on the world more than the mobile phone. Nowadays, the average person touches their phone over 2,600 times a day. We spend almost a whole month each year on our phones. Mobile phones used to only be for calling and texting, but now they can do almost anything. From paying for things to track our sleep, the possibilities are endless.
The first mobile phones were expensive, costing around $4,000 each. Despite this, the evolution of mobile phones has been exciting. Mobile phones have come a long way since the first handheld device was introduced in 1973. The early models were bulky and expensive, and their functionality was limited to making and receiving calls. However, over the years, advancements in technology have led to significant improvements in history of mobile phones, making them indispensable tools for communication and a range of other functions.
In the 1980s and 1990s, mobile phones became smaller and more affordable, and their features expanded to include text messaging and basic internet browsing. The early 2000s saw the rise of smartphones, which combined traditional phone capabilities with advanced computing power, touchscreens, and internet connectivity. This led to the explosion of mobile applications and a whole new industry of mobile software development. Here we will take a journey through the history of mobile phones from 1973 to 2023.
The first-ever public mobile phone call
The first public call from a mobile phone was made by a man named Martin Cooper, who worked for Motorola. He called another company to let them know that he was speaking from a mobile phone prototype called DynaTAC. It was ten years before the phone was released for sale. Some devices could be considered mobile phones before this, but they were more like two-way radios than the phones we use today.
Mobira (nokia) senator (1982)
The Mobira Senator was the first mobile phone available to regular people. It was made by Nokia in 1982. But it was very big and heavy, weighing 10 kilograms. It used a technology called Nordic Mobile Telephony (NMT) Standard, which was the first kind of wireless cellular technology.
Motorola dynatac 8000x (1983)
In 1983, Motorola released the DynaTAC 8000X, which was the first-ever handheld mobile phone. The phone was heavy, weighing over a kilogram, and took a long time to charge, but it was a breakthrough in mobile technology. However, the battery life was only 30 minutes when fully charge. This phone was also used to make the first public mobile phone call in the UK in 1985.
Nokia 1011 (1992)
After the DynaTAC 8000X, mobile phone technology progressed slowly for ten years with only similar models being released. However, in 1992, Nokia introduced the ‘1011’ model, which could be used globally. It was possible because the phone could access the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) Network, which is the second generation (2G) of wireless cellular technology. This phone weighed less than 500 grams and had a monochrome LCD screen and an extendable antenna.
IBM Simon (1994)
The IBM Simon Personal Communicator, released in 1994, was the first-ever smartphone in the world. It came with a tonne of pre-installed applications, including a touchscreen display, calculator, calendar, digital notepad, and address book. Despite only being available for six months, IBM sold 50,000 units of the device.
Nokia 9000 communicator (1996)
Do you remember the Nokia 9000 Communicator? It was the first of Nokia’s ‘Communicator’ series and was an inspiration for RIM’s BlackBerry. The 9000 Communicator was one of the first phones with a full QWERTY keyboard and could send and receive emails and fax through its GSM modem. It was also featured in a famous moment when Kelly Rowland texted Nelly via an Excel Spreadsheet.
Motorola startac (1996)
In 1996, Motorola released the StarTAC, which was the first clamshell phone or flip phone. It was considered a luxury product and featured in advertising campaigns with other luxury items. It weighed only 88 grams and could be clipped onto clothing due to its custom back, but was small enough to fit in your pocket. The StarTAC was a huge success and set the standard for future flip phones.
Nokia 8110 (1996)
In 1996, Nokia launched the 8110 model, known as ‘the banana’ because of its curved shape. It was one of the first slider phones that allowed users to slide down the keypad cover to answer a call and slide it back up to end a call. This made it very user-friendly and popular among consumers. The Nokia 8110 was also featured in the movie ‘The Matrix,’ where it was modified to look more futuristic.
Siemens s10 (1997)
Siemens made a big impact in 1997 with the release of its S10 model, which was the first mobile phone to have a full-color screen. It could display six lines of information in four different colors and had basic apps like an alarm, phone book, and voice recorder. The phone weighed just under 200 grams and had an antenna like most phones at the time.
Rim (blackberry) 850 (1999)
BlackBerry entered the professional mobile phone market with its first model, the BlackBerry 850 in 1999. It had a QWERTY keyboard and could send and receive emails and browse the internet, but it could not make phone calls. At the time, the brand was called ‘RIM’. The design was similar to the BlackBerry phones that were popular in the late 2000s.
Nokia 7110 
Nokia launched its ‘7110’ model in 1999, which was a slider phone just like the ‘8110’. The sliding cover on its keypad made it easier to accept and end calls. This phone also had a WAP browser that allowed mobile internet access, but only to websites that were optimized for WAP. It was also one of the first phones to offer custom ringtone downloads, which became very popular in the mid-2000s, with the ‘Crazy Frog’ ringtone even topping the UK charts for four weeks.
Sharp j-sh04 
In 2000, Sharp, a Japanese tech company, released the Sharp J-SH04 under the J-Phone brand. Although it was only available in Japan, this mobile phone changed the game forever. It was the first phone to have a built-in digital camera, even though it was only 0.11 megapixels.
Nokia 3310 
In 2000, Nokia launched one of its most iconic models, the ‘3310’, which sold over 125 million units worldwide. It was known for its long-lasting battery and sturdy build, which could withstand numerous durability tests. The phone also had customizable features such as ringtones and screensavers, and it was the first device that introduced the popular mobile game, ‘Snake II’. Even after almost two decades, the phone remained popular, and in 2017, Nokia released a new version of the phone as a smartphone.
Nokia 1100 (2003)
In 2003, Nokia released the ‘1100’ model, a simple phone with basic features such as calls, texts, and an alarm clock. When it was released, cell phones with cutting-edge capabilities like cameras and internet connectivity were becoming more and more popular. Despite this, it became one of the best-selling phones of all time, with over 250 million models sold worldwide. This was because it was marketed towards developing countries as Nokia’s cheapest mobile phone at the time.
Blackberry (rim) 6210 (2003)
The BlackBerry 6210 was a very influential phone that offered both phone and messaging features. It was the first BlackBerry phone to have a phone function, making it popular among business people. This phone also introduced the well-known messaging service, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which became extremely popular with over 150 million users at its peak. The success of BBM was so big that the word ‘BBM’ was added to the dictionary in 2012.
Motorola razr v3 (2004)
The Motorola Razr V3 was released in 2004 and quickly became the company’s best-selling phone, with 50 million units sold between 2004 and 2006. The phone had a VGA camera, video recording, Bluetooth, WAP internet browsing, and MP3 ringtones that could be downloaded. It was also recognized for its sleek design. The phone’s popularity led to Motorola releasing similar clamshell models such as the Razr V3i, Razr2 V9, and Razr3 V13. The phone was also famous for its ‘Hello Moto’ advertising campaign.
Sony Ericsson Walkman w800 (2005)
In 2005, Sony teamed up with Ericsson to release the first mobile phone under the Walkman brand, which was famous for its portable cassette players in the past. The W800 was one of the first phones that emphasized music, probably inspired by the success of the iPod.A 2-megapixel camera with video recording was included, along with Bluetooth and Infrared connectivity, downloadable games, MP3 ringtones, and wallpapers. It also had a WAP browser and 3G network connection, which were common at that time. It had 34MB of internal memory, and you could add up to 2GB via a memory card. This phone was one of the first models that prioritized creative features over the basic functions of a mobile phone like calling and texting, and it was perfect for music lovers.
Nokia n95 (2007)
In 2007, Nokia introduced the N95, which was the beginning of the smartphone trend. The phone had a lot of internal storage with an option to add more memory via a microSD card. It had dedicated media controls for watching movies and listening to music. One of its unique features was a 5-megapixel camera with flash, auto-focus, and various settings for contrast and white balance. In addition to this, it also had a full office suite, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, voice commands, FM radio, and a front-facing camera for video calls. The phone was hugely successful, and Nokia accounted for almost half of all smartphone sales worldwide in 2007. However, by 2013, Nokia’s market share had fallen to just 2.3%, marking the beginning of the end for the company’s smartphone dominance.
The iPhone (2007)
The iPhone, released by Apple in June 2007, was a game-changer in the world of smartphones. Although it wasn’t the first touchscreen phone, it was the first to gain widespread popularity and revolutionized the industry. Before the iPhone, most phones had physical keyboards, small screens, and clunky designs. Apple’s innovative design and features, such as the App Store and the sleek touchscreen interface, set a new standard for smartphones. The iPhone’s success had a major impact on Nokia, which had dominated the market before the iPhone’s release.
htc (t-mobile) dream g1 
In September 2008, HTC released a phone called the Dream G1, which was also known as the T-Mobile Dream G1 in some places. Although the phone’s design wasn’t particularly unique for its time, it was significant because it was the first phone to use the Android operating system. Today, Android is the most widely used operating system in the smartphone industry, with a market share of 74%.
iPhone 3g (2008)
In 2008, Apple released the iPhone 3G, a more affordable and improved version of its predecessor. It had a longer battery life, faster 3G network support, and a better operating system. The iPhone 3G was the first phone to prioritize apps and came with the launch of the App Store, which initially had 552 apps available. It was a huge success, and prices started at just $199 for a two-year contract, making it more accessible to consumers.
Blackberry curve 8520 (2009)
In 2009, BlackBerry released the Curve 8520 model, marking its shift from business to consumer-focused manufacturing. The phone’s popularity surged, with sales increasing from 20 million in 2008 to 50 million in 2010. It was mainly the success of its instant messaging app, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), which gained 190 million users by 2015. BBM allowed users to connect with friends, share updates, and send broadcast messages.
Samsung galaxy s (2010)
Samsung released the first Galaxy S phone in June 2010, featuring 16GB storage, a 1GHz processor, an AMOLED touchscreen, and a 5-megapixel camera, among other features. It was a strong competitor to Apple’s iPhone series and started the successful Galaxy S line, which has consistently competed with Apple over the years. The most recent Galaxy S9 and S9+ were top-selling phones in April 2018.
Samsung galaxy note n7000 (2011)
Samsung released a phone and tablet hybrid called the Samsung Galaxy Note N7000 in 2011. It had a large screen of 5.3 inches, which was unusual for the time. Some iPhone users made fun of it for being “too big” and wondered if it would fit in a pocket. But now Apple sells iPhones with even larger screens. The Galaxy Note was important for the future of mobile phones.
iPhone 5 (2012)
In 2012, mobile technology began to rapidly advance. Only five years prior, apps had just been introduced and phones with Wi-Fi were uncommon. However, in the following years, most phones would have fingerprint unlock and there would be an app for almost anything. This acceleration in technology was largely due to the success of the iPhone 5. Selling five million units in its first weekend, it became one of the most popular phones of its time and standardized the luxury phone market. The iPhone 5 had a lighter, sleeker design, a taller screen, and a Lightning connector. It also introduced Apple Maps and an improved Siri.
Samsung galaxy s3 (2012)
The Samsung Galaxy S3, which was launched in 2012, is often referred to as the “first great Android phone”. It sold over 20 million units in its first 100 days and was the first Android phone to consistently outperform the iPhone in terms of popularity. The phone also introduced several new features to the Galaxy S line, including eye-tracking capabilities, wireless charging support, and 4G network compatibility.
iPhone 5c (2013)
In September 2013, Apple introduced a cheaper version of its popular iPhone 5 called the iPhone 5C. The iPhone 5C was priced at $99, making it more affordable than the original iPhone 5 which was priced between $199 and $399 on a two-year contract. This move by Apple aimed to reach a wider range of customers who were looking for a budget-friendly option.
Nokia Lumia 1020 (2013)
The Nokia Lumia 1020 was released in 2013 and is famous for having one of the most powerful cameras on a phone. With an impressive 41-megapixel camera, it has been praised for its ability to replace a digital camera. It runs on the Windows Phone 8 operating system and has received several software and firmware updates, including one that allows it to capture RAW image files. In comparison, the new iPhone XS camera is only 12 megapixels.
iPhone 6 Plus (2014)
In September 2014, Apple released two new models of iPhones, the iPhone 6 and the larger iPhone 6 Plus, which had a bigger screen of 5.5 inches. Although many people liked the new design, some customers complained that the 6 Plus bent while in their pockets. Despite being the most expensive phone available, Apple still managed to sell 10 million units in the first weekend of release.
Samsung galaxy s6 edge (2015)
The Galaxy S6 Edge was a great-looking phone when it came out and had a unique curved screen that went from edge to edge. It had an impressive battery life that could last for 4 hours with just a ten-minute charge. It also had wireless charging, a high-quality 16-megapixel camera, and a Quad HD Super AMOLED display. This phone was a big step for Android as it helped the company become more popular than Apple.
Google (huawei) nexus 6p (2015)
In 2015, the Nexus 6P was one of the top phones and had great features for its time. It had a 12.3-megapixel camera with 4K video recording and 240fps slow-motion video, a 5.7-inch AMOLED display, and an impressive aluminum design. It was also one of the first phones with Android 6.0. It was cheaper than the iPhones of that year, with a starting price of $499 for a 32GB model.
Google pixel (2016)
In 2016, Google released its flagship phones, the Pixel and Pixel XL, which received great reviews for their high-quality hardware and software. The camera in particular was highly praised, scoring the highest rating ever awarded to a mobile phone by DxOMark. However, despite the positive reception, the Pixel only sold two million units by the end of the year.
Samsung galaxy s8+ (2017)
In April 2017, Samsung launched its best phones yet, the Galaxy S8 and S8+. They had a full-screen display, wireless charging, and top-notch security features like a fingerprint scanner, iris scanner, and face scanner. The camera was also excellent, with 12 megapixels and a wide lens. These phones were a hit, selling 41 million units in just a year and becoming the best-selling Android phones in their first quarter on the market.
iPhone x (2017)
Apple launched the iPhone X at its annual conference in September to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. The phone features a full-screen display and no on-screen buttons. It also supports wireless charging and comes with a 5.8-inch AMOLED display with True Tone, a dual 12-megapixel camera, and ‘Face ID’ for security. Despite the high price tag starting from $999, the iPhone X became Apple’s top-selling phone every week for the first 6 months following its launch, generating a record $100 billion in revenue during that time.
One plus 6t (2018)
In 2018, OnePlus released its latest smartphone, the OnePlus 6T, which was its best one yet. The company is known for producing affordable smartphones and has been gaining popularity since 2014. The 6T was priced at $529 for the 128GB model, which was much cheaper than the iPhone XS starting at $999 for the 64GB version. The 6T had an in-screen fingerprint sensor, a large 6.41-inch full-screen AMOLED display, a powerful 16/20-megapixel dual camera, and the latest Snapdragon 845 processor.
First Cell Phone to Feature 3 Cameras (2018 )
In 2018, Huawei released the P20 Pro, a smartphone with three cameras – a 40 MP primary camera, a 20 MP secondary camera, and an 8 MP front camera. The Honor 10 and OnePlus 6 were also popular smartphones released that year. The Vivo X20 Plus UD stood out for having an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which was a new and innovative feature at the time. Another unique smartphone was the Red Hydrogen One, which was designed to produce “holographic” videos and images but was ultimately unsuccessful. Additionally, the Hubble Phone, inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope, was also introduced in 2018.
First Foldable Smartphone ( 2018 )
The Royole Flexpai was a foldable smartphone released in November 2018 by a Chinese startup company called Royole. It was the first foldable smartphone with an OLED display that people could buy. The phone had a large 7.8-inch screen that could be folded outward, and when it was open, the screen was visible.
Largest Battery in a Mobile Phone (2018)
The Ulefone Power 5 is a Chinese smartphone that has a very large battery of 13,000 mAh. This is much bigger than the battery in Apple’s flagship phone, the iPhone XS Max, which was released in the same year. The Power 5 has more than four times the battery capacity of the iPhone XS Max.
Launch of the 5G network (2018)
In 2019, the first 5G phones and the fifth-generation network were introduced. Along with these, several popular smartphones were released, including the Galaxy S10, iPhone XR, Huawei P30 Pro, OnePlus 7 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Fold, and Huawei Mate X. Additionally, the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 was launched with a unique feature – it was the first smartphone to have a 108 MP camera.
First Phone to Feature 5 Cameras – Nokia 9 PureView (2020)
Modern smartphones are becoming more advanced in camera technology, and the Nokia 9 PureView is an example of this. This phone has 5 built-in cameras, which is a new development in smartphone cameras. The Nokia 9 PureView has five 12MP sensors at the back, out of which three are monochrome for better black-and-white photography, but only two of them are full-color. The phone uses Light’s Lux Capacitor camera control chip technology, which allows all five cameras to work together smoothly at the same time.
Apple iPhone 13, 13 Pro, and the Samsung Galaxy S21 - (2021)
In 2021, there were many production issues, shipping delays, and chip shortages, but smartphone manufacturers still managed to release new models. The most popular models were the Apple iPhone 13 and 13 Pro, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S21. The iPhone 13 Pro is one of the largest iPhones ever, with features like the A15 Bionic chip, a Super Retina XDR screen, and ultra-wideband technology. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G has a 6.8-inch display with a high resolution and pixel density, four rear cameras, HDR10+ certification, and a pressure-sensitive S Pen. Despite all of these new releases, the best-selling cell phone in 2021 was the iPhone 12.
iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max (2022)
In 2022, Apple released the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max, which are the latest flagship iPhones. These phones were introduced during an Apple Event held in Cupertino, California, on September 7, 2022, and were made available for pre-order on September 9, 2022. They were officially released on September 16, 2022.
One of the notable features of the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max is their “Dynamic Island” display cutout, which replaces the notch design used in previous iPhone models. Another significant feature is the addition of bidirectional satellite connectivity, which enables users to contact emergency services when they are out of range of Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
In the United States, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max models (as well as the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus) do not support physical SIM cards. This means that they are the first iPhone models since the CDMA version of the iPhone 4 to lack a discrete SIM card reader.
While it’s still early in 2023, it’s clear that 5G phones and foldable devices will continue to be popular. Samsung is also predicted to dominate the foldable market in 2023, with a projected market share of over 75%. Additionally, we can expect significant advancements in AI, Metaverse, Gaming, and Augmented Reality features in 2023. It’s hard to say which specific phones or technologies will have the biggest impact this year, but we can look forward to some exciting developments in the smartphone industry.
In conclusion, the history of mobile phones is a testament to the power of innovation and the rapid pace of technological change. From the first clunky devices of the 1970s to the sleek, powerful smartphones of today, mobile phones have transformed the way we live and work. With the continued advancement of technology, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for mobile phones and their impact on society.
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