In Pictures: A History of Cell Phones

From Motorola's first phone, which weighed in at around a 1kg, to Apple's iPhone, here's a look at how cell phones have evolved over the years.

  • Pre-iPhone: BellSouth/IBM Simon Personal Communicator (1993)
    A cell phone with added PDA functions isn't news today. But in 1993, it was a novel idea. The Simon Personal Communicator, jointly marketed by IBM and BellSouth, was the first mobile phone to add PDA features. It was a phone, pager, calculator, address book, fax machine, and e-mail device in one package, albeit a 500g plus package that cost US$900.
  • Swivel It: Danger Hiptop (2002)
    Before the T-Mobile Sidekick became Hollywood's "it" phone, it was known as the Danger Hiptop. US PC World liked it so much that they named it product of the year in 2003. While its voice capabilities were only mediocre, this was one of the first devices to offer truly functional mobile Web browsing, e-mail access, and instant messaging. Plus, it pioneered that nifty swiveling design.
  • DotComs Ran on These: Nokia 6160 (1998) or Nokia 8260 (2000)
    In the late 1990s, Nokia's candybar-style cell phones were all the rage. Sporting a monochrome display, an external antenna, and a boxy, 5.2-inch tall frame, the Nokia 6160 was the company's best-selling handset of the 1990s. The somewhat sleeker Nokia 8260, introduced in 2000, added a colorful case and lost some of the 6160's bulk: it stood only about 4 inches tall and weighed just under 100g, compared with almost 170g for the 6160.
  • Hefty: Motorola DynaTAC 8000X (1982)
    In 1973, Motorola showed off a prototype of the world's first portable cellular telephone. That phone, which measured more than a foot long, weighed almost 1kg, and cost US$3995, ultimately became commercial available in 1983. Known as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, its battery could provide 1 hour of talk time, and its memory could store 30 phone numbers. It may not have been pretty, but it did let you talk while on the go - if you could lift it, that is.
  • Photo Opp: Sanyo SCP-5300 (2002)
    Today, most cell phones come with a built-in camera. But, just a few years ago, a camera phone was hard to come by. In 2002, Sanyo debuted the Sanyo SCP-5300 PCS phone in the US, which they claimed was the first mobile phone available in America with a built-in camera. (A camera phone from Sharp had been available in Japan for a few years.) At its highest resolution, it captured VGA (640 by 480) images - a far cry from today's 5-megapixel camera phones like the Nokia N95.
  • Apple iPhone (2007)
    After months of speculation and rumors, Apple launched it's iPhone this year. Currently available only in the US the iPhone features a touch sensitive screen.
  • Early Smart Phone: Kyocera QCP6035 (2000)
    If you're one of the many fans of the Palm OS-based Treo phone, you might want to thank Kyocera. The company's QCP6035 smart phone, which hit the retail market in early 2001 and cost between US$400 and US$500 (depending on the carrier), was the first Palm-based phone to be widely available to users. It included a measly 8MB of memory, and sported a bland monochrome display, but it paved the way for future products.
  • CrackBerry Phone: BlackBerry 5810 (2002)
    Before the BlackBerry 5810 came along in early 2002, Research In Motion's devices were best known for their data capabilities: Push e-mail technology, Organizer features, and thumb keyboards. The 5810 - the first BlackBerry to offer voice capabilities - changed that perception. This device added a GSM cell phone to the package, albeit one that required the use of a headset (it lacked both a speaker and a microphone).
  • Out of Tune: Motorola Rokr (2005)
    It promised to bring together the best of two worlds: Apple's excellent iTunes music player and Motorola's cell phone design expertise. The Motorola Rokr, released in September 2005, was the first music phone to incorporate Apple's music software. It allowed users to transfer songs purchased from iTunes to the phone for listening on the go. Unfortunately, users found song transfers to be painfully slow, and many were stymied by the 100-song limit imposed on their music collections. Still, this handset paved the way for today's music phones, including those (like the Motorola Slvr and Razr V3i) that support iTunes.
  • Heftier: Nokia Mobira Senator (1982)
    It may look more like a boombox than a portable phone, but this boxy, bulky device was actually Nokia's first mobile (if you can call it that) phone. Introduced in 1982, the Nokia Mobira Senator was designed for use in cars. After all, you wouldn't want to use this phone while walking: It weighed about 9.5kg.
  • Ahead of Its Time: Motorola StarTAC (1996)
    Before the Motorola StarTAC was introduced in 1996, cell phones were more about function than fashion. But this tiny, lightweight phone ushered in the concept that style was just as important, ultimately paving the way for today's sleek-looking phones like the Motorola Razr. This 3.1-ounce clamshell-style phone, which could easily be clipped to a belt, was the smallest and lightest of its time. In fact, it was smaller and lighter than many of today's teeny-tiny cell phones.
  • Good Looks: BlackBerry Pearl (2006)
    Research In Motion continued its efforts to shed its strictly-business image with the consumer-friendly Pearl. This phone, with its slim design and SureType keyboard, looked the part. It went further than the 7100t, however: the Pearl was the first BlackBerry to include a camera and an audio/video player. Combine these multimedia features with BlackBerry's excellent e-mail service, and you have one impressive device.
  • Sleek: Motorola Razr v3 (2004)
    Cell phones continued to get thinner and more stylish over the years, but it was the debut of the Motorola Razr v3 in 2004 that took design to another level. With its super-slim lines and sleek metallic look, the Razr quickly became the must-have accessory. Three years later, it remains one of the most popular handsets on the market (according to market data from The NPD Group, various versions of the Razr were 3 of the 4 best-selling handsets in 2006), and is one of the few phones offered by almost every major carrier.
  • PDA to Phone: Handspring Treo 180 (2001)
    Back when Palm and Handspring were still rivals, Handspring made waves with the Treo 180. More PDA than phone, the Treo 180 came in two versions: one with a QWERTY keyboard for typing (pictured), and another (the Treo 180g) that used Graffiti text input instead. Like the Kyocera QCP6035, it featured a monochrome screen, but boasted 16MB of memory.
  • Bad Buzz: Nokia N-Gage (2003)
    Nokia's N-Gage also created plenty of buzz when it was launched in 2003, but, unfortunately, most of the buzz was bad. This combination cell phone/gaming device was supposed to lure gamers away from their portable devices. Instead, it earned scorn for its odd curved design, and the fact that you had to hold the phone on its side to place a call. Later versions (like the N-Gage QD, launched in 2004) fixed many of the problems with the original device. But for many, the damage was done.
Show Comments

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?