Over the past few decades, advancements in technology have exceeded even the wildest expectations of many. If you're younger than 20 years old, it’s difficult imagine a time when cell phones didn’t exist. Back the good old days, most households had a landline, some had a fax machine, and even fewer people used the internet on a daily basis if you were lucky. Communication has radically changed over this relatively short period of time. Let’s take a quick look at the history of cell phones.
In the very beginning of the cell phone era, there were no apps, no Bluetooth, not even voicemail. Seriously. In 1973, the first commercial cell phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, was as simple as it gets. A dinosaur in comparison to today's handheld super computers, the Motorola DynaTAC had an extremely limited battery life. The phone delivered 30-minutes of talk time and took a full ten hours to charge. On April 4 of that year, the first mobile phone call was made; a technological step that would change communication forever.
Fast forward to the 1990’s when the second generation of cell phones were brought to the market. Performing on 2G (digital) networks, Europe developed their GSM standard while the U.S. presented the CDMA standard. Both formats continue to stand strong even in today’s world.
At this time, text messaging wasn't even a thought. Keep in mind that until 1992, cell phones were simply used for making calls. Calls were short and to the point because both battery life and cell reception were less than impressive.
Fun Fact: The first text (SMS) message, “Merry Christmas” was sent on December 3, 1992 by Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old engineer. I doubt that anybody at that time could have imagined that sending text messages would become as widely used as it is today.
In 1993, IBM released Simon, arguably the world’s first peek into the smartphone world. IBM Simon ($899 retail), was a high-tech PDA, calendar, address book, notepad, and email, all with a touchscreen and stylus. It may not seem like a big deal now, but this was an incredible leap in technology at the time. At that time, today’s iPhone would have cost an estimated $3.5 million!
In 1996, Motorola introduced the first clamshell style flip phone to the market. In the history of cell phones, the flip phone was noteworthy because it became more of a hit about a decade later. The StarTAC retailed for $1000 and was one of the first devices to have a vibration feature as an alternative for a ringtone. The device also had an option for a lithium-ion battery, which had much more capacity than the NiMH standard at the time.
By 1999, cell phones continued to reduce in size, thanks to advancements in technology. Soon there was a greater selection of devices, including the widely popular Nokia 3210. In the history of cell phones, the durable and reliable Nokia 3210 has been described as many people’s favorite phone. Users loved the three games on the device, the ability to store contacts, and T9 texting began sweeping the nation.
A few years later in the history of cell phones, as graphics and processors advanced, the consumer market became populated with choices. Brands like BlackBerry, LG, Samsung, and Motorola were all playing a huge role. Although it was a product previously marketed outside of the U.S., Sanyo successfully introduced the first camera phone to the U.S. in 2002. The device cost $400 and featured a 0.3 megapixel camera and color display. The quality would be less than impressive in today’s world, but it was all the rage at the time.
Around 2005, 3G technology became more prominent and cell phone technology continued to improving rapidly. Mobile internet became more important to users as social media and internet-based communications emerged. Phone processors were quickly becoming more advanced, and phones were more commonly popping up with features such as a video camera, GPS, and music capabilities.
In the more recent history of cell phones, smartphones started to become the standard as Apple burst onto the smartphone market in 2007 with the release of the first iPhone. The first generation iPhone featured a 3.5-inch touchscreen, 4GB hard drive, WiFi, email, maps, as well as a handful of other apps, for a retail price of $599. The iPhone, of course, was a huge success and quickly became the industry standard. From there, we have seen an explosion of devices hit the market from a variety of competitors, which means good things for consumers.
We now have a market filled with incredible technology from companies like Apple, LG, Samsung, and Nokia. Currently, in our constantly connected world, 64% of people in the U.S. report that they own a smartphone. Terms like apps, 4K video, WiFi, Facebook, and 4G, which have become integrated as a part of our everyday vocabulary, would have been something completely unrecognized in the early days of cell phones. It’s quite amazing how far things have come in a relatively short period of time.