Exploring the evolution of mobile phones

It’s fair to say that I’m now of a “certain age” and I can quite easily amaze people by detailing a long-forgotten time “before mobile phones”.

At school in the 80’s and 90’s, you simply wouldn’t see a phone, and it was only at college that clever new gadgets called “pagers” arrived, along with those brick-like Nokia phones. I now look back with fondness at the times we used to send each other ringtones over infrared connections and how we used to have flashing antenna stumps to “show off” our mobile gadgets. I think, if I look hard enough, I’ve probably still got a few of them in the loft.

Motorola, Nokia and Palm Pioneer The Mobile Revolution

The history of cell phones starts in the early 1970’s, when Motorola engineer Marty Cooper created and made the very first mobile call using what he called a ‘real, handheld portable cell phone’. Even before that, mobile communication devices like the Radio Common Carrier were commonplace in the 60’s, allowing people to communicate through a push to talk system and offering their own individual phone numbers.

However, the future of mobile really began with the bulky Motorola DynaTAC, which boasted a simple LED screen and 30 minutes of talk time at the hefty price of $4,000 back in the 1980’s! Next came various strange and wonderful mobile device trends, including the ‘clamshell phone’ in the early 90’s, and the ‘candy bar’ design reminiscent of the hit classic Nokia 3310.

In the mid 1990’s, which is the period I perhaps know of the most, the cell phone underwent yet another transformation, becoming the trendy flip phone that remained in vogue for almost two decades. Not long afterwards, Motorola featured yet again in the forefront of mobile innovation by creating the satellite/GSM phone that connected to orbiting satellites, allowing its owner to make calls practically anywhere in the world without a traditional cell tower. Now you could never be without a signal!

Next came the age of the PDA phone, or the personal digital assistant. Although here at Coolsmartphone we covered the Pocket PC, Palm was the first company to pioneer this style of mobile device with the Palm Pilot. It was almost space age at the time, featuring handwriting recognition, a virtual keyboard and ground breaking Internet connectivity (for its time). Nokia soon responded with its world famous 6000 Series, which included interchangeable faceplates, the cult classic Snake game, and affordable mobile devices for the masses.

Many strange and creative trends followed as the mobile industry blossomed, including phones with oddly designed QWERTY keyboards and larger screens. In a way I miss these times, as modern smartphones follow a similar design and setup. Motorola caused a stir at the time with the sleek, slim and portable Razr in 2004. Then a little-known company called BlackBerry also made its debut, taking the industry by storm with the business-facing smartphone. It stayed a firm business favourite for many years until it was pipped to the post by Apple, Samsung and other leading brands.

iPhone and Android Revolutionise The Mobile World

A decade ago another game changer appeared: the iPhone, unveiled by Apple in 2007. With a digital music player, camera and Internet connectivity, iPhones captured the hearts of mobile users everywhere, and have continued to do so, with the hyper-advanced iPhone 8 scheduled for release early next year.

Since then, app-based entertainment has become and remained popular, with Google’s Android platform powering numerous popular modern smartphone brands like Samsung, HTC, LG and more. Modern smartphones boast navigation, better cameras, 3D features, voice recognition and even fingerprint scanning, and virtual reality and AI assistants have already become commonplace in many mobile users’ lives.

As for the future, mobile phones are expected to get lighter, broader, and much more powerful, and features like battery life will likely improve too. Transparent, virtual reality-ready smartphones are also already on the way, signalling great things just on the horizon for our modern mobile world.