17 Iconic Mobile Phones throughout History

A look at the history of mobile phones through the years.
Nursah Ergü

Mobile phones are a big part of our lives and it's impossible to think about a life without them now. We have a copy of our lives in them, we take photos with them, we pay our bills on them, we buy our clothes on them and much more. 

Fancy world of emojis, endless likes, retweets, comments, and notifications. It's the first thing you check in the morning, isn't it? 

Even though we adopted all of these in our lives and we feel like we've been living with them for a long time now, it's actually not the truth. 

Before becoming our smart friends, phones have had a long history. 

It started in 1908 when Professor Albert Jahnke and the Oakland Transcontinental Aerial Telephone and Power Company claimed that they had invented a wireless telephone. However, they were accused of fraud but the charges were dropped later. 

Ten years later, in 1918, a wireless telephone was tested on military trains between Berlin and Zossen by the German railroad system. 


In 1926, telephone service between Hamburg and Berlin in trains of the Deutsche Reichsbahn and the German mail service was offered to first-class passengers.

In the 1940s, hand-held radio transceivers became available and some companies made mobile phones available for automobiles. 

In the USA, Bell Labs engineers worked on a system that would allow users to place and receive telephone calls from automobiles, and this led to the inauguration of mobile service on 17 June 1946. After a while, AT&T offered Mobile Telephone Service, which was a wide range of mostly incompatible mobile telephone services that offered limited coverage area and a few available channels. 

With these kinds of improvements happening in the phone sector, ten years before a cell phone released to the market, in 1973, Martin Cooper, a senior engineer at Motorola, made the first public call from a mobile phone. 

Source: Rico Shen/Wikimedia Commons

1. Motorola DynaTAC 8000X (1983)

A decade after the first mobile phone call was made, Motorola introduced a handheld mobile phone to the market. It was $3,995, offered 30 minutes of talk time, took 10 hours to charge and it could store only 30 numbers. It was bulky and weighed around a kilogram. Not even close to your smartphone, right?

2. Motorola MicroTAC 9800X (1989)

Motorola MicroTAC was the smallest and lightest phone on the market back then and it was designed to fit into a pocket. It had the new "flip" design, which inspired the designs of the following flip phones later in the industry. 

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Source: Redrum0486/Wikimedia Commons

3. Nokia 1011 (1992)

In 1992, Nokia released the first mass-produced GSM phone, 1011, and mobile phones weren't only limited to business usage. This phone was the first mobile phone that could be used anywhere thanks to its ability to access the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication Network). Also, the phone weighed under 500 grams. So, the phones were getting smaller, lighter and more modern.

Source: Jkbw/Wikimedia Commons

4. IBM Simon (1994)

IBM Simon personal communicator is considered the first smartphone ever. It had a touchscreen display, pre-installed apps such as address book, calculator, calendar, digital notepad, world clock and more. However, it was pulled off the market since the phones were getting smaller and slimmer. 

Source: Bcos47/Wikimedia Commons

5. Siemens S10 (1997)

Siemens released a new model in 1997 called S10, and this phone was highly groundbreaking since it was the first mobile phone with a colored screen. It only displayed 4 colors, red, green, blue, and white. It also had some apps like an alarm, a phone book, and an audio recorder. And it weighed less than 200 grams. 

Source: Ulli1105/Wikimedia Commons

6. RIM (BlackBerry) 850 (1999)

In 1999, BlackBerry entered the professional mobile phone sector with its first phone. Back in the day, BlackBerry was called "RIM." It had a QWERTY keyboard and ability to send e-mails and use the internet. However, this was more of a two-way pager than a mobile phone since it didn't allow you to make phone calls.

Source: Lutra98railway/Wikimedia Commons

7. Nokia 3310 (2000)

Nokia released its most iconic and famous model in 2000. It's one of the most successful phones as it sold 126 million units worldwide. This phone had a chat function, which was an instant-messaging function that worked like SMS but it allowed three times longer messages than a standard SMS. It also had screensavers, customizable ringtones, and a really long battery life. And, even if it first appeared in Nokia's 5110 model in 1997, the "Snake II" mobile game became popular with this phone.

17 Iconic Mobile Phones throughout History
Source: lenscap67/iStock

8. Nokia 1100 (2003)

Even though it seems like a basic mobile phone which offers features such as calls, texts, alarm clock, and Snake II, it's sold over 250 million since its launch in 2003. It entered to the market at the same time with phones that had cameras, complex apps, and internet access, it was still one of the best-selling phones of all time. 

Source: Haxorjoe/Wikimedia Commons

9. Motorola Razr V3 (2004)

The best-selling clamshell phone of all time was remarkable with its slim design, 3G connectivity, a VGA camera, video recording, Bluetooth, WAP Internet browsing and downloadable MP3 ringtones. It was way popular back in its time.

Source: Raimond Spekking/Wikimedia Commons

10. Sony Ericsson Walkman W800 (2005)

In 2005, Sony partnered with Ericsson and they released the first mobile phone under the famous Walkman brand and this phone was one of the first phones that prioritized music. It had a 2-megapixel camera with video recording, Bluetooth, Infrared connectivity, downloadable games, MP3 ringtones, wallpapers, a WAP browser, 3G network connection and 34MB of internal memory which could be increased up to 2GB via a memory card.

Source: Magnus Bäck/Wikimedia Commons

11. The iPhone (2007)

Maybe one of the most important moments in smartphone history was when Apple released its first iPhone. When it went on sale in the USA on 29 June 2017, hundreds of people all around the U.S. lined up outside stores. Because of the high demand, the media called it the "Jesus phone." Most of the phones back then had physical keyboards, small screens, and chunky designs and maybe that's why iPhone shone among the others.

Source: Carl Berkeley/Flickr

12. iPhone 3G (2008)

One year after the launch of its first phone, Apple released its second phone, 3G. It had a better battery life than the previous one, a new operating system, new features such as GPS and 3G data, and it was more affordable than the first iPhone. Also, it had 552 apps on the "App Store" which was launched by Apple. 

Source: Justin14/Wikimedia Commons

13. Samsung Galaxy S (2010)

In 2010, Samsung released the Galaxy S, which was the first phone of one of the most successful phone lines ever. This Android smartphone had 16GB of storage, a 1GHz ARM "Hummingbird" processor, a Super AMOLED touchscreen display, 5-megapixel primary camera, and a 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera. With the release of this phone and the start of the Galaxy series, the competition between Apple and Samsung has started. 

Source: Dj106/Wikimedia Commons

14. iPhone 6 (2014)

In 2014, Apple launched two phones, 6 and 6 Plus at the same time. The new iPhone was bigger, thinner and had a minimal design. At first, the new design wasn't liked by many people and these two phones were the most expensive phones on the market, it still broke its previous sales record. It had improvements in its camera, battery life, and new apps, after a while, its new design was accepted by many people.

Source: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

15. Samsung Galaxy S8 (2017)

Samsung released two models of its Galaxy line, S8 and S8+ in April 2017. These phones had full-screen "Infinity" display, curved sides, iris and face recognition, a new virtual assistant "Bixby." Both of the models were in high demand in release and 41 million units were sold 12 months. 

Source: Sinchen.Lin/Flickr

16. iPhone 11 (2019)

This shows how far mobile phones have come so far. Both iPhone and Samsung released new models this year, and these are far beyond the technology of the first mobile phones. The new iPhone has a new dual-camera system and an ultra-wide camera. Meet the future of photography! 

iPhone 11. Source: Hisrsrtyo / 28 Images/Wikimedia Commons

17. Samsung Galaxy S10 (2019)

Samsung claims that the new generation in phones has just arrived with Samsung Galaxy S10. This phone is far more developed than previous Galaxy devices, and of course, than the first mobile phones in history. It has a Dynamic AMOLED screen that offers the greatest comfort for your eyes.

Samsung Galaxy S10. Source: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr

What Does Future Hold for Mobile Phones?

There are plenty of predictions about the future of mobile phones, such as foldable screens, batteries powered with air, holographic displays, and more and more cameras. Also, 5G will be available soon. Some of these seem realistic and doable, but there are some other crazy ideas about the future of mobile phones that can be nightmare fuel. What's your opinion on the future of mobile phones? 

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