20 iconic cellphones that defined 40 years of mobility

20 iconic cellphones that defined 40 years of mobility
20 iconic cellphones that defined 40 years of mobility

Motorola engineer Marty Cooper placed the first cellular call on April 3, 1973, marking the beginning of a revolution that would change the world forever. The device is question was the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x that weighed 2.5 pounds, and was super ungainly by modern standards. We take a look at some of the most groundbreaking cellphones that have touched our lives in the last 40 years.

Motorola DynaTAC 8000x

The prototype that Marty Cooper used to make the first call weighed 2.5 pounds, and was 9-inches long and 5-inches deep. It offered just 30 minutes of talktime and took 10 hours to recharge. The first mass production model of the same phone hit markets ten years later in 1983 and an entire line of DynaTAC cellphones were made by Motorola till 1994.

Nokia Mobira Cityman 900

Motorola was not the only innovator in this space as Nokia joined the party in 1987 with the Mobira Cityman 900. It had a 1,000-mAh battery and offered a talk time of only 50 minutes. It was also pretty big, but at the time was one of the world’s first compact cellphones as it weighed ‘just’ 760 grams. The phone was made famous by former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev as used the device to make a call to Moscow in October 1987 from Helsinki, Finland.

Nokia 1011

There is a reason Nokia’s name will be remain synonymous with the cellphone industry forever. It pushed mobile technology further than anyone else in the 90’s. The Nokia 1011 was the first cellular phone that ran on a GSM network. It used the 900MHz band and could even receive a SMS.

Nokia 2110

The 2110 was the model that really propelled Nokia to the stratospheric heights it managed to cling on to till the late 2000’s. It was also the first phone to feature the now iconic Nokia ringtone. It could list 10 dialed numbers, missed calls and received calls and could also send and receive SMSs. It was also known for its ungainly antenna.

Nokia 9000 Communicator

The word smartphone did not exist back in 1996, but if there was something close to a smartphone back then, it was the Nokia 9000 Communicator. It was actually the first phone to drive home the thought that a phone could be a computer. It was large, ungainly and was powered by an Intel i386 CPU clocked at 24MHz and ran GEOS 3.0. The Communicator remained an integral part of Nokia’s lineup till the last one which was the E90.

Nokia 7650

The Nokia 7650 marked the arrival of the smartphone in 2002. It was not only the first Nokia phone with a built-in camera, but was also the first device to be powered by the Symbian S60 platform, that powered the bulk of Nokia’s smartphone portfolio for almost a decade.

Sony Ericsson P800

The P800 was the very definition of a superphone. It had a large resistive touch-screen and was powered by the Symbian UIQ OS. While the initial design work was done at Ericsson, the final product was released only after Sony and Ericsson combined their business. It was the very definition of the PDA phone. Back then, touchscreens were a rarity, unlike today, but it was more than a phone as essentially it was computer and it even supported Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick Duos.

Nokia 3310

Launched in 2000, the 3310 and its various variants have become a part of Nokia history. Nokia has built its reputation because of such phones. It was considered to be indestructible phone and Nokia sold over 126 million units of the 3310 till its retirement. It was also one of the first phones to feature the popular Nokia game Snake II.


Built by HTC before it launched smartphones under its own brand name, the XDA II was a smartphone offered in the UK on the O2 network. It was one of the first smartphones to be powered by Windows Mobile 2003. It was also one the rare few smartphones to boast a touch-screen and it also combined a mobile Microsoft Office experience.

Nokia 1100

200 million Nokia 1100s have been sold since its inception in 2003. It is the best selling cellphone in the world to date, and frankly it was perhaps the first feature phone that Nokia made in an age of smartphones that attained this amount of success.

Palm Treo 600

The Palm Treo 600 was a mobility icon. Outside of the Nokia communicator and the BlackBerry it was one of the first devices to offer a lavish QWERTY keyboard and was truly a smartphone that delivered competent email capabilities.

BlackBerry 6280

BlackBerry with its smartphones defined what a professional phone should be. The 6280 back in 2003 was one of the first full QWERTY smartphones and it was essentially an emailing tool. The rock solid industrial design, QWERTY keyboard and solid encrypted email capabilities found in the 6280 was the bedrock on which BlackBerry built its business on.

Motorola Razr

Before the Razr, phones never looked beautiful. They were all rectangular, blocky and just a functional object than a style statement. The Razr changed all that. It was the thinnest phone when it hit the street in 2004, made of aircraft grade aluminum and chemically etched keypad. Over the years, Motorola sold more than 130 million Razr’s worldwide in a span of four years.

Nokia N95

With the N-series Nokia pushed the limits of photography, music and entertainment. Before the N95, Nokia had sold the N91, N93, N70, but it was the N95 that arrived at the fag end of 2006, that was the real game changer. It packed in a 5-megapixel camera, a dual-slider design, and some advanced communication capabilities. It was a winner and for the longest time was considered to be one of the best camera phones.

Apple iPhone

The iPhone changed it all. It brought a brand new multi-touch interface to the table which was wildly superior to anything that was offered in a mobile phone in 2007. Yes, Apple shortchanged the user on features as core features like MMS were missing, but it was the first smartphone that actually was made for a world connected to the Internet. It had Google Maps baked in and had a Safari browser that could display proper full websites and could handle email in rich text. Smartphones were never the same after the iPhone.

HTC Dream

In 2008, the HTC Dream became the first commercially available Android powered smartphone. It flaunted a slider QWERTY design and this marked the beginning of what only can be described as world domination. While phone itself was not a great seller, but over the last five years Android has become the most ubiquitous smartphone platform in the world.

Google Nexus One

The Google Nexus One market the entry of Google as a smartphone retailer. Essentially it was the HTC Desire, and it shipped with Android 2.1 Eclair and was perhaps the first Android smartphone that was seen in the same breadth as the iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy S

If Android is the dominant force in the smartphone market then it owes a lot of its success to Samsung’s Galaxy range of smartphones. The Galaxy S was the first one and it combined a powerful hummingbird processor with a 4-inch AMOLED display. Evolutions of these technologies have been seen its successors which have propelled Samsung to become the world’s largest smartphone vendor.

Nokia N8

With its massive 12-megapixel camera, Carl Zeiss optics and masterful aluminum chassis, Nokia hoped the N8 would be the touchscreen phone that would revive the company. While it failed in doing so, it became a paragon for mobile photography, something which Nokia is still known for.

Nokia PureView 808

The PureView 808 will be remembered for many things. It is not only the last Nokia smartphone to be powered by Symbian, but it ushered in a new era of mobile photography with its unique 41-megapixel PureView camera. The technology was so fresh that Nokia to date has been unable to bring it to its more modern Windows Phone powered smartphones. Hopefully, this will happen in 2013.

Photographs: Wikipedia

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  • Sidhant Pundhir

    Amazing to see nokia with such massive presence in this list. Wish nokia had jumped on to android, there could have been many more names from nokia stable in this decade.

    • UgliPagli

      If nokia had gone android most of their fans including me would have hated them for life. Nokia had balls to differ from the crowd unlike sheeps like htc, samsung, lg who jumped onto it. Now they are doing quite well with lumia series and asha series for low end consumers. I sincerely wish that nokia regains its top spot again in the future.

  • Rutul666

    Don’t you feel awkard when you just simply put your name in this copy paste article, stealing away all the hard work done by some other people and atleast show the maturity of showing some courtesy, you guys copy but are too damn proud to accept the fact that some other guy was the brain behind it and i always thought Gabarr Singh was the bad guy, you guys should change the name of your website to Phonearena.com, lousy and lazy journalism. Grow up Sahil, there is no shame in showing some respect and take it personally but drop the “Bones”, you’re no rockstar, it just sounds like you’re trying too hard to be one.

  • http://www.Social.me/RahulDasGupta Rahul

    Didn’t knew that Nokia launched it’s first model on ’87.

  • J.R.

    The most important fact about today’s cell phones is:
    Your mobile phone keeps transmitting information about your activities even after you’ve hit the OFF button? While incoming calls are going to voicemail, outgoing signals from your phone are letting your phone company – and an army of advertisers – know exactly where you’ve been, and how you spent your day
    There are solutions but until we get proper legislation making app developers have you op in instead of opting out, you will never know what you have downloaded to your mobile device. There will be a backlash as people learn how their privacy has been compromised.

    Using a SilentPocket™ allows you to take control of your own privacy when it comes to Smartphone tracking. MIAmobi™ addresses this issue and many more problems associated with mobile devices. With over a million mobile app’s developed for smartphones, many of which are stealth and are eavesdropping on your every move. Some are capable of turning on functions on your phone like your mic, camera, GPS, address book and more, even when it has been turned off. There is only one way to stop this if you really want to know for sure that you have control of your mobile device is to block all forms of wifi coming in or going out

  • Robert Huenemann

    In recent months, I have seen several accounts in the press discussing Martin Cooper’s role in the development of the cell phone. I worked for Martin at Motorola Communications and Industrial Electronics (C&IE) from November 1959 to June 1960. Motorola was developing the latest in a series of two way radio products of ever smaller size. These developments were part of an evolutionary process that led eventually to the cell phone. I was fresh out of school and my contributions were of no particular significance.

    But let me tell you about something I observed on a daily basis at Motorola’s plant in Chicago. Motorola C&IE had two black employees. They tended an incinerator on the opposite side of the parking lot from the plant. They were not allowed into the building. Not to take a break or eat lunch. Not to use the rest rooms. Not to warm up in the middle of Chicago’s sub zero winters. And my fellow employees would take their breaks at the second floor windows overlooking that parking lot, and they would make insulting, racist comments about the two black employees.

    I went to human relations, and in the most non-confrontational way that I could muster I asked why Motorola did not employ on the basis of ability, without regard to race. And at my six month review, I was terminated.

    You don’t have to take my word concerning Motorola’s employment policies. In September of 1980, Motorola agreed to pay up to $10 million in back pay to some 11,000 blacks who were denied jobs over a seven-year period and to institute a $5 million affirmative action program, according to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

    I have a question for Martin Cooper. Marty, what did you ever do to challenge the blatant, toxic racial discrimination at Motorola?

    Robert Gilchrist Huenemann, M.S.E.E.
    120 Harbern Way
    Hollister, CA 95023-9708