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 DynaT

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

  • Published Date: April 3, 2013 8:15 PM IST
  • Updated Date: April 4, 2013 10:05 AM IST