The history of mobile phones began in the early 1950s, with research by Bell Labs engineers who created the first portable cell phone. This device was first used in April 1973 by Dr. Martin Cooper, a Motorola general manager. It weighed around 28 ounces and was known as DynaTAC. Cellular communications had first been developed by Bell Laboratories in 1947, but Motorola’s invention made it possible to carry a mobile phone anywhere.
The first mobile phone to achieve mass popularity was the Nokia 2110, which could store ten calls and send text messages. Nokia initially estimated that only 400,000 people would buy this device. It eventually sold more than 20 million devices. By the end of the decade, Nokia was the number one mobile phone and had nearly 41% market share. Today, mobile phones have evolved a great deal from their humble beginnings to become more powerful, versatile, and convenient.
The transition from 1G GSM to 2G GSM marked an important moment in the history of mobile phones. Digitalisation enabled the connections between mobile phones from different manufacturers. Telecommunications operators also started roaming agreements that allowed them to serve customers using another operator’s cell towers and transmitter masts. 2G GSM paved the way for nationwide mobile telephony, and enabled operators to traffic data through its 2G network. But at the time, internet speeds were less than 0.5 Mbps.
The evolution of mobile telephony began in Europe, with European telecommunications companies developing the first mobile phone networks. Companies like Nokia created phones for connecting people, and developed their networks. The introduction of 2G GSM network technology opened the consumer market worldwide. With it, text messages could be sent between mobile phones. This revolutionized mobile telephony, and the first commercial mobile phone call was made by the Finnish Prime Minister in 1991.
The development of smartphones accelerated in the early 2000s. The first smartphone, the iPhone X, and the Android platform were created to meet these demands. During the decade, the G1 was released, which featured a limited touchscreen and slide-out keyboard. In addition, Microsoft axes Windows Mobile and starts developing Android. In the same year, Apple releases the App store, which has 552 apps that can be downloaded on mobile phones.
The introduction of instalment schemes by telecommunications companies made mobile phone purchasing more affordable. In 1992, a single text message cost EUR1.8 (USD) and consumers were lined up for a chance to own a mobile phone. With subsidies, European telecommunications operators were able to sell more expensive phones to consumers. In fact, they were so successful that many countries now have more mobile phones than their population. But the demand was so high that telecommunications companies quickly recouped their losses by selling high-priced mobile plans.
The iPhone was a game changer. It merged the features and technology of PCs into a pocket-sized device that became the world’s first smartphone. The popularity of the iPhone helped Samsung, Sony, and Huawei catch up and even better compete in the smartphone market. While the iPhone was technically inferior to the Samsung Galaxy S, it was still ahead of its time, setting the stage for smartphones. It was the first smartphone to incorporate the features of Apple’s iPod, iTunes, and Safari software, and became a hit.