Mobile phones - timeline

1946 - The first genuine mobile phone service

A T & T launched the world's first mobile car radio telephone service in Missouri, USA in 1946. It covered a tiny area and supported few customers. The cellular technology that would make mass mobile communication possible had not been invented.

1973 - First cell phone call

Dr Martin Cooper of Motorola made the world's first cell phone call in New York using a prototype Dyna TAC phone. Cellular systems divided the airspace into cells. Each caller only needed a unique channel in the cell, this meant the system had the potential for many more customers. A commercial version of the handset would not be available for another ten years.

1979 - First cell phone service

The world's first cellular telephone service started in Japan. This was a carphone only service.

1981 - NMT network launched

On 1 October 1981, the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) system was launched in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. The system was exported to Saudi Arabia and surprisingly launched there a month earlier or 1 September 1981.

NMT was a cellular system. Sweden had already had a non-cellular radio phone network run by the state owned telephone company, Televerket, in 1955.

Motorola Dynatac 8000x, the first handportable mobile phone (authur:Redrum0486, distributed under Creative Commons Attribution 
ShareAlike 3.0)

1983 - First hand portable mobile phone

America's first cellular phone service started in 1983 and Motorola launched the DynaTAC 8000X, the world's first hand portable mobile phone.

In those days, ownership of one of these handsets was a huge status symbol. People stopped to stare at such an unusual sight as someone making phone call in the street, in a restaurant or on a train.  Today the Motorola 8000X has a place in history, as well as being a desirable collectors' piece.

1985 - UK ETACS system launched

Cellnet and Vodafone, two rival operators launched Britain's first cellular telephone service in 1985.

1985 - French Radiocom 2000 system launched

France had its first mobile telephone service, Radiocom 2000 which was initially available only in Paris. Prices were high and subscription rates low.

1986 - Germany's Netz-C system launched

Germany's state owned telecoms services Deutshe Bundespost combined with Siemens to start the ambitious Netz-C system in May 1986. Although Netz-C provided a telecoms network to East Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall, it was not a great success. Experiences in France and Germany provided the spur to develop something better, GSM.

Orbitel TPU 900, the World's first GSM phone

1991 - First GSM phone

GSM started in Europe in 1991 and there was a race to have the first mobile handset registered for the new digital system. In a familiar story, a British company rose to the challenge, but failed to capitalise on the advantage.

The first GSM phone was the Orbitel TPU 900. It was a down-market transportable style phone, the type preferred by the building trade, rather than a glamorous hand portable. Motorola, Nokia and Ericsson all brought out their own handsets a few months later and Orbitel was quickly forgotten.

Motorola Personal Phone, 1992

1992 - First UK consumer phones

Consumers rather than business users were slow to take to mobile phones. Motorola designers thought simplicity and an emphasis on emergency use was a way to win over consumers. The Motorola Personal Phone, based on the style of a contemporary cordless phone, had no screen and very few functions. The Personal Phone worked on the old analogue system though. In the end digital would be the key to the consumer market.

1992 - First text message

Orbitel achieved another first: on 3 December 1992, Neil Papworth, sent the world's first text "Merry Christmas" to Vodafone director Richard Jarvis, who received it on an Orbitel TPU 901.

Mercury M200, first One2One phone

1993 - First One2One phones

Before GSM officially launched, the UK Government offered two new licences for mobile service providers on a new digital frequency of 1800MHz called PCN. The two new providers were Orange and One2One. Both slanted their offering towards consumers rather than business users. The first to announce a new service was Mercury One2One.

Mercury offered two new phones, the M200, made by Siemens and the M300 made by Motorola. Both sported Mercury logo and a unique colour scheme.

1994 - First phone with the Nokia tune

The Nokia 2110 was Nokia's second GSM phone. At the time it was the most desirable business handset in Europe. The groundbreaking design by Frank Nuovo gave people one of the smallest and lightest GSM phones, as well as a new menu system which was easy to use. The menu system offered a choice of ringtones, one of which was the Grande Valse, now known as the ubiquitous Nokia tune.

Nokia 2140, the first Orange handset

1994 - First Orange phone

Mercury's phones were a little on the cheap and cheerful side. Orange gave customers the chance to own one of the top mobiles of the time, the Orange branded Nokia 2140, a variation of the Nokia 2110.  The mobile phone press called it the Nokia Orange.

1996 - First prepaid phone service

Vodafone introduced the UK's first non-contract phone service. Vodafone Prepaid was aimed at people with poor credit history.

Ericsson GA628, 1997, the first customisable phone

1997 - First phone without an external aerial

The Hagenuk GlobalHandy was the first phone not to have an external aerial.

1997 - First customisable phone

Pressure from aftermarket accessory manufacturers led mainstream handset makers to offer customisation. The Ericsson GA628 was the first phone you could officially customise to your own taste. It was aimed at a younger market than traditional mobile phone buyers and started a trend. However, only the panel around the keyboard was interchangeable.

1997 - First digital PAYG service

Mercury One2One Mercury realised the potential of phones without a contract and announced the first digital pay-as-you-go service 'Up 2 You' in October 1997.

The Nortel m900 was the UK's first GSM phone available on a PAYG deal.

1997 - First phone with a colour screen

The Siemens S10 was the first phone to offer a colour screen. However, it only had four colours and only the text was in colour. It did not catch on.

Nokia 5110, the first phone with interchangeable fascias

1998 - First phone with interchangeable fascias

Ericsson might have shown the way, but Nokia did it better. The Nokia 5110 was the first phone with interchangeable fascias or XpressOn covers as Nokia called them. It was an instant success and started a trend that meant nearly all mobiles had to be customisable.

Nokia 7110, 1999

1999 - First WAP phone

In February 1999 Nokia announced the world's first phone with a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) browser, the Nokia 7110. It was the first phone capable of browsing the internet. Not only that, it had the ultra cool Matrix inspired sliding case, making it instantly the most desirable handset.

However, WAP was a limited sanitised version of the internet which did not please users.

Motorola Timeport L7089, 1999, the first tri-band GSM phone

1999 - First tri-band GSM phone

Travelling to Europe, the Middle-East, Asia, Africa and the USA? Don't worry about your mobile, the Motorola Timeport, the world's first tri-band GSM phone, worked around the globe. It was the prefect phone for the high flying exec.

1999 - Supermarket price war

Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda competed to sell Pay and Go phones at discounted prices. Prices dropped to £39.99 for a basic phone on one of the four networks.

Sharp J-SH04, 2000, the first camera phone (author: Morio, modified by Retrowow and distriubuted under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0)

2000 - First camera phone

The Sharp J-SH04, launched in November 2000, was the world's first commercially available camera phone. The only snag: you could only use it in Japan.

2001 - First phone with a full colour display

The Mitsubishi Trium Eclipse was the first phone to offer a full colour display in the UK. It just pipped the much more exciting Ericsson T68i. Read more about the first phones with colour screens.

2002 - UK's first picture messaging service

T-Mobile announced the UK's first picture messaging service in 2002, using the Sony Ericsson T68i. It was not a camera phone; you needed to attach a separate camera module. For £20 extra per month users could send pictures on their mobile phones.

Nokia 7650, Europe's first camera phone

2002 - Europe's first camera phone

NEC e606, the UK's first 3G phone

The Nokia 7650 was something really special. It was Europe's first phone with a Symbian operating system and Europe's first phone with a built-in camera. Expensive at the time at £200 and only available on contract, it was a huge success with young mobile users eager to adopt the latest trend from Japan. Read more about the first camera phones.

2003 - UK's first 3G handsets

On 2 March 2003 Hutchinson launched the UK's first 3G service, '3'. Patricia Hewitt MP,  the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, made the first phone call on '3'.

3G brought in a huge amount of revenue to the UK Treasury, however, network providers were slow to put it in place. The first UK's 3G offering was a new network '3' which launched on 3/3/2003.

'3' offered a choice of three handsets: the Motorola A830, the NEC e606 and NEC e808.

Read more about the first 3G phones.

2007 - iPhone

Steve Jobs announced the Apple iPhone to the World.

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Comments (75)

BIG JHONNY

i love looking a timelies

Steven
Calls to Europe came in with GSM. They were not cheap. One of the first was Vodafone's Euro-Digital plan. It was a premium tariff for business users.
BrixtonSaint
When were calls from abroad using a UK mobile first introduced? What were the costs back then?
Ron bird
You forgot the Sony Ericsson P800 also a camera phone from 2002 but had a whole feast of features that pre date the iPhone, but was similar to the iPhone in operation.
kiara parry
i like this long piece of work but it is just too detailed
123
123
soggy_potatoe
thx this helped alot with work i needed to catch up on your an absolute ledgend cheers
Miss Ventham
Very interesting and helpful
yolo boi
this was not useful because wherer is nokia brick? reeeeeeeeeeeeeeereeeeeeeeeeeeereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeereeeeeeeeee
yolo boi
this was not useful because wherer is nokia brick? reeeeeeeeeeeeeeereeeeeeeeeeeeereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeereeeeeeeeee
IsMathRelatedToScience
Big PP
sksksskskskk
no mention of recent phones
ur moda
helped with my dady issues;)
jeevan
hey x
no
lmao loser
potato
very epic
Freddie
No mention of RIM/Blackberry? Lots of gaps.
Guy studying Engineering
There is a lot of information you have missed out. There is 12 years of development and innovation you haven't put in. Better screens? Slimmer phones? Biometrics? Also, you have given way to much power to the users here....
Year 11 Guy studying Engineering
There is a lot of information you have missed out. There is 12 years of development and innovation you haven't put in. Better screens? Slimmer phones? Biometrics?
Aaron
i need help im in school and we need to make a phone time line plz help
Aaron
i need help im in school and we need to make a phone time line plz help
Totally rad dude
this timeline is really, really cool and epic! YOLO GUYS
good
good
Bob
What a load of bull, no use what so ever, absolutely rubbish!!!
Rick Astley
We're no strangers to love You know the rules and so do I A full commitment's what I'm thinking of You wouldn't get this from any other guy I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling Gotta make you understand Never gonna give you up Never gonna let you down Never gonna run around and desert you Never gonna make you cry Never gonna say goodbye Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you We've known each other for so long Your heart's been aching but you're too shy to say it Inside we both know what's been going on We know the game and we're gonna play it And if you ask me how I'm feeling Don't tell me you're too blind to see Never gonna give you up Never gonna let you down Never gonna run around and desert you Never gonna make you cry Never gonna say goodbye Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you Never gonna give you up Never gonna let you down Never gonna run around and desert you Never gonna make you cry Never gonna say goodbye Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you Never gonna give, never gonna give (Give you up) (Ooh) Never gonna give, never gonna give (Give you up) We've known each other for so long Your heart's been aching but you're too shy to say it Inside we both know what's been going on We know the game and we're gonna play it I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling Gotta make you understand Never gonna give you up Never gonna let you down Never gonna run around and desert you Never gonna make you cry Never gonna say goodbye Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you Never gonna give you up Never gonna let you down Never gonna run around and desert you Never gonna make you cry Never gonna say goodbye Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you Never gonna give you up Never gonna let you down Never gonna run around and desert you Never gonna make you cry
Ollie
Very useful for my chronolgy homework
peter parker
I saw you could leave a comment and i thought it would be funny to leave one to
peter parker
I saw you could leave a comment and i thought it would be funny to leave one to
hugh mungus
this is useful because our peng DT teacher isnt here and we have been told to do a timeline on phones as cover work. thanks for making my life easy. dont nonce me thanks. im only 3.
hugh mungus
this is useful because our peng DT teacher isnt here and we have been told to do a timeline on phones as cover work. thanks for making my life easy. dont nonce me thanks. im only 3.
sarocha waikham
non
i like chinese food
phones were crap back them amiright!!!???
i like chinese food
phones were crap back them amiright!!!???
Rhinnooooo
Sick timeline m8
JAke a dong
i enjoy phines
Clifford
I just want to share few things I learned from the history of the cell phone from this blog: https://blog.unlockbase.com/a-brief-history-of-the-cellphone/
Dan
Very usefull, I thank you. Good good! -DAN YR10
BUMFACE
I THINK MEH MAM WILL LIKE THESE ADVICE FOR COUPLES
Your mum
This is amazeballs i want it. In my room. in my bed. now.
your dad
This is gayy
lol
k
loooooool
looool crap jokes
Your mum\'s my toy
This was good i just copy pasted for my TAS project. And i jerked off to the Nokia bruh
Your mum\'s my toy
This was good i just copy pasted for my TAS project. And i jerked off to the Nokia bruh
jack
thanks a bumch
Sam Pepper
Sexy timeline mofo
andrew fucktard
it very good is and I grammer very wellerly
Ready to mingle :)
this will help me loads with my work (copy and paste) this is going to help me a load with cheating :)
EthPunch Hedgehog
This is perfect for some DT homework that I'm doing at the moment!
Homework
Yay thanks for my homework
Sir Wank ALOT
Very gud website my friend, i r8 1/8 but
StuartiamosS
very cool very swag, I like it
Kim Jong-un
I am looking for a high quality phone for about 600 pesos. Contact me at 666-6666-666. Thank you -Mr Un
Boy student
Sort of helpful
jj
lol very nice
Mark
There is a really usefull youtube channel about old mobile phones. I've asked the guy a whole load of questions and he's come back with the info....and you get to see the phones in the videos too!! well cool! Here is the link to youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLVO4L7y6DYL4SboNyA15wQ
yr 9 Girl Student
Thanks, helped an awful lot with IT work at school :)xox
Ellie G
So useful when working! :3 /)^3^(\\
Ellie G
So useful when working! :3 /)^3^(\\
yr9 girl student
like this.
yr9 girl student
Very useful for my IT Homework that I have had trouble with! Thanks!
Josh Lane
Very useful timeline for my BTEC IT course. Hi Jack!
uguigui
guygf
some girl
This was really useful for my homework for school but needs updating!
Eden B- Black/White Caribbean
sick timeline bruv very informational. add me on kik or dm me
A boy who cant be botherd for homework
Thanks... LOL
A boy who cant be botherd for homework
Thank you this is a very good timeline it helps me with my homework too!!!
mrchickenwings20
verycoolveryswagilikeit
a boy at school
very usefull
Jim Carlton
I finally get through to you, and you expect me to leave a message! .... Grrrr!
Don Carlton
Gotta say, brilliant timeline on mobile history you see. I have a hobby in this field of mobiliear phonage. the 1992 iphone was amazing, used it for getting all the latest 90's apps like angrie byrds.#Haveniceday
hae ji kang
hi this is hae ji kang from korea. i would like to buy benefon esc which produced around 1997-8. if you have it, please let me know
pixie jennifer
absolutley rubbish
Jon-Cameron
There's a significant gap between 2003 and 2007. The first touch screen / smartphone was not the iPhone.. what about the XDA range for example? And why stop at the iPhone? There's an awful lot of overtaking milestones of importance since, like 4G, 3D, operating systems and screen technology to name a few.
lol
very nice timeline
 
   
Mobile phone history