The mobile phone evolution

A history of the mobile phone, from the Motorola DYNATac 8000x to the Apple iPhone 3G

the evolution of the mobile phone

In the beginning... phones were real eyesores. Like most types of technology, mobile phones started out large and unwieldy and have gradually shrunk down to lighter weights and more manageable sizes and shapes. And as mobile phones have grown smaller over the years, the number of applications they support have grown larger, as devices that were once used exclusively for voice services are now used to send and receive email, to take pictures, to surf the Internet and to play music. In this slideshow we'll trace the evolution of the mobile phone from their primitive early models in the 1980s to their current dynamic smartphone models.

Motorola DYNATac 8000x (1983)

As the first mobile phone to be officially cleared by the Federal Communications Commission for commercial use, the DYNATac 8000x was about what you'd expect from a technological prototype: it was large (more than 10 inches long) and heavy (nearly two pounds). It also had a large antenna sticking out of it, which over the years would gradually be reduced to the point where it could be placed within the device itself.

Motorola StarTac (1996)

What a difference 13 years make! In contrast to the clunky DYNATac brands, Motorola's StarTac was the world's first "clamshell" phone that folded in half when not in use. The phone also included a vastly slimmer antenna than the DYNATac series, and weighed a mere 3.1 ounces.

Nokia 3210 (1999)

This candybar Nokia model was the first brand to have an internal antenna, a feature that we now take for granted in all our mobile devices.

Nokia 7110 (1999)

Although the 7110 looked like a standard candybar phone at first glance, it was actually the first phone to feature a slide-out keypad cover. It was also the first phone to feature a Wireless Application Protocol browser, which let it access the Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

Sharp J-SH04 (2000)

Any high school student who has unwittingly had a humiliating moment photographed and posted on the Web can thank the Sharp J-SH04, which debuted in 2000 as the world's first camera phone and which served as the prototype for the feature-rich phones that would be released throughout the decade.

BlackBerry 5810 (2002)

2002 was the year that Research in Motion began its conquest of the enterprise wireless market, as the company released its first BlackBerry device that included voice capabilities. As the prototype for today's smartphones, the 5810 offered users voice service, email, text messaging, a web browser and a Java development platform. Although it looks primitive compared to today's BlackBerry Storm smartphone, the 5810 was a groundbreaking model that made RIM into a major player in the mobile phone market.

Nokia 1100 (2003)

Even with the success of the Apple iPhone and the Motorola Razr series, this simple candybar model is still the best-selling mobile phone of all-time, with more than 200 million units sold to date.

Motorola Razr v3 (2004)

Although this phone didn't break any new technological ground, it was an immensely successful model that earned acclaim for its sleek design that included a 2.2-inch color LCD display, a 640x480 resolution camera and Bluetooth capabilities. While Motorola has since fallen on harder times, the Razr is still one of the most popular models ever produced, selling over 100 million units worldwide.

Goldvish Le Million (2007)

With its price clocking in at more than $1 million, this Goldvish model is the most ludicrously expensive cell phone in world history. How absurd is this phone? Well, it is made out of 18-carat white gold and is covered with more than 1,800 (!!!) diamonds. In other words, this is definitely not the sort of phone that you'd want to drop into the toilet.

The Apple iPhone (2007)

One of the most revolutionary gadgets ever produced, the iPhone completely changed the game for smartphone design, offering a touchscreen display that actually made surfing the Web on mobile phones an enjoyable experience. Additionally, the phone featured gave users the ability to listen to music and watch movies, as well as the option to surf the web over local Wi-Fi connections. Several smartphones have since followed in the iPhone's path, including the BlackBerry Storm, the Samsung Instinct, the Palm Pre and the HTC G1.

The "Planet" phone (2009?)

This handset, which won first prize in LG's cell phone design competition last year , looks more like a powder makeup kit than a cell phone. But its unique circular design features several LEDs on the top half of the phone that each represent a different person within your phone directory. The more you talk to a person, the closer their light will remain near the center of the LED display. The less frequently you talk to them, the more their light will be pushed out to the edge of the display.

What next?

What do you think mobile phones are headed in the future? Will they be able to project images directly into peoples' brains? Enable time travel by emitting negatively-dense energy? Let us know in the comments!

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.