Mobile Phone's History in 10 Industry-Changing Devices

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-01-24 Print this article Print

The history of the mobile phone can be divided into everything that happened before 2007 and everything that happened after Steve Jobs took the stage at MacWorld that January and introduced the iPhone. Apple awakened a great swath of the world to technologies and capabilities that until then only workers in major enterprises had been enjoying. Even then, Apple radically simplified those capabilities and made the experience of using a smartphone fun. Of course, technological leaps and bounds were accomplished well before the iPhone acquainted even old uncles and grandmas with the concept of a store for mobile applications. Marvelously innovative companies—most notably Nokia, BlackBerry and Motorola—first imagined taking phones off walls and putting them into pockets. Later, they audaciously added to these devices all the things we once did solely on desktops, and then added the capabilities of our digital cameras and our game consoles. While these companies have been nudged to the sidelines for the most part, they offer critical lessons for companies hoping to hold on for longer than they did. The most critical lesson: never stop innovating. The moment a company pauses to enjoy its success, the high point it has reached will mark the beginning of its downfall.

  • Mobile Phone's History in 10 Industry-Changing Devices

    by Michelle Maisto
    1 - Mobile Phone's History in 10 Industry-Changing Devices
  • 1983: Motorola DynaTAC 8000X

    In 1974, a Motorola engineer made the first-ever mobile phone call. (He, of course, called the rival company racing to the accomplishment, to say he'd won.) Nine years later, Motorola introduced the DynaTAC 8000X, a phone that soon became synonymous with "Wall Street's" Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) calling Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) to say, "This is your wake-up call, pal."
    2 - 1983: Motorola DynaTAC 8000X
  • 1994: Nokia 2100 Series

    Far more pocketable was the Nokia 2100 series. Nokia hoped to sell 400,000 of them; instead, it sold 20 million. The 2100 series also transformed a clip of Spanish classical composer Francisco Tarrega's 19th century guitar piece "Gran Vals" into what the world came to recognize as "the Nokia ring." Nokia estimates that "Gran Vals" is now "one of the most frequently played pieces of music in the world."
    3 - 1994: Nokia 2100 Series
  • 1996: Motorola StarTAC 9800X

    Motorola slimmed down and updated the DynaTAC and introduced first a series of MicroTAC phones—the world's first clamshell phones—and then StarTAC phones. These tiny clamshell devices, or flip phones, introduced vibration as a way to notify a user of a new call or message. It's estimated that 60 million StarTAC phones were sold.
    4 - 1996: Motorola StarTAC 9800X
  • 1996: Nokia 9000 Communicator

    Nokia wowed the world with the 9000 Communicator. Its exterior featured a small display and a traditional keypad, but then the phone could be split open to reveal a full QWERTY keypad and a display nearly as long as the phone. In 1996, the Communicator looked shockingly, wonderfully and awe inspiringly futuristic.
    5 - 1996: Nokia 9000 Communicator
  • 1999: Research In Motion BlackBerry 850

    BlackBerry excited executives with the 850, a pager with a small display, a QWERTY keyboard, a wireless data connection and the ability to securely synchronize with a corporate email system.
    6 - 1999: Research In Motion BlackBerry 850
  • 2000: Nokia Communicator 9210

    In 2000, Nokia upgraded the Communicator. It gave its 9210 an ARM processor and the Symbian mobile operating system, making it Nokia's first true smartphone. The 9210 could access the Web, desk applications and email, and included a calendar, a presentation viewer and the ability to download third-party software. MP3 music player software was optional.
    7 - 2000: Nokia Communicator 9210
  • 2003: Nokia 6600

    Nokia was able to surge ahead of Motorola by offering a dynamic portfolio. In 2003, for example, it introduced both the 1100, an inexpensive phone for developing markets (which it ultimately sold 200 million units of) and the Nokia 6600, a Symbian-running smartphone with a Web browser, a VGA camera, a multimedia card expansion slot, a RealOne music player, Bluetooth and more.
    8 - 2003: Nokia 6600
  • 2003: Research In Motion BlackBerry 6210

    The BlackBerry 6210 was Research In Motion's 10th device but its first with a fully integrated phone. (Its predecessor had a phone but no speaker and had to be used with a headset.) An upgrade shortly afterward added a color display. "Before the iPhone … you were nobody if you didn't have a BlackBerry," said analyst Jack Gold, with J. Gold Associates.
    9 - 2003: Research In Motion BlackBerry 6210
  • 2004: Motorola Razr V3

    The tremendous success of the Razr—which was significantly skinnier and more attractive than anything on market—makes clear that in 2004, despite the technology being available, the great majority of Americans were not yet buying smartphones. Over four years, Motorola sold 130 million Razrs. While at its debut the Razr V3 cost $500, by 2007, after the iPhone was introduced, it was possible to buy a Razr for $30 with a two-year service contract.
    10 - 2004: Motorola Razr V3
  • 2007: Apple iPhone

    Apple introduced the iPhone by calling it a "widescreen iPod with touch controls, and a breakthrough Internet communications device with desktop-class email, Web browsing, searching and maps." Most importantly, the iPhone uniquely featured a large, multi-touch display. Apple didn't invent the smartphone, but by making it easy and intuitive to use, it changed how smartphones were used, who used them and what people expect when they pick up a mobile phone.
    11 - 2007: Apple iPhone

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