Smartphones are amazing devices now are very adaptable to today’s lifestyles due to the very powerful processors, onboard memory and integrated circuits which are now common in the little densely packed devices, they are so powerful and versatile that many people do not see the need to have a regular computer or laptop as not only are standard apps available that come pre-installed on the phones but there are wide selections of custom ones available from the device manufactures as well as third-party developers.
The original phones were very basic, could only make and receive phone calls that were costly and had simple dot matrix displays, the numeric buttons did not have any sort of text input options aside from numbers needed to make telephone calls.
The first genuine mobile phone service was made so by A T & T in the USA in 1946, the service was pretty limited only covering a small area with a few customers but it paved the way for further developments as well as showing the world that a truly mobile telecommunications service could be accomplished even though cellular technology had not been realised or come to fruition.
The first phone call was made in New York by Dr David Cooper, he used a prototype DynaTAC phone in 1973, back then the cellular systems divided airspace required into cells, this meant that there was a potential space for many more users on the network as each user only needed a unique channel in the cell for service. It took a further ten years before a commercial handset was available for the masses.
Japan set standards by releasing the first cellular phone service in 1979, it was offered as a carphone only service using bulky equipment but was a revelation to many who saw or actually had the opportunity to use the technology of the day, this was just ten years after Neil Armstrong set his feet upon the moon.
In 1981 the Nordic Telephone Network (NTN) system was launched in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden – the system was exported to Saudi Arabia and actually launched there a whole month earlier – it was very much improved system to the non-cellular radio network that was run by the state-owned telephone company, Televerket.
Along came 1983 and with it, the very first truly mobile phone was released by Motorola in the form of the DynaTAC 8000x, it was received as a massive status symbol, even today the phone is a much-wanted collector’s piece due to its then status and technological marvel.
Two years later in 1985 and the UK’s ETACS system was launched by Cellnet and Vodafone, two rival companies. The same year the French Radiocom 2000 system was launched initially only being available in Paris, user subscription rates were low and prices were high to use the system.
Germany launched its Netz-C system in 1986 which was a combination of the state-owned Deutsche Bundespost and Siemens company.
The first Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) service started in Europe in 1991 with supporting handsets that were required for the new digital system. The very first GSM phone was the Orbitel TPU 900, it was a basic and rugged phone, not one adopted by the masses as initially was pretty expensive and the device was just not that desirable, within a few months Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia brought out their own handsets.
Rolling into 1992 and with that the first UK consumer mobile handsets became available, it was an uphill struggle for companies to get customers on board, to begin with as the uptake was mainly made by commercial and business customers, an emphasis was put on emergency use for everyday users by Vodafone and the trend slowly took off.
The first text message was sent at a Christmas party by Neil Papworth*
*Read about this and other interesting facts about SMS text messaging in the ”Simple Message System (Text messages) history and usage“ article
IBM released the first smartphone in 1992 that was then made available for general sale in 1994, it was called the Simon Personal communicator (SPC) and whilst it was not very compact or sleek, it had several elements that won its accolade, it used ROM-DOS as the operating system that was a variation of MS-DOS environment and demonstrated a real use of computer processing power on a mobile device.
1993 saw the first One2One handsets, this was before GSM was launched and the phones ran on a new digital frequency of 1800MHz called Personal Communications Network (PCN). The providers who supplied this service were Orange and One2One and pushed their services towards consumers rather than businesses with Mercury One2One announcing the rollout of their service first.
Rolling over to 1994 and Nokia launched their second phone being the Nokia 2110, it was a very desirable business phone that had a totally new menu system that was easy to use with that it was a sleek and light mobile phone. We all know the ubiquitous Nokia ringtone – this is a melody called “Grande Valse” and was heard across continents and countries becoming very well known, some other handset owners changed their phone midi ringtones to the Nokia tune, just because they felt a little left out of the new trendy phones and lifestyle that went with them.
Mercury launched the first handsets, they were not so shiny and widely desired like the Nokia devices but they were accessible to many, some owning the very first mobile phone in their life. Orange then gave customers the chance to own one of the top mobile phones at the time being the Nokia 2140, it was a variation of the Nokia 2110 and was branded as the Nokia Orange.
Cellnet and Vodafon launched GSM services of their own.
In 1996 the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the UK announced proposals for mobile providers to maintain growth as well as a competitive nature with the UK mobile phones market over the next decade.
Vodafone launched the first prepaid phone service that allowed for people to have a handset and sim that then required “Top ups” to make phone calls and send messages, incoming calls were never restricted and gave many a much needed communications line, if only one way.
Then in 1997 the first phone without an external aerial arrived on the scene, it was the Hagenuk GlobalHandy and was a revelation to many. Some phones from other companies even re-introduced a fake aerial to a few handset to please consumers for a short while.
Ericcsson released the GA628, it had a customisable keypad surround and allowed people to have their own looks on the devices and started a trend with other phone manufactures releasing devices that could also be customised to their customers tastes.
Mercury One2One announced their own Pay As You Go (PAYG) service ‘Up 2 You’ in October 1997 with the Nortel m900 being the first GSM phone available on the market.
Siemens with the S10 was the first phone to demonstrate a colour screen, it was a little restricted having only four colours but paved the way for other manufacturers to release handsets with displays that were no longer monochrome in nature.
Nokia released the 5110 in 1998, it had truly changeable covers or facias known as ‘XpressOn’, it was an instant success.
In February 1999 Nokia showed the world Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) on the Nokia 7110 handset, it was a diluted version of the internet with a special browser, it was not ideal but gave people an insight into the World Wide Web, it was also costly to use but most tech is when it is first released so was not an issue for most who used it.
Mobile phones could only operate in single continents and countries in some cases until Motorola released the Timeport which was the world first Tri-Band phone, it allowed customers to carry on using their handsets having continual service in Europe, The Americas, the Middle East and Africa.
The very first camera phone was released by Sharp with the J-SH04, it was restricted to many as it could only be used in Japan.
In 2001 Mitsubishi showed the world the first mobile phone with a true colour display in the UK with the Trium Eclipse
T-mobile announced the first picture messaging service in the UK in 2002, the handset was the Sony Ericsson T68i, it was not a true camera phone as an extra module needed to be attached to take pictures and then some more costs were required to actually send them.
Nokia with the 7650 was released and was Europe’s first phone with a Symbian Operating System that had an integrated camera but was only available on a contract basis.
2003 saw the first 3G service by Hutchinson on ‘3’, network providers were slow to take up and put it in place with the ‘3’ network offering the faster data service offering three handsets: the Motorola A830, NEC e606 and the NEC e808.
In 2006, 12 licences were issued by Ofcom for concurrent access in the 1800 Mhz single spectrum block range.
Steve Jobs announced the Apple iPhone in 2007 which was accepted with much excitement and massive sales of the device.
Ofcom allowed for mobile devices to be used on aircraft in 2008 (1800Mhz GSM).
2010 saw licences to grant an increase of power with 3G in the 2100 Mhz range.
Ofcom were requested to vary licences to permit spectrum trading across the 900 and 1800 Mhz licences allowing UMTS then implementing ALF for the 900 and 1800 Mhz bands so allowing a wider range coverage for mobile networks.
Sprint, a USA provider released the first WiMAX smartphone with the HTC Evo 4G that started the crossover into faster communications as well as wider range coverages than that of existing 3G data services.
In 2011, Ofcom varied the 900 and 1800 Mhz licences of Everything Everywhere, Orange, Telefonica O2 and Vodafone permitting the use of UMTS in these bands.
Ofcom allowed mobile usage on ships and 900, 1800 and 2001 Mhz licences were made tradable.
In 2012 Samsung overtook Nokia in mobile phone shipments with 93m compared to 83m devices. The same years there were more mobile phones in existence than humans on the planet – in 2013 a report carried out by the International Telecommunications Union found that there were six billion mobile phone subscriptions, with a global population of seven billion.
2014 and the Mobile World congress took place, Samsung added biometrics to new phones, Fujittsu developed glove style tech and cloud based storage became real usable options.
Along came 2015 and social network use on mobile phones really starts to take off, the devices are now powerful enough for many sectors and use including journalism.
In 2016 web browsing on a mobile phone overtook traditional computer access due to the high definition screens available as well as good data rates.
Blackberry announced it would finally stop designing and producing its own phones, it lives on as a software designer and service provider but its hardware days are over because it never kept up with its Blackberry (then RIM) after the release of the iPhone. They did try to get into the Android world but this was a relative failure, sadly.
2017 and digital news was high on most mobile phone owners agenda with multiple streaming services available on the always-on networks.
Augmented and virtual reality services come to mobile phones. Nokia relaunch the 3310 handset, twenty years after its initial launch.
2018 and a wave of new innovation due to 5G data services arrives, there are many excited about the heightened data rates and those against the technology due to the millimetre by millimetre waves they utilize that causes cell and DNA damage in laboratory tests.
2019 saw a rollout of 5G services, foldable phones and an influx of Chinese models on the market.
In 2020, Huawei started rolling out 5G equipment much to the dismay of the UK government, there are different reasons for this and some accusations of spying but perhaps for the most part it is due to the Chinese make overtaking UK companies, it followed on from boycotting in the USA of Huawei and their equipment.
We cannot get away from mobile phones and smart devices, the power within them now is mindblowing, we cannot live without them but should also be careful not to spend too much time on them as well as being aware of our surroundings whilst using them as many accidents and deaths have happened to some just taking ‘selfies’.
Innovations are fast paced and the mobile markets are very adaptive to today’s consumer needs, we are only at the start of the smartphone journey.
Thanks for reading and add your comments below as to what you would like to see with mobile devices in the future, as well as if I have missed any crucial data out.