Comparing the First Mobile Phone to Today’s Smartphone

Just 44 years ago, the first mobile phone was made. It is strange to think about a time when there were no cell phones. Our smartphones are, in fact, an extension of ourselves. 

When we leave our homes without them, it instantly feels like we’re missing a limb. The mobile phone has expanded by leaps and bounds since its inception, and has developed from simple devices to multifunctional smartphones. 


We went from playing the wickedly addictive Snakes on our indestructible Nokia phones, to Candy Crush on our smartphones. The days of flip phones are gone, as we exchanged them for sleek, big-screen smartphones. Here are some details you need to know about the first mobile phone compared to smartphones.

Comparing the First Mobile Phone to Today's Smartphone
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The First-Ever Portable Mobile Phone (1983-1990)

The world got the first-ever portable cell phone in the form of the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X in 1983. It cost an eye-watering USD 4000 and, at the time, it was a massive status symbol. 


Two years later, the first cell phone call was made on UK soil. The fortunate beneficiary was the then Vodafone chairman Sir Ernest Harrison. 

Motorola followed up the DynaTAC with the 9800X or MicroTAC in 1989. It came with a fold-down keyboard cover and set the standard for the 90s flip phone form factor.

The DynaTac 8000X was dubbed the brick phone by users because of its similarity in size and weight to a typical clay-fired brick. A concept later extended to other brands compared to the smaller handsets that appeared in the 1990s.


Consumer Handsets (1991-1994)

GSM first launched the Orbitel TPU 900 to market in Europe in 1991, but mobile phones were no longer restricted to business use until 1992. 

The mass manufacturing of digital displays paved the way for cost-effective electronic handsets. With the Nokia 1011 arriving that year, Nokia was one of the first to take advantage of this change.

Then the Colors Came (1995-1998)

The Siemens S10 brought mobile phone screens to life for the first time in 1997, although it offered only four colors. 

The same year, Hagenuk launched the first system without an external aerial called Global Handy. With Ericcson offering swappable colored front keyboard panels, customization also kicked off in a big way. 

Nokia launched a range of interchangeable ‘Xpress-on’ covers on the 5100 series the following year, making it the first fashion-oriented phone.

The smartphone was sold by carriers like AT&T Wireless, Virgin Mobile USA, Metro PCS, Verizon Wireless, and retailers including Best Buy and Radio Shack. This model does not have a rear camera. This mobile phone has an 1800 mAh Li-Ion battery that is removable. 

The Feature Phones (1998-2002)

In 1999, Nokia unveiled the 7110, the first system to take advantage of WAP (mobile wireless network access to information). This model came for about $900 at that time. 

Sharp introduced the very first camera phone in the world a year later; the J-SH04. It was available only in Japan but marked the beginning of the fascination with camera photography.

It wasn’t until 2002, however, and the introduction of the Sony Ericsson T68i and its clip-on camera, that Western audiences began taking an interest in the mobile phone.

The Mobile Data Revolution (2003-2006)

In March 2003, the 3G rollout saw download rates of up to 2MBS, with “3” the first to sell this technology in the UK. 

With its range of popular BlackBerry devices like the 8100 Pearl, RIM brought mobile email to the masses. 

The advent of front-facing cameras on devices like the Sony Ericsson Z1010 in 2003 made it possible, but not widespread, to call video.

Phones Keep Getting Smarter (2007-Present)

Smartphones have become increasingly integral to daily life, providing much more than just the functionality of communication. The UK’s first 4G service was launched by EE in 2012 in 11 cities, with download speeds of up to 12mbps. 

First, with Google Talk, voice recognition was widespread before Apple introduced Siri onto the market. To capitalize on growth in mobile health & wellness, Samsung added a built-in heart rate monitor to its flagship Galaxy S5.

Mobile payments now arise with Apple Pay and Android Pay, giving users the ability to buy stuff with their smartphone. In May 2019, EE launched the UK’s first 5 G service in 6 towns. 

Trends in smartphone design continue to strive for an all-screen interface, with OnePlus adding the selfie pop-up camera to its 7 Pro flagship device.

Comparing the First Mobile Phone to Today's Smartphone
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Most of us have seen how mobile phones have changed, but those who grew up with smartphones may wonder how it has changed so drastically. Technology has progressed over the last few decades with a number of exciting innovations.

For those who witnessed the first mobile phone, it is really impressive to see how cell phones have developed so quickly.