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Tags:   Smartphones,   Computers,   Future

By Mila Camilleri   -  August 13, 2014

Have you ever felt as helpless as when you forgot your phone at home? A day without it and all the information you've got on it, as well as its ability to keep you in constant contact with friends and family and you’re a fidgety mess. Life nowadays is unimaginable without our technological sidekicks: what did people do before they existed?  Actually, mobile phones have been around for over 25 years... although in those days you had to carry a bag around to hold your ‘portable’ telephone in. Here, SWAG traces the evolution of the mobile phone.

The very first call from a mobile phone in Malta was made in 1990 on what is now the Vodafone network, at the time called Telecell. This was a little bit late, considering the very first call ever on a cell phone was made in the USA in 1973, but we got there in the end.


This pioneering handheld device, created by Martin Cooper, was developed into the first commercial mobile phone in 1983. It was called the Motorola DynaTAC, and it weighed in at a hefty 1.1 kgs. It cost nearly $4,000 (€2,974) and took 10 hours to charge to give just half an hour of talk time. It could only be used for making phone calls but it could store 30 contact numbers in its memory… literally a brick by today’s standards.


Nokia and Motorola were the pioneers in the early days of mobile technology. It was in the '90s that phone designs started to become more slender. The first wave of handy-sized phones had external antennas and were GSM based with basic features, especially the Nokia models. The Nokia 8110 was the first sliding phone (1996) – it had a sliding cover that protected the keypad, and was nicknamed the Banana Phone because of its curved shape.


Another iconic Nokia model was the 5110 (1998), which was the first to have the much-loved Snake game, and we can’t not mention the Nokia 3310, which was released in 2000. It’s still popular today among the Internet generation because of its apparent indestructible build.


The Motorola StarTAC was the first flip phone (or clam shell) introduced in 1996, and was immortalised by the film Clueless. It sold millions of units and can be said to be the first phone that reached mainstream status. The fact that using it made people feel they were Captain Kirk using his communicator probably also contributed to its popularity.


The first ever text message was sent in 1992 but it wasn’t until many years later that texting became popular. The first phone with an SMS (texting) capability was the Nokia 8110, released in 1996. The Nokia 3210 (1999) introduced T9 predictive text, which was a (debatably) great success.


There was a heavy increase in SMS users by the year 2000, but the service really took off between 2001 and 2004, when phone technology took a significant leap and tariffs became standardised all over Europe and America.


Today, although trillions of text messages are sent every year, the overall amount has gone down since free messaging applications like Whatsapp, iMessage, and Skype amongst others, have become popular.


Until 2001, all phone displays were in black and white. The Nokia 8250 was the first device to offer a colour background and in 2002, the company introduced the first camera phone – the 7650. Nokia also went on to introduce the world to a dual screen mobile phone, meaning it had a screen on the outside, as well as the inside, to display incoming calls, the date and time, and other info.


One of the most well-known, slimmest phones at the time was the Motorola Razr (2004). This phone was revolutionary because for the first time, it could fit into one’s pocket. Around this time, RIM (Research in Motion) developed a couple of Blackberry models, which established Wi-Fi and QWERTY keyboards, while Samsung introduced music options to the mobile phone world in 2000, with the SPH-M100 Uproar.


The PalmOne Treo 600 was the hot device to have 10 years ago if you were a business-oriented person, because of its long battery life, camera and PDA, but it was overshadowed later on by Blackberry. You could say it was one of the first smartphones.


It was also around a decade ago that phones become a style accessory, shortly before the iconic iPhone hit the market. After the success of the iPod, Apple decided to tap into the smartphone world.


The iPhone was the first to introduce apps, a multi-touch interface and a whole host of smart interface revolutions. Samsung became the leading competitor of Apple with its Galaxy S series of phones - these were first introduced in 2010. The iOS versus Android system debate has been a hot potato since.


We’ve come an extremely long way in under 10 years, so what will the next 10 years bring? Innovative brands like Apple, Samsung and Nokia continue to surprise us with innovations in the mobile phone world. Possibly phones in the form of watches or rings, bendable screens, holographic capabilities, and even limitless battery life – some amazing stuff to look forward to.




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