The History of Mobile

By February 6, 2015 April 8th, 2019 Enterprise Mobility, Thought Leadership


For the first time in three years, iPhones have taken over the mobile phone market in the United States, driving Android to second place. The shift marks the increasing importance of mobile technology, and serves a reminder of how mobile didn’t even exist a hundred years ago. We took it as a chance to look back and find out more: how did mobile happen to begin with?



Introducing the “Handie Talkie.” Motorola made the SCR-536 at the height of WWII, shipping over 130,000 devices during the course of the war. It was a military-grade AM radio that you could take almost anywhere — so long as you weren’t very far from the person you wanted to talk to. The Handie Talkie had a 1 mile radius on land and a 3 mile radius at sea, making it better than its radio predecessors in military use, but not a very convenient everyday device.


The first commercial mobile telephone service was introduced by Bell System (that’s right, this is the company founded by famous phone founder Alexander Graham Bell). Mobile Telephone Service was great if you happened to have an extra $30 floating around each month (that’s $330 today), so the device never became mainstream. It was mostly used by truck fleet operators, reporters and anyone with enough spare cash to get the newest toy.


Martin Cooper, senior engineer at Motorola, made the first mobile phone call, using a 1.1 kilogram phone in the kindest fashion possible: Cooper rang up his rivals at Bell Labs and told them he was making the first mobile not-in-a-car phone call ever. 30 minutes of talk time with a 10 hour charge was great news.


Long story short: Phones were mammoths, but progress was made.



IBM Simon became the world’s first smartphone, working as a phone, pager, fax machine and PDA. Simon had a calendar, address book, calculator, notepad, email, games clock and a touchscreen with QWERTY keyboard, but you might remember its appearance in the 1995 Sandra Bullock movie The Net a little better:


1996 brought with it the world’s first clamshell phone — what we would later come to call flip phones. Motorola realized that you could fold phones in half, instead of just covering up the keyboard a la the 1980s. They were inspired by the original Star Trek series communicator, bringing us a little closer to the future.




The BlackBerry 5810 signalled the start of RIM’s heyday. For the next five years, Blackberrys were the go-to phone for anyone who wanted get their work done and keep moving. Of course, everything started to go downhill for RIM soon after.



The Motorola RAZR wowed the world when it came out in 2004. It wasn’t very different from previous phone models, but the RAZR’s sleek design and cameras redefined the clunky look associated with mobile phones until this point. Motorola sold around 50 million units of the phone by mid-2006.


It’s iPhone time. Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone at a MacWorld conference in San Francisco, completely shifting the ways in which people approached and related to mobile phones.



Sprint launched the HTC Evo, creating the world’s first phone equipped to reach 4G speeds. Android also took over more market share than its competitors, positioning it to be the iPhone’s most serious competition.


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Aashka Dave

Aashka Dave

Aashka is experienced in marketing, social media, writing and editing. She is currently pursuing degrees in Public Affairs Journalism and Romance Languages at the University of Georgia.