- The first cellular phone call was made in 1973 by Motorolaâs Martin Cooper, and the first commercially available devices wouldnât hit the market for another decade.
- The Nokia 9000 Communicator was an early cell phone with smart functionality, including word processing, email, and a web browser, and came with a full-blown Intel i386 CPU.
- The Hagenuk MT-2000 was the first cell phone to include a mobile game, a Tetris clone, and the IBM Simon is considered the first true smartphone ever released.
- The Motorola International 3200 was the first digital mobile phone, and the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X was the first commercially viable cell phone, taking up to ten hours to charge and costing the equivalent of $12,000 in cash when adjusting for inflation.
- The MicroTAC 9800X was the first true flip phone from Motorola, and the Nokia 1011 was the very first cell phone to utilize SMS as a messaging standard and used the GSM mobile network standard.
What are the oldest cell phones? It is hard to believe, but the portable handset wasn’t always a fixture in modern life. That said, it is honestly quite shocking how far back the technology goes. Now, the cell phones featured today aren’t going to be directly comparable to the devices you carry with you daily.
However, there is certainly something to be said about the forebears of the mobile revolution. Tuck in and prepare for a breezy jaunt through the history of cell phones to see where it all began.
Cell Phone Primer
Cell phones as a whole have a fairly long history in the public eye. Ignoring mobile options like car phones, the first cellular phone call was made in 1973 by Motorola’s Martin Cooper. The first commercially available devices wouldn’t hit the market for another decade with the release of the world’s first cell phone.
Granted, this was a far cry from the scope and function of your modern smartphone. The novelty of having a portable device that could readily call landlines was nothing short of revolutionary. That said, there were some distinct drawbacks to the original mobile phones. Rather than give away the whole story, read on and discover some of the firsts in the world of cellular phones.
9. Nokia 9000 Communicator
|Original Retail Price||$800|
The Nokia 9000 Communicator was an oddity in the early days of the cell phone manufacturer. While cell phones have had smart functionality to some extent for decades, nothing would approach what the 9000 Communicator was doing.
This pricey mobile phone came with a full complement of productivity software with word processing, email, and a web browser all included. It was hindered somewhat by its extremely bulky size and the overall fragility of the hinge for the fold-out screen.
Interestingly, it came with a full-blown Intel i386 CPU, making it a portable PC with a cumbersome method of operation.
8. Nokia 8110
|Original Retail Price||N/A|
There really isn’t much to say that’s notable about the Nokia 8110. If you’re familiar with the method of operation, it was like being right at home with the slider phone. The main selling point was the aforementioned slide, which could open and close for accepting and hanging up on calls.
However, this very same slide mechanism had issues regarding overall function. If dust or dirt ended up on the rails of the slide, it made operating the phone quite difficult. This very same model of cell phone was made famous by its inclusion in 1999’s The Matrix, which saw Keanu Reeves using one on screen.
7. Motorola StarTAC
|Original Retail Price||$1000|
While some of the phones featured in this guide stretch the definition of mobile, the StarTAC lived up to the name. This was the first true flip phone released by Motorola, which will show up again throughout this list.
The StarTAC itself was a runaway success, being a trendy and chic mobile phone. It also has enduring popularity, with Motorola going on to reissue the phone two more times in 2004 and again in 2007 for South Korean markets. It might not have the same cultural cachet as the RAZR, but this is an iconic piece of tech for the 90s.
6. Hagenuk MT-2000
|Original Retail Price||N/A|
The Hagenuk MT-2000 is relegated to the sidelines of history. Its manufacturer didn’t last very long after the initial release of the device, closing its doors for good mere weeks after the release. However, what makes the MT-2000 notable is the inclusion of the first mobile game.
The older readers in the audience no doubt remember Nokia’s Snake and other similar games. However, the very start of that trend can perhaps be claimed by Hagenuk. The MT-2000 came with a Tetris clone for killing time, which must have been quite the feat considering the tiny screen and huge size of the handset itself.
5. IBM Simon
|Original Retail Price||Up to $1099|
IBM used to be one of the top dogs when it came to technology. It’s hard to believe now, considering they’ve been out of the consumer space for decades. There was a time when IBM was a mark of extreme quality and innovation, however.
The IBM Simon is perhaps the first true smartphone ever released. This unwieldy cell phone was manufactured with help from Mitsubishi Electric. The Simon was a PDA with phone functionality attached, something that would be seen later on down the line with the release of devices like the Blackberry and Palm Treo years later.
4. Nokia 1011
|Original Retail Price||$1370|
Unfortunately, time and advances in tech have stolen away some of the luster from Nokia’s brand. The 1011 was a landmark release for the Finnish-based tech company, however. While it was mostly intended for European markets, the Nokia 1011 was noticeably slimmer and more compact than some of its peers.
However, that isn’t what the main selling point was for the Nokia 1011. This was the very first cell phone to utilize SMS as a messaging standard. While texting is fairly common these days, there was at least one point in time when it was a killer reason for purchasing a cell phone.
Another notable feature of the Nokia 1011 was its use of the GSM mobile network standard. These days the lines are a bit fuzzier over mobile networks, but there was a time when GSM had a certain sheen compared to the analog-based cell phones predating the 1011.
3. Motorola International 3200
|Original Retail Price||$1238|
Motorola was one of the pioneers of early cell phones. It only makes sense that the manufacturer would hold the distinction of developing the first digital mobile phone. While Motorola didn’t really develop the first fully digital cell phone, this one you could actually carry with you.
The International 3200 was a bulky device, but in 1992, there really wasn’t much else on the market with similar functionality. It did prove to be a turning point for cell phones as a whole, with more and more manufacturers adopting digital technology for future handsets.
2. Motorola MicroTAC 9800X
|Original Retail Price||$2495 to $3495|
Few cell phones have had the same impact as the MicroTAC 9800X. This was a landmark release, and it dates all the way back to 1989, making it one of the oldest cell phones in existence. The MicroTAC 9800X was the first true flip phone from Motorola, even if it wasn’t a full flip phone.
The Microtac would prove to be a fairly popular phone and went on to influence hundreds of copycats. Before the advent of smartphones, this was easily one of the most influential devices when creating a portable and easily stowed phone.
1. Motorola DynaTAC 8000X
|Original Retail Price||$3995|
Last, but certainly not least, is the first commercially viable cell phone. The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X was the first real portable handset to be sold on the mass market. As you can imagine, this early take on the cell phone wasn’t really ready for the races.
It took up to ten hours to charge and cost the equivalent of $12,000 in cash when adjusting for inflation. Still, it laid the groundwork for a lot of important innovations. At the time it was an expensive novelty more relegated for jet-setting executives than the average person.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Twin Sails/Shutterstock.com.