Today, from the 11-year-old who has not even experienced teenage to the 75-year-old grandmother who has experienced everything in life, have a smartphone in their hands. It does not matter where you stand economically in society, you can have access to the internet and phones easily. Humans require interaction with these machines more than they need to interact with society and surroundings. As scary as this sounds, it’s true.
It’s funny how phones came into existence for the sole purpose of making calls and now almost all the work is done over a phone. The transformation from calls to texting, gaming, internet, photography, videography, music as well as style is an extensive journey. Over these years, among the thousands of phones and hundreds of companies, some made their mark in history and an impression on the minds more than the others. Let’s look back at the phones that changed it all, and raised the bar for the phones to come.
Motorola DynaTac (1983)
April 3, 1973 — a Motorola exec made what is widely considered to be the initial call on what we’d recognize now as the first truly mobile phone. He used it to call a rival, as lore has it, at Bell Labs, from his Motorola DynaTAC. It was the first commercially-available mobile phone, costing about US$4,000.
The iconic phone, weighing in at a kilogram at least, was a beast by today’s standards. Your phone probably weighs less than a tenth of that. Check out the History of the Mobile Phone infographic below and you’ll see that the technology behind that — and the tech behind the cellular network that Bell soon after debuted — dates back even further. To 1946. Also below, take a look at the 1973-era Motorola DynaTAC and the first cell-based DynaTAC c. 1983 and find out what the letters in the name stood for
The Motorola DynaTAC was featured in at least two high-profile 1980s-set movies. There’s a Motorola DynaTAC in the movie American Psycho. And no one will ever forget the scene from Wall Street, in which the character Gordon Gekko uses one. In the scene, Gordon is standing on the beach talking on a DynaTAC to Bud Fox saying, “Money never sleeps” and “this is your wake up call, pal.”
IBM Simon (1994)
In this world full of smartphones, do you ever wonder how or when all of it began? With each passing day, we are transforming from humans to machines, and ironically the phone that started it all had a very human name, Simon.
IBM in 1994 came up with the world’s first ever smartphone. It was touchscreen, had email capability and a handful of built-in apps, including a world clock, calendar, calculator and a sketch pad.
These features definitely seemed very exciting in 1994, but just like today, an important factor for any phone was battery life. It would be insulting to batteries to call Simon’s battery life as it lasted just for an hour. And just like this short-lived battery, was its shelf life. It’s said that the IBM smartphone could not even capture the market for 6 months and was a big failure.
Yet it makes it to our list as it was a game-changer. Though Nokia led the market at that time, IBM came up with a technology that inspired all tech giants in the making to develop phones that rule mankind.
Blackberry 850 RIM (1999)
The RIM 850 Wireless Handheld (pictured) was announced on 12 July, 1999. Note how it was not yet called a BlackBerry; it was, however, the one that garnered it some attention. The device itself (850 or 950, depending on network and locality, a recurrent theme for RIM) had a six- or eight-line display and was capable of sending messages, emails and had calendars, address books, task lists, a calculator and an alarm function. It was one of the first wireless devices capable of connecting people to their corporate email and contacts. It had 4MB of memory, was powered by one AA battery and weighed 133g, which is exactly the same as an iPhone 3G. It also had a QWERTY keyboard, of course.
Key Features of the RIM Interactive Pager 850 include 32-bit Intel386 processor, with 2 MB Intel Flash memory; Embedded wireless modem with 2 watt transmitter and high-efficiency receiver; Optimized keyboard and thumb-operated track wheel; Easy-to-read back lit screen (selectable 8-line or 6-line display); Wearable size – 3.5″x 2.5″ x 0.93″ (weighs less than 5 oz with battery) ; PC synchronization through cradle using Puma Technology’s Intellisync software; Intuitive icon and menu-driven interface; Selectable alerts; Always On, Always Connected to the wireless network; Software Developer’s Kit available for custom application development; Operates over 800 MHz DataTAC networks.
This full-featured, connected organizer – includes calendar, address book, task list and alarm. This unit is ideal for busy professionals.
Nokia 3310 (2000)
Nokia started its journey with Nokia 1011 that came out in 1992 with GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications Network) but the series that made the headlines was the Nokia 3310. This was one of the most popular phones that Nokia ever produced and it sold 126 million units all across the world in the year it came out.
The most amazing feature of the phone was its battery life. With its easy to use interface, the phone grabbed almost everyone’s attention and is still considered to be one of the strongest phones.
We often make friends keeping in mind whether one is a PubG fan or Call of Duty or neither today but back in the day, Nokia brought everyone together through Snake II. Not only was it fun to play, but easy too. I remember my grandfather asking me to stop playing that all day, and playing the same game five minutes after taking the phone from me. Nokia started a series of beautiful games and with each updated new model, they came up with some of the best childhood games i remember. From Bounce to Cricket, it aced it all.
Even though Nokia has become irrelevant today, whenever one will talk about battery life, strength or og gaming, Nokia will be remembered, always.
Moto Razr V3 (2004)
I often wonder how or when did i start seeing my dad as cool and it takes me back to 2004. He is just home from work, we are about to start our evening cricket session which is as usual interrupted by his work calls. But this time, he takes out a shiny black object from his pocket, i can very well see a beautiful “M” carved on its front and he flips it open and says, “Hey”. The Moto Razr V3. One of the most stylish designs that caught everyone’s attention with just a flip.
It had features like 3G connectivity, a VGA camera, video recording, Bluetooth, WAP Internet browsing and downloadable MP3 ringtones. Motorola kept updating this model as they realised how big a hit it was. They retained the design and kept adding more features. By 2006 it had sold around 50 million units.
Sometimes you push your limits in love, first the loyal users pushed it by not switching to any other brand and then Motorola by not introducing a more tech advanced model. By 2007, with the entry of iPhone and Blackberry in the markets, people started switching and soon the Razr was erased.
Motorola kept coming up with different smartphones but none could keep up with their competitors or match the popularity that the stylish Razr V3 had.
Sony Ericsson Walkman W800 (2005)
In 2005, Sony Ericsson kicked off its entry into the mobile music market with the announcement of the W800, the first Walkman branded mobile phone. It was now possible to listen to music, handle phone calls and take great pictures and video, all with one device and with no compromise on quality. The Sony Ericsson W800 was the first product to combine a mobile phone, a high quality digital music player with up to 30 hours’ battery life, and a 2 Megapixel camera. All of this was packaged in a slim, lightweight device with ultra-stylish design.
Sony’s world famous Walkman mobile music heritage made the W800 a serious contestant in the digital music player market. Sound quality is excellent. The W800 was supplied with quality stereo headphones and it was compatible with the proven, industry standard MP3 and AAC music file formats. Storage capacity was also plentiful as the supplied 0.5GB Memory Stick Duo gave capacity for around 150 music tracks, or 10-12 full length CDs from the user’s existing CD collection. And loading music into the player was a breeze thanks to the supplied Disk2Phone software, which enables quick, convenient transfer of music CD’s onto the phone via a PC. Keeping the collection up to date was no trouble at all as the software made it easy to browse, sort, find, transfer and delete music files.
The W800’s intuitive interface made it a breeze to use the music player and the functionality of phone, music player and camera are carefully integrated. Also, owners never missed a call when listening to music, as the phone ring was played through the stereo headphones. If the user chose to take the call the music was paused for the call duration. The music player was operated with just one Direct Music button that played, paused and stopped tracks, and player and phone could be used independently of each other, so for example the user can switch the phone off for a plane journey while still enjoying the music player.
While you were reading all of these above specs, you might have been like, eh this isn’t new. But in 2005, this was very new. This let people carry just one device with themselves that enabled them to enjoy their music and do calls at the same time.
Apple iPhone (2007)
More than 12 years ago, Steve Jobs revealed the first iPhone to the world.
It was a revelation.
Before the iPhone came out, smartphones were clunky devices — half keyboard and half screen. Full websites didn’t run on mobile phones, so companies were forced to build weak, mobile versions of their sites.
The iPhone changed all that. And yet, the typical smartphone experiences we all enjoy today didn’t happen overnight. It took years of Apple adding feature upon feature. By today’s standards, the original iPhone was a primitive brick.
Beyond the touchscreen and sleek design, the defining concept of modern smartphones is apps. Unbelievably, when Apple first launched the iPhone it had no App Store.
Steve Jobs wasn’t sure if he wanted to have one because of his desire to totally control the experience. Eventually, he relented. And it’s a good thing he did, because Apple’s App Store set the standard for how to extend smartphone functionality.
While the iPhone was a revelation when it was released, it still had a long way to go.
Blackberry Bold 9000 (2008)
A champion phone in the history of smartphones as well as Blackberry’s greatest invention was the Blackberry Bold 9000. Till 2008, Blackberry had come up with amazing phones, winning the trust of the consumers, but something was missing. That missing void was filled by the Bold 9000 creating its own space in a market that saw heavy competition from Apple’s iPhone.
This model was a big change from the previous ones in terms of its design and style. Blackberry ditched their plastic body and came up with a premium looking phone. It is said that Blackberry Bold 9000 had one of the greatest physical keyboards of all time and i believe it. I was fortunate enough to experience it first hand.
If you ask me, the first time i was jealous of my elder sibling was when i saw her with this Blackberry Bold 9000. She was exchanging bbm pin with her friends and typing at a speed i had not seen anyone before, thanks to the famous QWERTY keyboard. Almost every teenager was a fan of the Blackberry messenger and everybody, whether a Blackberry user or not had heard how great it was.
Blackberry was able to break the barrier that they just produce phones for business professionals by coming up with this stylish model. The touchscreen era made sure that Blackberry takes a backseat, but mind you, Bold 9000 still remains very relevant and popular as Blackberry is looking to make a comeback in the markets.
HTC Dream/T-Mobile G1 (2008)
HTC Started a legacy by coming with the first Android phone ever, the HTC Dream. Even then HTC Dream was not known to be among the fancy looking phones and could not compete with iPhone, Blackberry Bold 9000, Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 or the Nokia N96 in terms of style and design. But what made it stand out was its all new OS experience as well as its unique form.
The Engadget described it as “a gadget in a 1970’s sci-fi movie set in the year 2038” at the time of its release. Under its slide out display, lay the QWERTY keypad. It catered both audiences, the ones who love the new touchscreen change as well as the ones who could not move on from the keyboard. The phone also featured five physical buttons. In addition to the at-the-time-traditional answer and drop call buttons, the G1 had home, back, and menu buttons.
The HTC-Google collaboration turned a lot of heads with their exciting features. Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube as well as a basic HTML browser that opened the Google search engine came pre-installed. But the most exciting feature was the Android market, Google Play Store.
HTC captured 6% share of the market then and slowly faded off the market. This did not mean an end to the Android OS. In fact, HTC paired up with Google to come up with the Google Nexus One 2 years after the Dream. Today, almost 75% of the market is captured by Android, which makes HTC Dream the source of it all.
Samsung Galaxy Note (2011)
The device that most certainly singlehandedly kickstarted the large-screen trend and became widely-accepted as the first commercially-successful phablet was 2011’s Samsung Galaxy Note. What’s more, the “phablet” portmanteau term (a word concoction between “phone” and “tablet”) essentially made its debut alongside the first Note. It was obnoxiously large for its time, overspec’d, and was going to be a disastrous flop because nobody wants to carry a monstrous 5.3″ device around. Or so they said.
The first Galaxy Note did not tank. Actually, it pioneered what is now one of the most popular and successful smartphone lineups to date.
With time, devices grew in size, and Samsung Notes are no longer the largest devices on the block, but they still have an undeniable charisma. Though it could be speculated that they are not as popular as the regular Galaxy lineup, each and every Galaxy Note has been generally accepted as the yardstick for big phone – they are usually the most power-laden and feature-packed Samsung devices.
Our reason behind preparing this list of era-defining smartphones was simple: No smartphone has ever been evergreen. Each of them have paved a way for further advancements, and whether they worked in the industry or not, that’s not important here. What’s important is that they brought a change, a change that everybody embraced in the following years.
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