DynaTAC to iPhone: A History of Wireless Phones

Posted on 06 October 2008

If you have been around for a while, you are a witness to the fastest evolution of technology in history. Wireless Phones (also called mobile phones and cell phones) are no exception to this statement. Since 1983 ,they changing shape so fast that it is breathtaking to watch to advancements. If someone slept all the time from 1980′s to this day, It would be very difficult for him to recognize most of the stuff around him. He sure will be unable to tell the use of an iPhone.  It is indeed very hard to find a similarity between a Motorola DynaTAC 8000X( from 1983) and Apple’s iPhone(2007).

Wireless technology behind the wireless phone also evolved from 1G to 3G over time. According to techbiz.blog.com

wireless technology evolution

First generation of cellphones (1G) used analog signal transmission technique for communication between mobile and base stations. FDMA (Frequency Division Multiple Access) was the de facto protocol for distributing available frequency band among concurrent users. 1G cellphones were predated by mobile radio telephone technology (usually considered as 0G). Both 0G and 1G supported basic voice communication only.
2G introduced digital signal transmission technique along with TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) protocols. 2G needs much more careful consideration in order to understand the cellphone convergence as the two most prominent standards groups in worldwide cellular arena today – GSMA and CDG – have their roots here.

We have collected below some of very important milestones in history of wireless phone evolution.

Motorola DynaTAC 8000X  (1983)

The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X started the wireless communication revolution. It was also know as “brick” phone. suffered mostly from low battery life and signal loss issues.

First Wireless PhoneMotorola DynaTAC 8000X

Siemens Mobiltelefon C1 (1985 )

Siemens Mobiltelefon C1 entered the market at about same time as Motorola. It was bulky like hell but had good battery time and strong reception. due to it’s briefcase size, it was more of a car phone.

Radio Shack 17-1050 (1987)

Radio Shack 17-1050 were still single NAM Units with bits of improvement over Motorola phones. they became popular but readily taken over by AMPs revolution in wireless industry.

Motorola MicroTAC 9800X (1989)

Motorola hit the market by storm with it’s first slim, flip style wireless phone working on analog technology. MicroTAC’s design dominated the phone market for a long time to come after that. It had a nice 8 digit LED display that let you do most of the tasks. This was the first wireless phone adopted by masses.


Siemens S1 (1992)

Siemens S1 was the first wireless phone with a 4 line LCD display and many great features including long range and good battery life.

Nokia 1610 (1995)

Nokia became market leader by release of Its model 1610 as It offered over 7 hours of talk time and up to 200 hours of standby time. It also featured the new(at that time) user friendly Nokia interface for wireless phones. over all a great phone at that time.. I used to have one of those. we used to show them off at parties. Try to take one of these to a party… ha ha ha..

Nokia 8110 (1996)

Then came the trendy Nokia 8110 aka “The Matrix Phone” that slides open. It looked very trendy at that time. It was the first phone people bought as a fashion statement. It was geared toward the higher end of market and became very popular after being featured in the Matrix, the movie.

Motorola StarTAC (1996)

Motorola replied soon with its first clam shell handset that was smallest phone at that time. It  was hugely inspired by Star treck series communicator. It was also the first phone with vibrator function.It was probably the start of handset wars. the industry never looked back after that.

Siemens C10 (1998)

Siemens tried to gain some market share with its Siemens C10 wireless phones. It was a fine little phone sturdy enough to be dropped, kicked and thrown. Limitation were the memory. only stored 50 numbers in its contact list and imagine having only space for 10 SMS messages.

Nokia 7110 (1999)

Inspired by first of matrix movie Nokia 7110 was first one that flick opened using a spring load. This was first phone with WAP browser and dynamic memory allocation among contacts, calendar and messages. They called this phone “almost a smart phone” but now,we can easily call it “start of mobile Internet era”. Full Specs here

Nokia 3210, 3310, 8210,  Siemens A35 (2000)

Nokia 3210 was first phone with “Internal Antenna”. Nokia 3310 is still very popular set in second hand wireless phone markets. the wireless phone is available both in AMPs and GSM models. Its snake game is world famous and people can still be found playing with it in subways.

Siemens tried to keep pace with Nokia and Motorola with its A35 model wireless phone but it was too little too late.

Blackberry 6230, Nokia 1100  (2003)

Blackberry started another revolution by bringing personal organizers and phones in one product. this phone had full QWERTY keyboard, Browser, Email, Note pad and other applications for business users. It had 16 MB internal memory. this phone can still be bought on eBay. Phones kept on getting smarter and smarter from here.

Of all the phones in world, Nokia 1100 stood the test of time. Its still a basic phone of choice among people who think that phone should be simple and reliable and just required to make a call or send occasional text message. Over 200 million phones have been sold to date. It is also known as “phone with torch” in some parts of world where power outage is a routine.

Motorola V3 (2005)

Camera and Music became essential feature of a wireless phone. Wireless phones became smart phones. Wireless phones became a fashion accessory. people wear them like glasses, jewelry. Motorola V3 changes the whole concept of cutting edge design in wireless phones. It remained the phone of choice until Apple’s iPhone took the fashion segment of market from it. Motorola never came up with anything close to V3 again.

Nokia N Series (2006)

The Nokia Nseries was targeted toward users looking to pack as many features and function as possible into a single wireless phone. They had better-than-average cameras. Their video and music playing capability and photo editing tools are exceptional. Most of these devices had built in GPS, MP3 player and WLAN features.

Starting with N70 latest models are still being released every six months.

Apple’s iPhone (2007)

Apple’s iPhone was an instant hit all over the world as it was  first multi-touch wireless phone with sleek, sexy design. It was so popular that they had to put a limit on purchase, (max 2 per person) when it launched.

More iPhone Pictures here

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Beyond iPhone: Future of Wireless phones

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4 Responses to “DynaTAC to iPhone: A History of Wireless Phones”

  1. The old Nokia 1610 was a reliable phone.

  2. Wayne says:

    I’m pretty sure the reason Apple only let people buy 2 iPhones was due to people unlocking them for use on other networks, and selling them secondhand with a markup.


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