8 Mobile Phones that changed the world

8 Mobile Phones that changed the world

Today's mobile phones are fast and powerful, and offer a kitchen sink-load of features. But it wasn't always like that, and each of those features was once revolutionary and ground-breaking.

For all their universal popularity, mobile phones are still relatively new on technology's horizon, and most of us can still remember our first baby steps into a whole new world of communication.

There were plenty of duds along the way, but a good few mobile phone classics too – phones that paved the way for the all-singing, all-dancing smartphone superstars of today. Let's cast our minds back at some of those classics – feel free to let us know what you think of our selection, and maybe suggest a few game-changing phones of your own in the comments below.

Motorola DynaTAC 8000x (1983)

Claim to fame: was the first commercially available mobile phone

Ah, how far we've come. The 8000x may have started the mobile revolution off, but it's a true dinosaur by today's standards. Weighing the best part of 800g and standing 25cm tall, it certainly had presence; but it was also the first handset that could be called portable – just – and it could make calls directly without going via an operator.

Little-known fact: the 8000x was the result of 10 years of work and $100m of investment.

8 Mobile Phones that changed the worldNokia 101 (1992)

Claim to fame: gave us an appetite for candybars and GSM

Nokia's inroads into the Motorola-dominated mobile world began with the 101, which was the first phone to use the then-new GSM network. It also introduced us to the candybar form factor – one that would become a staple for Nokia during a decade of dominance.

Little-known fact: at just $300, the Nokia 101 was one of the most affordable mobile phones of its day.

Nokia 9000 Communicator (1996)

Claim to fame: introduced us to smartphones

Until the 9000 Communicator came along, keyboards were for computers and number pads for phones. Indeed, from the outside the 9000 appeared to play by the rules. But flip it open and suddenly you had a full keyboard, full width screen and – best of all – email, fax and web connectivity.

Little-known fact: the 9000 Communicator was used by Val Kilmer in the 1997 remake of The Saint.

8 Mobile Phones that changed the worldNokia 3210 (1999)

Claim to fame: put a phone in everyone's pocket

Between them, the Nokia 3210 and its follow-up a year later, the 3310, sold in excess of 275 million units – a figure unheard of at the time for the still-emerging mobile phone market. Fun, accessible and most importantly affordable, this popular duo also introduced the world to the insanely addictive Snake game.

Little-known fact: the 3210 was the first phone with an internal antenna, and also introduced T9 predictive text.

BlackBerry 5810 (2002)

Claim to fame: brought the name BlackBerry to our attention

Talk about smartphones and it's hard to ignore the name BlackBerry – still the best-selling smartphone brand on the planet. The 5810 was the first BB to feature calling capabilities, and its full QWERTY vertical design – while clumsy at the time – is a BlackBerry staple to this day.

Little-known fact: to use the 5810 as a phone, you had to plug in earphones, as the phone itself contained no speaker.

8 Mobile Phones that changed the worldSony Ericsson T610 (2003)

Claim to fame: made a camera feel at home on a phone

It certainly wasn't a smartphone but there's no denying the T610 was smart. One of the first true multimedia specialists, the T610 features a 2.5-megapixel camera, colour screen, Java games and polyphonic MIDI ringtones.

Little-known fact: it may have been a cameraphone pioneer, but the T610's on-board camera was actually panned as one of its biggest weaknesses.

Apple iPhone (2007)

Claim to fame: made touchscreens a must-have on a mobile phone

The iPhone changed the mobile landscape forever when it launched in 2007, and since then every other phone has been trying to catch up. It was loaded with features, but Apple realised it was the user experience – not a lengthy spec list – that people really wanted. And history has proved it was right.

Little-known fact: in releasing the iPhone, Apple said it was aiming for just 1% of the world phone market.

8 Mobile Phones that changed the worldT-Mobile G1 (2008)

Claim to fame: began the Android invasion of planet Earth

The HTC-made T-Mobile G1 wasn't the best phone of 2008 by a long way, but it was certainly the most significant. It brought Android and then-unpopular HTC together for the first time, and it's safe to say neither has looked back since.

Little-known fact: Google may own Android, but it didn't develop it. The company acquired startup Android Inc – and current Android boss Andy Rubin – in July 2005.

Read more about: Apple iPhoneNokia 101Nokia 3210Nokia 9000 Communicator

Add a comment

emmajk42 / MOD  Jan. 17, 2011 at 00:00

I might have included the Philips C12 in this list. I am sentimental because it was my first mobile phone. But I used to sell mobile phones at the time when they were just becoming mainstream, and I remember selling TONNES of the C12. It really made texting popular.

magicjay1986  Jan. 18, 2011 at 19:08

I will never forget my first phone. Orange Bosch 509e. The one with the (impressive for its day!) four lights set behind the keypad. What a phone.

MattWPBS  Jan. 18, 2011 at 19:17

No mention of the N95? Might be wrong, but I remember it as being the first to really push GPS out onto phones. You look at the effect that's had on standalone GPSs, and it's huge.

magicjay1986  Jan. 18, 2011 at 19:35

MattWPBS - good point. I had an N95 and it was incredibly impressive. One of the first phones to kick out a decent 5MP camera on a very good handset? I was quite upset when I got rid of mine! :(

morpheus  Jan. 18, 2011 at 20:11

@emmajk42 - I had a Philips C12... wasn't it the first phone that could send a picture with its text messages (albeit one of 10 or 12 preset icons rather than a full photo.)

What about the SE T68 and T68i.... first colour screen phone, first phone to have bluetooth, first phone to feature a camera (albeit clip on camera) etc.

emmajk42 / MOD  Jan. 18, 2011 at 20:56

Yes Morpheus - I remember those ASCII images :) They were the height of cool

vikingaero  Jan. 18, 2011 at 21:08

There are plenty of notable classics:

Panasonic/Nokia Transportables (I still have my Panny)
NEC 9A and the P3 (I paid £1,800 for a 9A in 19xx!)
Excell M2 - had dual sims
Motorola StarTac - Star Trek cool
Sony Mars Bar - one of the first mainstream PAYG

RiTSo  Jan. 18, 2011 at 21:16

An excellent phone for the time the T610 may have been but the camera on it was little more than a novelty. Up close images were at best 'acceptable', anything beyond about a metre you might as well forget it!

Still an great piece of phone history though and worth having if only for the call/sms capabilities alone.

RiTSo  Jan. 18, 2011 at 21:18

Another phone which I used to like was the Sony (before they teamed up with Ericsson!) CMD Z5:


It probably didn't break any new ground at the time but had a smart form factor and sat well in a shirt pocket!

vikingaero  Jan. 18, 2011 at 21:25

The Sony CMD Z5 certainly did sit well in a shirt pocket. It was such a porker that it pulled your shirt down to your waistline! :D

vikingaero  Jan. 18, 2011 at 21:35

The Sony CMD Z5 certainly did sit well in a shirt pocket. It was such a porker that it pulled your shirt down to your waistline! :D

iamdamien  Jan. 18, 2011 at 22:47

3210, easily the most perfect phone ever. Form and function in one complete package. Only needed a vibrate function, then it would have no rival!

VanDutch  Jan. 18, 2011 at 23:16

T610 with a 2.5mp camera? Not likely. :D

mjwatmough  Jan. 19, 2011 at 00:06

Can't believe there's no love for the Nokia 7110. It does the Matrix flippy thing which made you the coolest cat in the playground. And it was the first 'Web Phone' because it was the first phone to do WAP.

I've still got one somewhere

nenhy  Jan. 20, 2011 at 04:04

Nokia 8210, phone was tiny and had the looks, with all the functionality of the 3210.

Suggs84  Jan. 20, 2011 at 09:01

It's maybe worth mentioning that a fairly uncommon phone (i-mate SP5m) is responsible for being the first smartphone to launch with wi-fi included (as far as I'm aware)....

ss3000  Jan. 20, 2011 at 12:58

dont forget the nokia 7650, first phone to have a camera. that was a landmark. the n95 was to advance for its time, it still beats several phones today. shame nokia has gone downhill since.

yvonnemaddie  Jan. 20, 2011 at 23:53

I had a Sony CMD Z5, it was a wee silver flip phone. Its still the most beautiful phone I have ever had, lol.


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