Although most of us feel like we couldn't live without our mobile phones, they've not really been in existence for very long.
In fact, mobile phones as we know them today have only been around in the last 20 years.
When was the first mobile phone invented?
Mobile phones, particularly the smartphones that have become our inseparable companions today, are relatively new.
However, the history of mobile phones goes back to 1908 when a US Patent was issued in Kentucky for a wireless telephone.
The story of the modern mobile phone really begins in the 1940s when engineers working at AT&T developed cells for mobile phone base stations.
The very first mobile phones were not really mobile phones at all. They were two-way radios that allowed people like taxi drivers and the emergency services to communicate.
Instead of relying on base stations with separate cells (and the signal being passed from one cell to another), the first mobile phone networks involved one very powerful base station covering a much wider area.
These early mobile phones are often referred to as 0G mobile phones, or Zero Generation mobile phones. Most phones today rely on 3G or 4G mobile technology.
Compare all the latest mobile phones at uSwitch now.
The development of mobile phone technology
A Motorola employee called Martin Cooper is widely considered to be a key player in the history of mobile phones, inventing the first mobile phone that was fit for practical use.
Handsets that could be used in a vehicle had been developed prior to Martin Cooper’s phone, but his was the first usable truly portable mobile telephone.
Cooper made mobile phone history in April 1973 when he made the first ever call on a handheld mobile phone.
Landmarks in early mobile phone history
- Japan became the first country to have a city-wide commercial cellular mobile phone network in 1979.
- The Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) system launched in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland in 1981.
- The next major step in mobile phone history was in the mid-eighties with the First Generation (1G) fully automatic cellular networks were introduced.
- The first ever mobile phone to be approved by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) in the USA was the Motorola DynaTac in 1983.
Mobile telephony developed in leaps and bounds over the next decade, particularly with the arrival of handover technology.
This allowed users to keep their connections as they travelled between base stations – so as a user walked from one mobile phone mast to another, the connection and conversation would not drop or be interrupted.
The birth of the Second Generation (2G) mobile phones was in Finland in 1993. It was also the year that the first SMS text messages were sent and that data services began to appear on mobile phones.
Mobiles that we use today are 3G mobiles, or Third Generation mobiles, or even more advanced 4G handsets.
3G launched in 2001 and allowed operators to offer a huge range of advanced services such as video calling and HSPA data transmission.
4G became commerically available in the UK in late 2012 and offers super fast connections and similarly speedy downloads.
Now the UK market has matured there are several network providers competing for business. These include:
Find out more about 4G phones here: Guide to 4G phones.