South Africa’s cellular history dates back to the early days of what is now called “2G” technology, which emerged along with the Groupe Spécial Mobile (GSM) standard in the 1990s.
The acronym was later translated to Global System for Mobile Communications.
Radiolinja in Finland was the first GSM network to go into operation and saw its first official phone call on 1 July 1991. South Africa’s first cellular operator, Vodacom, got its first commercial calls in 1994.
Alan Knott-Craig, the new CEO of Cell C, was head of Vodacom at the time. In all of South Africa’s cellular history, Knott-Craig feels the Nokia 6310i and its predecessor, the 6310, are the most iconic cellphones.
Knott-Craig wasn’t the only high-up in the cellular industry to choose a Nokia device as the most iconic phone to hit our shores. In fact, everyone we asked put forward a device made by the Finnish cellphone maker.
“The Nokia 1100/1 sold millions and everybody had one or knew someone who had one, but I guess for me the Nokia 2110 was the most iconic,” said Sidwell. “Launched in 1994 when we first launched cellular in South Africa it had the pull-up antennae and the Nokia ringtone that everybody came to know.”
Mike Fairon, head of products and services at MTN SA, said that he believes two phones seem to have defined the history of the mobile industry in the last two decades.
The first is the Nokia 3310 which was released in the fourth quarter of 2000, which MTN said was one of the cellphone maker’s record-selling devices.
Its compact form factor and many built-in utilities such as a calculator, stop watch, and the ability to send 459 character text messages in 3 SMSes are some of the reasons for its success, Fairon said.
Fairon’s second pick was the Motorola V3 Razr, which MTN said sold over 50 million units by July 2006 after its price was lowered within a year of its launch.
“Today this remains as the best ever sold clam shell by volume globally and equally had its craze in South Africa,” Fairon said.
Vodacom was asked to provide the picks of their CEO, Pieter Uys, but was not able to do so by the time of publication.