Britain’s first mobile phone call was made 30 years ago on the newly-launched Vodafone network.
Michael Harrison, the son of former Vodafone chairman Sir Ernest Harrison, was the first to test the system, calling his father at midnight on 1 January 1985.
Harrison made the historic call from one of the first mobile devices – a transportable Vodafone VT1, which weighed 4.7kg and had around 30 minutes of talk time.
In 1985 the transportable Vodafone VT1 cost £1,650, which is equivalent to £4,632 (R81,800) today based on inflation.
Mobile phones started to get smaller and offer far better battery life as time progressed, but with the advent of smartphones mobile devices started to get bigger again, and offer worse battery life.
Mobile phones: 1985 to 2015
Here is an overview of how mobile phones evolved between 1985 and today, using popular models from each year.
1985 – Vodafone VT1
The transportable Vodafone VT1 weighed 4.7kg and offered 30 minutes call time on a 10 hour charge.
1985/6 – Motorola 8000 X
The first hand portable mobile phone – which was known as ‘The Brick’ – was the Motorola 8000 X. This phone came out just after the Vodafone VT1, and was available from Vodafone from March 1985. It was sold until 1988.
1987 – Nokia Cityman
The Nokia Cityman looked like a slimmed-down Motorola 8500, and weighed only 0.75kg. The Cityman was a high-end phone utilising Nokia’s technical savvy.
1988 – Panasonic D series
The Panasonic D series offered 60 minutes talk time and 8 hours standby time. This phone allowed you to change batteries mid-call without losing signal as long as the switch over was made within two seconds. The battery was designed for fast swapping.
1989 – Motorola MicroTac
The Motorola MicroTac was the world’s first flip phone. One of the best features of these phones was the antenna, which was pulled up from the top of the phone – it was a piece of plastic and had no effect on reception. The phone’s antenna was internal, but it was felt that customers would want to see an external antenna, so one was added.
1990 – Nokia Cityman 100
The Nokia Cityman 100 was released in 1990, and operated on the TACS cellular system before GSM was launched.
1991 – Motorola MicroTac Classic
The Motorola MicroTac Classic became available in 1991. This phone operated on TACS and ETACS as well as NMT and JTACS.
1992 – Motorola International 3200
The Motorola International 3200 was the first digital hand-size mobile telephone. It took 5 hours to charge, and offered 8 hours stand-by and 1 hour talk time.
1993 – Motorola m300
The Motorola m300 was one of the world’s first mobiles to operate in the 1800MHz band.
1994 – Motorola MicroTAC
The Motorola MicroTAC continued the flip design, with the mouthpiece folded over the keypad. It was one of the smallest and lightest cellular phones available at the time.
1995 – Nokia 909
The Nokia 909 was introduced in South Africa shortly after the first commercial mobile services were launched. The phone weighed 193 grams and supported talk time of up to 2 hours and 30 minutes.
1996 – Ericsson GH688
The Ericsson GH688 was launched in 1996, and was considered a very light phone weighing only 160 grams. The phone featured a 3 x 12 character display and offered talk time of up to 240 minutes.
1997 – Ericsson T10
The Ericsson T10 was a flip phone which weighed only 135 grams. It sported a monochrome graphic screen with a 101 x 33 pixel resolution, and offered up to 4 hours talk time.
1998 – Nokia 5110
The Nokia 5110 was announced in 1998, and featured a monochrome display with 5 lines of text. It weighed 170 grams, offered 3 games (Memory, Snake, Logic) and supported between 3 hours and 5 hours of talk time.
1999 – Motorola Timeport
The Motorola Timeport weighed in at 140 grams, and offered users a 5-line monochrome display. It supported up to 210 minutes talk time and offered WAP browsing.
2000 – Nokia 3210
The Nokia 3210 was announced in 2000, and offered users downloadable monophonic ringtones. The phone weighed 151 grams, and had a 5-line monochrome display.
2001 – Nokia 3310
Initially released in the year 2000, the Nokia 3310 went on to be one of the most successful mobile phones ever. It weighed 133 grams and offered over 4 hours talk time. It also sported user exchangeable front and back covers.
2002 – Nokia 3510i
The Nokia 3510i was announced in 2002, and delighted users with vibration alerts and downloadable polyphonic and monophonic ringtones. It weighed 106 grams and featured a 96 x 65 pixel colour display. It supported SMS and MMS messaging, and WAP browsing.
2003 – Nokia 6600
The Nokia 6600 was launched in 2003, and at the time was the most advanced product ever launched by Nokia. It featured the Symbian OS-based Nokia Series 60 platform, had a VGA camera, extended storage by memory card, a music player, a video player, and Bluetooth connectivity.
2004 – Motorola Razr V3
The Motorola Razr was developed in 2003 and launched in 2004. The phone was one of the most popular mobile devices ever with sales of 130 million units. The phone featured a TFT, 256K colour display, offered many games, and weighed only 95 grams.
2005 – Samsung E250
The Samsung E250 offered a 128 x 160 pixel TFT screen, a microSD card slot, and SMS, EMS, MMS, e-mail, and WAP support. The phone weighed only 80 grams and included an FM radio and voice memos.
2006 – LG Chocolate
The LG Chocolate was a “slide” cellphone with a 176 x 220 pixel screen and touch-sensitive navigation keys with backlights. It came in black, white, pink, and wine colours, and weighed 83 grams. It had a 1.3MP camera and an LED flash.
2007 – Motorola SLVR
The Motorola SLVR was designed to be thin and lightweight, and at only 96 grams and 11.5mm thick it clearly succeeded. It featured a 176 x 220 pixel colour screen, a VGA camera, and came in black, silver, and pink.
2008 – LG KS-360
The LG KS-360 was released in 2008, and was marketed in some regions as the LG Webslider and LG Neon. The phone featured a full QWERTY keyboard and a 2.4-inch colour screen. It was aimed at users who focused on text messaging and social networking.
2009 – Samsung Omnia
The Samsung Omnia featured a 3.2-inch TFT screen and a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash. It shipped with the Windows Mobile Professional (6.1) mobile operating system.
2010 – Apple iPhone 4
The Apple iPhone 4 was the smartphone to be seen with in 2010. It featured a 640 x 960 pixel, 3.5-inch touch screen, and offered up to 32GB storage. The iPhone 4 offered HSPA connectivity, and had a 5MP camera.
2011 – Samsung Galaxy S II
The Samsung Galaxy S II was an Android-based smartphone, with a 4.3-inch Gorilla Glass touch screen. The phone featured HSDPA connectivity, an 8MP primary camera, a 2MP front camera, and up to 32GB storage.
2012 – Samsung Galaxy Note II
The Samsung Galaxy Note II is an Android phablet smartphone, with a 5.5-inch AMOLED touchscreen boasting a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels. The phone features a 2GB RAM, up to 64GB storage, an 8MP primary camera, and a 2MP secondary camera.
2013 – Nokia Lumia
The Nokia Lumia 925 is a smartphone which runs Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system. The phone’s 2000mAh battery offers up to 18.3 hours of talk time in 2G and up to 12.8 hours of talk time in 3G. The phone features a 4.5-inch AMOLED screen and an 8MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics.
2014 – Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung’s Android-based Galaxy S5 smartphone was unveiled in February 2014, and features a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display. It also sports a fingerprint sensor, a 16MP primary camera and a 2MP secondary camera. It has a quad-core 2.5GHz Krait 400 CPU and ships with up to 32GB storage.
2015 – LG G Flex 2
LG unveiled its G Flex 2 smartphone at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The LG G Flex 2 sports a 5.5-inch Full HD P-OLED screen, a 13-megapixel rear camera, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.