Mobile phone from 2008
Inventor Martin Cooper
Launch year 1973
A mobile phone (also called mobile, cellular phone, cell phone or handphone is an
electronic device used for full duplex two-way radio telecommunications over a
cellular network of base stations known as cell sites. Mobile phones differ from
cordless telephones, which only offer telephone service within limited range through a
single base station attached to a fixed land line, for example within a home or an
A mobile phone allows its user to make and receive telephone calls to and from the
public telephone network which includes other mobiles and fixed line phones across
the world. It does this by connecting to a cellular network owned by a mobile network
operator. A key feature of the cellular network is that it enables seamless telephone
calls even when the user is moving around wide areas via a process known as handoff
In addition to being a telephone, modern mobile phones also support many additional
services, and accessories, such as SMS (or text) messages, email, Internet access,
gaming, Bluetooth, infrared, camera, MMS messaging, MP3 player, radio and GPS.
Low-end mobile phones are often referred to as feature phones, whereas high-end
mobile phones that offer more advanced computing ability are referred to as
The first handheld cellular phone was demonstrated by Martin Cooper of Motorola in
1973, using a handset weighing in at two kilograms (4.4 pounds). In the year 1990, 12.4
million people worldwide had cellular subscriptions. By the end of 2009, only 20 years
later, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide reached approximately
4.6 billion, 370 times the 1990 number, penetrating the developing economies and
reaching the bottom of the economic pyramid.
An evolution of mobile phones
Modern cellular phone with integrated camera in x-ray vision. Metal casing.
Radiophones have a long and varied history going back to Reginald Fessenden's
invention and shore-to-ship demonstration of radio telephony, through the Second
World War with military use of radio telephony links and civil services in the 1950s,
while hand-held mobile radio devices have been available since 1973.
The first mobile telephone call made from a car occurred in St. Louis, Missouri, USA on
June 17, 1946, but the system was impractical from what is considered a portable
handset today. The equipment weighed 80 lbs, and the AT&T service, basically a
massive party line, cost $30 USD per month plus 30 to 40 cents per local call.
In 1960, the world’s first partly automatic car phone system, Mobile System A (MTA),
was launched in Sweden. MTA phones were composed of vacuum tubes and relays,
and had a weight of 40 kg. In 1962, a more modern version called Mobile System B
(MTB) was launched, which was a push-button telephone, and which used transistors
in order to enhance the telephone’s calling capacity and improve its operational
reliability. In 1971 the MTD version was launched, opening for several different brands
of equipment and gaining commercial success.
Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher and executive is considered to be the inventor
of the first practical mobile phone for hand-held use in a non-vehicle setting, after a
long race against Bell Labs for the first portable mobile phone. Using a modern, if
somewhat heavy portable handset, Cooper made the first call on a hand-held mobile
phone on April 3, 1973 to his rival, Dr. Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs.
The first commercially automated cellular network (the 1G generation) was launched
in Japan by NTT in 1979, initially in the metropolitan area of Tokyo. Within five years,
the NTT network had been expanded to cover the whole population of Japan and
became the first nation-wide 1G network. In 1981, this was followed by the
simultaneous launch of the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) system in Denmark,
Finland, Norway and Sweden. NMT was the first mobile phone network featuring
international roaming. The first 1G network launched in the USA was Chicago based
Ameritech in 1983 using the Motorola DynaTAC mobile phone. Several countries then
followed in the early 1980s including the UK, Mexico and Canada.
The first "modern" network technology on digital 2G (second generation) cellular
technology was launched by Radiolinja (now part of Elisa Group) in 1991 in Finland on
the GSM standard which also marked the introduction of competition in mobile
telecoms when Radiolinja challenged incumbent Telecom Finland (now part of
TeliaSonera) who ran a 1G NMT network.
In 2001 the first commercial launch of 3G (Third Generation) was again in Japan by NTT
DoCoMo on the WCDMA standard.
One of the newest 3G technologies to be implemented is High-Speed Downlink Packet
Access (HSDPA). It is an enhanced 3G (third generation) mobile telephony
communications protocol in the High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) family, also coined
3.5G, 3G+ or turbo 3G, which allows networks based on Universal Mobile
Telecommunications System (UMTS) to have higher data transfer speeds and capacity.
A Nokia 1200 phone with box
A printed circuit board inside a Nokia 3210
Printed circuit board inside a Motorola SLVR L7
All mobile phones have a number of features in common, but manufacturers also try
to differentiate their own products by implementing additional functions to make
them more attractive to consumers. This has led to great innovation in mobile phone
development over the last twenty years.
The common components found on all phones are:
a rechargeable battery providing the power source for the phone functions
an input mechanism and display to allow the user to interact with the phone.
The most common input mechanism is a keypad, but touch screens are also
found in some high end smart phones.
basic mobile phone services to allow users to make calls and send text
All GSM phones use a SIM card to allow an account to be swapped among
devices. Some CDMA devices also have a similar card called a R-UIM.
Individual GSM, WCDMA, iDEN and some satellite phone devices are uniquely
identified by an International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.
Low-end mobile phones are often referred to as feature phones, and offer basic
telephony, as well as functions such as playing music and taking photos, and
sometimes simple applications based on generic managed platforms such as Java ME
or BREW. Handsets with more advanced computing ability through the use of native
software applications became known as smart phones. The first smartphone was the
Nokia 9000 Communicator in 1996 which added PDA functionality to the basic mobile
phone at the time. As miniaturisation and increased processing power of microchips
has enabled ever more features to be added to phones, the concept of the
smartphone has evolved, and what was a high-end smartphone five years ago, is a
standard phone today.
Several phone series have been introduced to address a given market segment, such as
the RIM BlackBerry focusing on enterprise/corporate customer email needs; the
SonyEricsson Walkman series of musicphones and Cybershot series of cameraphones;
the Nokia Nseries of multimedia phones, the Palm Pre the HTC Dream and the Apple
Other features that may be found on mobile phones include GPS navigation, music
(MP3) and video (MP4) playback, RDS radio receiver, alarms, memo recording,
personal digital assistant functions, ability to watch streaming video, video download,
video calling, built-in cameras (1.0+ Mpx) and camcorders (video recording), with
autofocus and flash, ringtones, games, PTT, memory card reader (SD), USB (2.0), dual
line support, infrared, Bluetooth (2.0) and WiFi connectivity, instant messaging,
Internet e-mail and browsing and serving as a wireless modem. Nokia and the
University of Cambridge demonstrated a bendable cell phone called the Morph.
Software and applications
A Toshiba TG01 phone with touchscreen feature
The most commonly used data application on mobile phones is SMS text messaging.
The first SMS text message was sent from a computer to a mobile phone in 1992 in the
UK, while the first person-to-person SMS from phone to phone was sent in Finland in
Other non-SMS data services used on mobile phones include mobile music,
downloadable logos and pictures, gaming, gambling, adult entertainment and
advertising. The first downloadable mobile content was sold to a mobile phone in
Finland in 1998, when Radiolinja (now Elisa) introduced the downloadable ring tone
service. In 1999 Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo introduced its mobile internet
service, i-Mode, which today is the world's largest mobile internet service.
The first mobile news service, delivered via SMS, was launched in Finland in 2000.
Mobile news services are expanding with many organisations providing "on-demand"
news services by SMS. Some also provide "instant" news pushed out by SMS.
Mobile payments were first trialled in Finland in 1998 when two Coca-Cola vending
machines in Espoo were enabled to work with SMS payments. Eventually the idea
spread and in 1999 the Philippines launched the first commercial mobile payments
systems, on the mobile operators Globe and Smart. Today mobile payments ranging
from mobile banking to mobile credit cards to mobile commerce are very widely used
in Asia and Africa, and in selected European markets.
Mobile phone charging service in Uganda
Mobile phones generally obtain power from rechargeable batteries. There are a
variety of ways used to charge cell phones, including USB, portable batteries, mains
power (using an AC adapter), cigarette lighters (using an adapter), or a dynamo. In
2009, wireless charging became a reality, and the first wireless charger was released
for consumer use.
Standardization of Micro-USB connector for charging
Starting from 2010, many mobile phone manufacturers have agreed to use the Micro-
USB connector for charging their phones. The mobile phone manufacturers who have
agreed to this standard include:
Research In Motion
On 17 February 2009, the GSM Association announced that they had agreed on a
standard charger for mobile phones. The standard connector to be adopted by 17
manufacturers in the Open Mobile Terminal Platform including Nokia, Motorola and
Samsung is to be the micro-USB connector (several media reports erroneously
reported this as the mini-USB). The new chargers will be much more efficient than
existing chargers. Having a standard charger for all phones, means that manufacturers
will no longer have to supply a charger with every new phone.
In addition, on 22 October 2009 the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
announced that it had embraced micro-USB as the Universal Charger Solution its
"energy-efficient one-charger-fits-all new mobile phone solution", and added: "Based
on the Micro-USB interface, UCS chargers will also include a 4-star or higher efficiency
rating — up to three times more energy-efficient than an unrated charger."
The world's five largest handset makers introduced a new rating system in November
2008 to help consumers more easily identify the most energy-efficient chargers
The majority of energy lost in a mobile phone charger is in its no load condition, when
the mobile phone is not connected but the charger has been left plugged in and using
power. To combat this in November 2008 the top five mobile phone manufacturers
Nokia, Samsung, LG Electronics, Sony Ericsson and Motorola set up a star rating system
to rate the efficiency of their chargers in the no-load condition. Starting at zero stars
for >0.5 W and going up to the top five star rating for <0.03 W (30 mW) no load power.
A number of semiconductor companies offering flyback controllers, such as Power
Integrations and CamSemi, now claim that the five star standard can be achieved with
use of their product.
Formerly, the most common form of mobile phone batteries were nickel metal-
hydride, as they have a low size and weight. Lithium ion batteries are sometimes used,
as they are lighter and do not have the voltage depression that nickel metal-hydride
batteries do. Many mobile phone manufacturers have now switched to using lithium-
polymer batteries as opposed to the older Lithium-Ion, the main advantages of this
being even lower weight and the possibility to make the battery a shape other than
strict cuboid. Mobile phone manufacturers have been experimenting with alternative
power sources, including solar cells and Coca Cola.
Typical mobile phone SIM card
X-ray image of a SIM card
GSM mobile phones require a small microchip called a Subscriber Identity Module or
SIM Card, to function. The SIM card is approximately the size of a small postage stamp
and is usually placed underneath the battery in the rear of the unit. The SIM securely
stores the service-subscriber key (IMSI) used to identify a subscriber on mobile
telephony devices (such as mobile phones and computers). The SIM card allows users
to change phones by simply removing the SIM card from one mobile phone and
inserting it into another mobile phone or broadband telephony device.
A SIM card contains its unique serial number, internationally unique number of the
mobile user (IMSI), security authentication and ciphering information, temporary
information related to the local network, a list of the services the user has access to
and two passwords (PIN for usual use and PUK for unlocking).
SIM cards are available in three standard sizes. The first is the size of a credit card
(85.60 mm × 53.98 mm x 0.76 mm). The newer, most popular miniature version has
the same thickness but a length of 25 mm and a width of 15 mm, and has one of its
corners truncated (chamfered) to prevent misinsertion. The newest incarnation known
as the 3FF or micro-SIM has dimensions of 15 mm × 12 mm. Most cards of the two
smaller sizes are supplied as a full-sized card with the smaller card held in place by a
few plastic links; it can easily be broken off to be used in a device that uses the smaller
The first SIM card was made in 1991 by Munich smart card maker Giesecke & Devrient
for the Finnish wireless network operator Radiolinja. Giesecke & Devrient sold the first
300 SIM cards to Elisa (ex. Radiolinja).
Those cell phones that do not use a SIM Card have the data programmed in to their
memory. This data is accessed by using a special digit sequence to access the "NAM" as
in "Name" or number programming menu. From there, information can be added
including: a new number for the phone, new Service Provider numbers, new
emergency numbers, new Authentication Key or A-Key code, and a Preferred Roaming
List or PRL. However, to prevent the phone being accidentally disabled or removed
from the network, the Service Provider typically locks this data with a Master
Subsidiary Lock (MSL). The MSL also locks the device to a particular carrier when it is
sold as a loss leader.
The MSL applies to the SIM only so once the contract has been completed the MSL still
applies to the SIM. The phone however, is also initially locked by the manufacturer into
the Service Providers MSL. This lock may be disabled so that the phone can use other
Service Providers SIM cards. Most phones purchased outside the US are unlocked
phones because there are numerous Service Providers close to one another or have
overlapping coverage. The cost to unlock a phone varies but is usually very cheap and
is sometimes provided by independent phone vendors.
A similar module called a Removable User Identity Module is present in some CDMA
networks, notably in China.
Mobile phones in society
Mobile phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants 1997–2007
The world's largest individual mobile operator is China Mobile with over 500 million
mobile phone subscribers. The world's largest mobile operator group by subscribers is
UK based Vodafone. There are over 600 mobile operators and carriers in commercial
production worldwide. Over 50 mobile operators have over 10 million subscribers
each, and over 150 mobile operators have at least one million subscribers by the end
of 2009 (source wireless intelligence).
Source Date Nokia Samsung LG Electronics RIM Sony Ericsson Others
IDC Q1/2010 36.6% 21.8% 9.2% 3.6% 3.6% 25.3%
Gartner Q1/2010 35.0% 20.6% 8.6% 3.4% 3.1% 29.3%
Other manufacturers include Apple Inc., Audiovox (now UTStarcom), CECT, HTC
Corporation, Fujitsu, Kyocera, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Panasonic, Palm, Matsushita,
Pantech Wireless Inc., Philips, Qualcomm Inc., Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), Sagem,
Sanyo, Sharp, Sierra Wireless, SK Teletech, T&A Alcatel, Huawei, Trium, Toshiba and
Vidalco. There are also specialist communication systems related to (but distinct from)
In 1998, one of the first examples of selling media content through the mobile phone
was the sale of ringtones by Radiolinja in Finland. Soon afterwards other media
content appeared such as news, videogames, jokes, horoscopes, TV content and
advertising. Most early content for mobile tended to be copies of legacy media, such
as the banner advertisement or the TV news highlight video clip. Recently unique
content for mobile has been emerging, from the ringing tones and ringback tones in
music to "mobisodes," video content that has been produced exclusively for mobile
In 2006 the total value of mobile phone paid media content exceeded internet paid
media content and was worth 31 Billion dollars (source Informa 2007). The value of
music on phones was worth 9.3 Billion dollars in 2007 and gaming was worth over 5
billion dollars in 2007.
The advent of media on the mobile phone has also produced the opportunity to
identify and track Alpha Users or Hubs, the most influential members of any social
community. AMF Ventures measured in 2007 the relative accuracy of three mass
media, and found that audience measures on mobile were nine times more accurate
than on the internet and 90 times more accurate than on TV.
The mobile phone is often called the Fourth Screen (if counting cinema, TV and PC
screens as the first three) or Third Screen (counting only TV and PC screens). It is also
called the Seventh of the Mass Media (with Print, Recordings, Cinema, Radio, TV and
Internet the first six).
Mobile phones are used for a variety of purposes, including keeping in touch with
family members, conducting business, and having access to a telephone in the event of
an emergency. Some people carry more than one cell phone for different purposes,
such as for business and personal use. Multiple SIM cards may also be used to take
advantage of the benefits of different calling plans—a particular plan might provide
cheaper local calls, long-distance calls, international calls, or roaming. A study by
Motorola found that one in ten cell phone subscribers have a second phone that often
is kept secret from other family members. These phones may be used to engage in
activities including extramarital affairs or clandestine business dealings. The mobile
phone has also been used in a variety of diverse contexts in society, for example:
Organizations that aid victims of domestic violence may offer a cell phone to
potential victims without the abuser's knowledge. These devices are often old
phones that are donated and refurbished to meet the victim's emergency
Child predators have taken advantage of cell phones to secretly communicate
with children without the knowledge of their parents or teachers.
The advent of widespread text messaging has resulted in the cell phone novel;
the first literary genre to emerge from the cellular age via text messaging to a
website that collects the novels as a whole. Paul Levinson, in Information on
the Move (2004), says "...nowadays, a writer can write just about as easily,
anywhere, as a reader can read" and they are "not only personal but portable".
Mobile telephony also facilitates activism and public journalism being explored
by Reuters and Yahoo! and small independent news companies such as Jasmine
News in Sri Lanka.
In some parts of the world, mobile phone sharing is common. It is prevalent in urban
India, as families and groups of friends often share one or more mobiles among their
members. There are obvious economic benefits, but often familial customs and
traditional gender roles play a part. For example in Burkina Faso it is not uncommon
for a village to have access to only one mobile phone. The phone is typically owned by
a person who is not natively from the village, such as a teacher or missionary, but it is
the expected that other members of the village are allowed to use the cell phone to
make necessary calls.
Restrictions on usage
There exists a community that believes mobile phone use represents a long -term
health risk, although this is currently disputed by the World Health Organization, with
forthcoming mobile phone usage recommendations in 2010. Certain countries,
including France, have warned against the use of cell phones especially by minors due
to health risk uncertainties. Groups of scientists, such as the US based group
Bioinitiative, argue that because mobile phone use is recently introduced technology,
long-term "proof" has been impossible and that use should be restricted, or monitored
closely, while the technology is still new.
Use while driving
Mobile phone use while driving is common but controversial. Being distracted while
operating a motor vehicle has been shown to increase the risk of accident. Because of
this, many jurisdictions prohibit the use of mobile phones while driving. Egypt, Israel,
Japan, Portugal and Singapore ban both hand-held and hands-free use of a mobile
phone whilst many other countries –including the UK, France, and many US states–
ban hand-held phone use only, allowing hands-free use.
Due to the increasing complexity of mobile phones –often more like mobile computers
in their available uses– it has introduced additional difficulties for law enforcement
officials in being able to tell one usage from another as drivers use their devices. This is
more apparent in those countries who ban both hand-held and hands-free usage,
rather those who have banned hand-held use only, as officials cannot easily tell which
function of the mobile phone is being used simply by visually looking at the driver. This
can mean that drivers may be stopped for using their device illegally on a phone call,
when in fact they were not; instead using the device for a legal purpose such as the
phones' incorporated controls for car stereo or satnav usage – either as part of the
cars' own device or directly on the mobile phone itself.
Cases like these can often only be proved otherwise by a check of the mobile operators
phone call records to see if a call was taking place during the journey concerned.
Although in many countries the law enforcement official may have stopped the driver
for a differing offence, for example, for lack of due care and attention in relation to
Some schools limit or restrict the use of mobile phones. Schools set restrictions on the
use of mobile phones because of the use of cell phones for cheating on tests,
harassment and bullying, causing threats to the schools security, distractions to the
students and facilitating gossip and other social activity in school. Many mobile phones
are banned in school locker room facilities, public restrooms and swimming pools due
to the built-in cameras that most phones now feature.
A recently published study has reviewed the incidence of mobile phone use while
cycling and its effects on behaviour and safety.
Cell phones have numerous privacy issues.
Governments, law enforcement and intelligence services use mobiles to perform
surveillance in the UK and the US. They possess technology to remotely activate the
microphones in cell phones in order to listen to conversations that take place near to
the person who holds the phone.
Mobile phones are also commonly used to collect location data. While the phone is
turned on, the geographical location of a mobile phone can be determined easily
(whether it is being used or not), using a technique known multilateration to calculate
the differences in time for a signal to travel from the cell phone to each of several cell
towers near the owner of the phone.
The ubiquitousness and rapid technological change has led to mobile phones becoming
a component of the waste stream. Electronic waste such as mobile phones contain
materials that are toxic when they enter into ecosystems and recycling is now carried
out to some extent.
Future evolution: Broadband Fourth generation (4G)
The recently released 4th generation, also known as Beyond 3G, aims to provide
broadband wireless access with nominal data rates of 100 Mbit/s to fast moving
devices, and 1 Gbit/s to stationary devices defined by the ITU-R 4G systems may be
based on the 3GPP LTE (Long Term Evolution) cellular standard, offering peak bit rates
of 326.4 Mbit/s. It may perhaps also be based on WiMax or Flash-OFDM wireless
metropolitan area network technologies that promise broadband wireless access with
speeds that reaches 233 Mbit/s for mobile users. The radio interface in these systems
is based on all-IP packet switching, MIMO diversity, multi-carrier modulation schemes,
Dynamic Channel Assignment (DCA) and channel-dependent scheduling. A 4G system
should be a complete replacement for current network infrastructure and is expected
to be able to provide a comprehensive and secure IP solution where voice, data, and
streamed multimedia can be given to users on a "Anytime, Anywhere" basis, and at
much higher data rates than previous generations. Sprint in the US has claimed its
WiMax network to be "4G network" which most cellular telecoms standardization
experts dispute repeatedly around the world. Sprint's 4G is seen as a marketing
gimmick as WiMax itself is part of the 3G air interface. The officially accepted, ITU
ratified standards-based 4G networks are not expected to be commercially launched
Comparison to similar systems
A type of telephone permanently mounted in a vehicle, these often have more
powerful transmitters, an external antenna and loudspeaker for hands free use.
They usually connect to the same networks as regular mobile phones.
Cordless telephone (portable phone)
Cordless phones are telephones which use one or more radio handsets in place
of a wired handset. The handsets connect wirelessly to a base station, which in
turn connects to a conventional land line for calling. Unlike mobile phones,
cordless phones use private base stations (belonging to the land-line
subscriber), which are not shared.
Professional Mobile Radio
Advanced professional mobile radio systems can be very similar to mobile
phone systems. Notably, the IDEN standard has been used as both a private
trunked radio system as well as the technology for several large public
providers. Similar attempts have even been made to use TETRA, the European
digital PMR standard, to implement public mobile networks.
This is a term which covers radios which could connect into the telephone
network. These phones may not be mobile; for example, they may require a
mains power supply, or they may require the assistance of a human operator to
set up a PSTN phone call.
This type of phone communicates directly with an artificial satellite, which in
turn relays calls to a base station or another satellite phone. A single satellite
can provide coverage to a much greater area than terrestrial base stations.
Since satellite phones are costly, their use is typically limited to people in
remote areas where no mobile phone coverage exists, such as mountain
climbers, mariners in the open sea, and news reporters at disaster sites.
This type of phone delivers or receives calls over internet, LAN or WAN
networks using VoIP as opposed to traditional CDMA and GSM networks. In
business, the majority of these IP Phones tend to be connected via wired
Ethernet, however wireless varieties do exist. Several vendors have developed
standalone WiFi phones. Additionally, some cellular mobile phones include the
ability to place VoIP calls over cellular high speed data networks and/or