The history of cell phones embarks on from the early days of 1920s – a period during which radios were emerging as effective communication devices. The very first usage of radio phones were in taxi/cars using two-way radio communication. Like any other electronic equipment, cell phones evolved over time, and each stage or era was most certainly interesting.

The first official cell phone was used by the Swedish police in 1946. They made it functional by connecting a hand-held phone to the central telephone network. It was very similar to the two-way radio phone that was used in cars/taxis for portable communication.

Rising from this type of communication technology, the evolution of modern cellular phones began. A communication architecture of Hexagonal Cells was created for cell phones by D. H. Ring, of Bell Labs, in 1947. An engineer from Bell Labs discovered cell towers which had the capability to not only transmit but to also receive the signals in three different directions. Before this discovery, the cell phones only worked in two directions and through an antenna.

Pre-Mobile Phones

The electronic components used in cell phones of today’s generation were first developed in the 1960s. During this time, the technology of cell phone was already available. The problem that persisted during that time was the user was restricted to a certain block of areas, which were called cell areas. Cell areas were base stations covering a small land area. If the cell phone user traveled beyond the boundaries of the cell area, the user wouldn’t get signal or receive transmitted messages. There were instances when a call could still be made but the call would be cut once a set range has been reached.

The above limitation of distance was resolved by an engineer at Bell Labs. Amos Edward Joel discovered and developed what he termed as the handoff system. This kind of technology enabled to continue the call from one area to the next and the call would not get dropped. The cell areas for the cell phone users weren’t restricted anymore; the user could freely roam across cell areas without disruption in their calls.

During this time, the technology for cell phones had been developed but it was only in 1971 when there was a request for cellular service. AT&T submitted a request public cellular service to the FCC in 1982. The request was processed almost after a decade. Frequencies of 824 to 894 MHz Band to the AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone Services) were made possible. Cell phones had analog service since 1982 to 1990. In 1990, AMPS turned digital and went online.

First Generation Cell phones

Motorola was the first company to introduce the first portable cell phone called Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. The FCC approved it for public use after much deliberation and testing of the device. Since then, Motorola has been developing the communication technology of cellular phones. The Motorola DynaTAC took 15 years of development before it was made available to the public market. It was considered to be a lightweight cell phone of about 28 ounces. Its dimensions were 13 x 1.75 x 3.5 inches. It was developed by Dr. Martin Cooper. During those times, Motorola DynaTAC assumed to be high-tech and advance cell phone unit.

Cell phones became popular and received demand from the public during the 1983 to 1989 period. The innovations in communication technology and other networks include the ability of cell phones to handle calls from one area to another area way beyond the venue of the call. In the 1980s, a lot of cell phones were not designed to be hand-held. Formally, “car phone” were installed in cars and this had high demand in the market. Aside from car phones, the earliest models of the first generation cell phones were shaped like tote bags. These were hooked up to the battery of the car through the DC outlet. Other models came in the form of briefcases. This was for large batteries that were needed just in case the user had to make emergency calls.

Second Generation Cell phones

During the 1990s, the technology on which the cell phones worked was called 2G or second generation. This worked on systems like IS-95 or the CDMA, IS-136, TDMA and GSM. The United States and Europe used digital cell phone providers and networks at that time. 2G cell phones were also used to switch the transmissions in the digital circuit which made it easier to make calls. 2G cell phones had a faster network which functions on radio signals. This decreased the chances of calls being dropped thus improvising on call quality. These replaced the analog network frequencies. Eventually, the adaption of modern networks made the analog frequencies obsolete.
The 2G cell phones were smaller, around 100 to 200 grams. These were hand-held and were portable. The advancements happened in cell phones, their batteries, computer chips, etc. Due all these improvements, the cell phone customer base expanded rapidly.

Third Generation Cell phones

The cell phones used nowadays are the third generation phones. 3G was soon launched after 2G. However, the standards that are used in 3G cell phones are different from one model of the cell phone to the next. This essentially depends on the network providers.

3G cell phones have set standards which the network providers need to follow. These cell phones could also message other users via SMS (Short Messaging Service), send emails and access the Internet, stream live videos, stream radio, and use the Wi-Fi.

Historical Timeline

Given below is a comprehensive historic timeline highlighting important events/discoveries during the cell phone evolution.

Year 1908 Nathan B. Stubblefield is granted an US patent for the Wireless Telephone technology.
Year 1921 Initial usage of radio devices started.
Year 1926 Radio telephony was first used on the first-class passenger trains between Berlin and Hamburg, Europe.
Year 1940 The first radio receiver/transmitter, called Walkie Talkie (Motorola SCR-300), was created at Galvin Manufacturing Company (now Motorola).

Police department first started using radios for communication with additional features.

Year 1947 Engineers at Bell Labs, Douglas H. Ring and W. Rae Young, proposed an architecture of hexagonal cells for mobile phone usage in vehicles.
Year 1950 Radiophones were used in Second World War for military communication and civil services.
Year 1956 The world’s first fully automated system for mobile telephony is launched in Stockholm.
Year 1957 A Soviet radio engineer named Leonid Kupriyanovich designed a portable mobile phone called LK-1.
Year 1960 The first fully automated mobile phone system for vehicles was launched in Sweden in 1960 – it allowed calls to be made and received in the car using a rotary dial.
Year 1965 Televerket, a Swedish company, launches a new automatic mobile system called MTB. It was designed by Ragnar Berglund in Stockholm and Gothenburg.
Year 1969 George Sweigert of Euclid was granted an US patent for wireless phone using an acoustic coupler for incoming calls (but did not include dialing a number for outgoing calls).
Year 1970 An engineer at Bell Labs engineer, called Amos E. Joel, invented an automatic call handoff system to allow mobile phones to move through several cell areas during a single conversation without interruption.
Year 1971 AT&T submitted a proposal for cellular service to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

ARP network in Finland was the first successful public commercial cellphone network.

Year 1972 Amos Edward Joel from (Bell Labs) was granted an US patent for Cellular Mobile Communication System.
Year 1973 Fluhr and Nussbaum designed the cellular telephone switching plan.

Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher and executive, made the first analogue mobile phone call on a prototype model.

(Martin Cooper made the first handheld cellular phone call on April 3, 1973 to Dr. Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs)

Year 1974 SRA releases a mobile telephone whose weight was 3 kilograms.
Year 1975 Martin Cooper et al. (from Motorola) was granted an US patent for Radio Telephone System (Dyna-Tac).
Year 1977 Hachenburg Et Al designed cellular telephone data signaling system.
Year 1979 Charles A. Gladden and Martin H. Parelman were granted US patent for an emergency cellular system for rapid deployment in areas where cellular service was not available.

The first commercially automated cellular network (the 1G generation) was launched in Japan by NTT.

Richard H. Frenkiel (from Bell Labs) was granted an US patent for Cellular Radiotelephone System for Different Cell Sizes.

Jan Stenbeck starts the mobile operator Millicom Inc. in the USA together with Shelby Bryan.

Year 1981 The following 1G network was launched by Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) system in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Saudi Arabia became the first country to launch a commercial NMT system (Ericsson and SPA were the suppliers).

Year 1982 FCC approved the proposal for Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) and allocated frequencies in the 824–894 MHz band.
Year 1983 Verne MacDonald, Philip Porter and Rae Young (from Bell Labs) were granted US patent for Cellular Mobile Radiotelephone System.
Year 1984 Nokia, from Finland, launches the first portable car-telephone called the Nokia Talkman.
Year 1985 Vodafone made the UK’s first mobile call at a few minutes past midnight.
Year 1986 Ericsson launches the first Hotline telephone.
Year 1990 Number of mobile subscribers in the world crosses 10 million.
Year 1991 First GSM network, called Radiolinja, was launched in Finland.
Year 1992 First machine-generated SMS message was sent in the UK.

Andrew McGirr & Barry Cassidy were granted US patent for Radio telephone using received signal strength in controlling transmission power.

Year 1993 First person-to-person SMS was sent in Finland.

Jouko Tattari (from Nokia) was granted an US patent for Construction of a stand alone portable telephone unit.

Year 1998 Ringtone was the first commercial downloadable content for cell phones – launched by Finland’s Radiolinja (now Elisa).

Mobile payments were first trialled in Finland and Sweden.

Douglas Fougnies et al (from Freedom Wireless) was granted an US patent for Security cellular telecommunications system.

Andrew Wise et al. (from Banana Communications) was granted an US patent for Cellular phone system wherein the air time use is predetermined.

Yoshiyuki Ide (from NEC) was granted an US patent for Hands-free telephone set.

Year 1999 First full-fledged internet service on cell phones was introduced by NTT DoCoMo in Japan.
Year 2000 Advertising on the mobile phone first appeared in Finland when a free daily SMS news headline service was launched in 2000, sponsored by advertising.
Year 2001 First pre-commercial trial network with 3G was launched by NTT DoCoMo in Japan.

Sony and Ericsson agreed to create a joint company, called Sony Ericsson, for developing and manufacturing cell phones.

Year 2002 Number of mobile subscribers in the world crosses 1 billion.
Year 2006 Number of mobile subscribers in the world crosses 2.5 billion.
Year 2007 295 million subscribers on 3G networks worldwide, which reflected 9% of the total worldwide cell phone subscriber base.
Year 2008 James S. Kim, Kwangbok Lee, Kiho Kim and Changsoon Park were granted Us patent for Mobile communication apparatus and method including base station and mobile station having multi-antenna: Per-User Unitary Rate Control (PU2RC).