The first cellphone call was placed in 1973 by the “Father of the Cellphone,” Marty Cooper. He used a prototype Motorola phone that laid the basis for the first commercially available cellphone 10 years later.
“The battery life of this phone was less than a half-hour of talking,” Marty told Kim Komando in a radio interview last year. “It turns out that wasn’t a problem, Kim, because you couldn’t carry that phone up to your ear for 25 minutes, it was so heavy!” Tap or click here to listen to what Marty told the head of AT&T’s rival project when he placed the first-ever cellphone call.
The first cellphones had two functions: talk and listen. Text messaging, cameras and apps came later. Some of us can recall the clunky early phones of the 1980s, while others are of the flip-phone generation. We gathered 10 of history’s most iconic cellphones to bring you back.
1. Motorola DynaTAC 8000X
The first mobile cellphone that wasn’t tied to a car or small suitcase was Motorola’s DynaTAC 8000X, which came out in 1983. It cost $3,995, or $10,950 today. Though this phone was not intended for the mass market, it was the first truly mobile phone that could connect to a network with the need of an operator.
These phones are considered collector’s items and are going for a pretty penny on eBay.
2. T-Mobile Sidekick
Originally called the Hiptop, the Sidekick was introduced in 2002 by T-Mobile. It had a monochrome screen that could be rotated 180 degrees. Slide out the screen and you’ll find a full QWERTY keyboard and trackball.
The Sidekick wasn’t the first smartphone, but it did feature downloadable apps, email, instant messaging and even a cloud service.
The Sidekick became a status symbol for celebrities. Do a Google search of Sidekick phones from the 2000s and you’ll find it in the hands of A-list movie stars, athletes and musicians.
3. Motorola Razr V3
The Razr launched in 2004 and made flip phones cool again. The Razr V3 had a 1.3-megapixel camera, full-color screen and a sleek aluminum body. The Razr was on the market for four years and sold 130 million units, making it the most popular flip phone of all time.
A hot pink version dropped in 2005, and our very own Kim Komando sported one.
Motorola released a new version of the Razr in 2020 with an OLED screen and 16-megapixel camera. Tap or click here to check out our report on the throwback.
4. Blackberry Pearl
BlackBerry began as a pager brand and by 2006 caught its share of the smartphone market with the Pearl, named for the backlit rollerball above the keyboard. The Pearl didn’t have a full keyboard and used predictive typing to keep the design slim.
The Pearl’s production run lasted four years, seeing improvements to the camera, storage capacity and resolution. A flip version of the Pearl was released in 2008. The Pearl is the bestselling BlackBerry phone at 15 million units sold.
5. Nokia 3310
You know your phone is a hit when it becomes a meme. The Nokia 3310 was released in 2000 and has since gained a reputation as the strongest mobile phone ever made. A quick Google search will reveal videos of the 3310 being shot, ran over and dropped from atop buildings.
This Nokia’s 3310 is not exactly “smart” by today’s standards, and it lacked a camera. But it did have a stopwatch, calculator, SMS messaging and support for a few games.
The 3310 sold 126 million units during its five-year run. Nokia revived the 3310 in 2017, updating the phone with a web browser, voice recorder and a 2-megapixel camera.
6. Apple iPhone 6/6 Plus
The iPhone ushered in the touchscreen when the first model launched in 2007, and every other manufacturer followed suit. By the time the iPhone 6 was released in 2014, Apple had firmly established itself as a major player in the smartphone world.
The iPhone 6 featured Apple’s first Retina HD display, which was praised for its brightness and colors. The 6 Plus was Apple’s first plus-size model, with a 5.5-inch screen. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are among the bestselling mobile phones of all time, with 220 million units sold.
7. LG Chocolate phone
LG’s Chocolate slider phone was released in North America in 2006 with a QVGA display, MP3 player, 1.3-megapixel camera and a circular touch panel.
The Chocolate had a sliding panel that hid a traditional number pad. Early versions of the original LG Chocolate smartphone were rumored to smell like chocolate. The first-generation chocolate sold 21 million units.
8. Samsung Galaxy Note 7
This one is more infamous than iconic. Samsung popularized the phablet with its Galaxy Note series, which had a 10-year run that ended in 2021. The Galaxy Note 7 launched in August 2016 and was pulled off the market two months later.
Note 7 was Samsung’s first phone to pack a USB-C connector. It featured a 5.7-inch curved OLED display, 12-megapixel rear camera and an iris recognition system for unlocking the phone. The phone proved popular upon launch and sold well.
Then the fires happened. Note 7 users were reporting that their phones were overheating and catching fire. This was due to a battery defect that caused short-circuiting. Samsung released software updates to limit battery charge and recalled the units to replace their batteries, but those also caught fire.
Though the overheating issues affected only a small percentage of phones, the FAA banned these phones from all flights. Samsung recalled all Note 7s and sent out fireproof bags for customers to use for returns. The Note 7 even made our list of epic tech fails.
9. Samsung Galaxy S3
If anyone had a shot of competing with Apple’s iPhone juggernaut, it was Samsung. The first Galaxy S was released in 2010 and was well-received for its processor speed, camera and audio quality.
The Galaxy S3 launched in 2012 with a marketing campaign that bashed the iPhone and its loyal customers. The S3 had a 4.8-inch OLED display, NFC capability and wireless charging. Galaxy S3 users could touch their phones together to share content.
The S3 and its variants sold 80 million units, making it the Samsung’s most popular phone ever. Did Samsung redeem itself for the catastrophic Note 7? That’s up to you to decide.
10. Nokia 1100
This is it. The bestselling mobile phone of all time is the Nokia 1100, with 250 million units finding their way into people’s hands. The 1100 was introduced in 2003 and had a six-year production run.
The Nokia 1100 had programmable ringtones, a stopwatch, a calculator and a flashlight and came in some neat colors. The lack of features contributed to long battery life.
The Nokia 1100 sold for about $100, making it popular in countries where smartphones were a luxury beyond the reach of the general population.