There have been hundreds of thousands, if not millions of mobile phones released over the years, the large majority of which have been unremarkable to say the least. However, every so often there is a device released that challenges the way we think and communicate. We've been around long enough to have seen almost all of them, so we figured we would give our opinion on the top 10 mobile phone game changers.
Blackberry’s have been a mainstay in business mobile technology for 20 years. Originally they were two-way pagers, with their first being launched in 1994. However, the Blackberry 957 was the beginning of the move from the pager market into mobile phones. While the handset itself didn’t actually facilitate phone calls at this stage, the software it was running on looked almost identical to that which was running on their bold and curve models not too long ago.
The 957 was built around messaging, emails and organizational tools, all of which were available on the move – a rarity at the time. Blackberry executed this better than anyone and continue to do so to this very day, allowing them to move into a position to dominate the smartphone industry for the better part of the next decade.
If you want to be pedantic then you could argue that the Blackberry 7230 should have been the phone featured here but we feel that the 957 really laid the foundations and was the real game changer.
The Nokia 7110 was the first mobile phone to feature a WAP browser, pathing the way for mass consumer internet through their handsets. The phone was a commercial success but due to a lack of real knowledge amongst the general public, it wasn’t the WAP browser or superior messaging features that drove the device’s sales…
The common misconception with the 7110 is that it was the phone used by Morpheus, Trinity and Neo in the movie The Matrix. The handset actually used is the Nokia 8110, which had been customized with a spring loaded system specifically for the production team on set – leading to the inclusion of a spring loaded “cover” on the 7110.
It’s crazy isn’t it; we had the latest technology in our hands that would lead to a technological revolution over the next decade or so, yet all we wanted was the little spring!
Motorola make their first appearance on our list with the Razr. The Razr was, at the time of its launch, the thinnest clamshell phone in the world and was substantially thinner than pretty much every mass produced handset on the market. Add a VGA camera, data tethering and MP3 playback and you have a top quality camera phone that’s breaking down barriers in every direction.
The sheer amount advances that the Razr made forced their competition to advance into other areas, pushing the market towards the era of the Smartphone. The effects were amplified when Motorola began to slash the cost of the handset on the high streets, making the technology accessible to almost anyone that wanted it.
While there were a number of Motorola MicroTAC models released, the first and most influential was the 9800X. The TAC within the models name stands for “Total Area Coverage”, a clear sign of what Motorola were attempting to address with their latest model, which retailed at a staggering $2,995 – widely considered by critics to be great value.
Perhaps most important for this model though was the fact that it was the first mobile phone that could, relatively comfortably, fit in the owners pocket while they went about their business. All of these features with a staggering 75 minutes of talk-time before you ran out of battery!
The 9800X was also the first “flip phone”, protecting both the keypad and microphone from damage when not in use. This trend would continue to be prominent for the next 20 years, until the rise of the smartphone but even then, many leather cases used a similar “flip” style.
The Nokia 3210 was the first phone to allow the user to change the front and back fascia of the handset, meaning every phone could theoretically be different. Additionally, the 3210 came with the latest T9 predictive text messaging, space for up to 250 contacts in the phonebook, a backlit monochrome display and weighed just 151 grams.
Nokia’s real masterstroke with the 3210 was targeting a much younger audience and lowering the price, making the mobile phone a must have accessory for the an audience that would become some of the biggest spenders in history.
While it was a long way from the MMS that would take the industry by storm a few years later, the 3210 also helped lay the foundations for its popularity with its relatively primitive picture messaging feature – containing a dozen or so “pictures” for a variety of occasions. Let’s not even get started on the games, ringtones, carrier logos and all the rest of it!
Simon was the breakthrough PDA and mobile phone, targeting businessmen and women who needed to stay organised and connected at all times. Because it was the first PDA and Mobile Phone in one unit, many consumers who had just got used to the idea of mobiles becoming part of their everyday life were hesitant about making the purchase.
This lead to a relatively unsuccessful lifespan for the innovative piece of mobile tech’ as it slumped and got discontinued just 6 months after its initial release, with a measly 50,000 units sold worldwide.
The G1 was the first commercially released mobile phone running the Android OS, featuring a touchscreen and slide-out physical qwerty keyboard. While it was hardly ground breaking at the time due to the recent release of the iPhone, it did make a huge difference in that it was running on the first open source mobile operating system that could compete with Apple’s iOS offerings.
This was a huge entrance into the market by Google (the developers of Android) and showed that they would be willing to go toe to toe with their competitors in any market – no matter how far away from online search it may be.
The Nokia 5110 was the first mobile phone that featured the now legendary game snake, which had people all over the world locked into competition and heated discussion over who could get the highest score. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that the game was one of the predominant reasons that the handset was so popular, driving sales along with other unique features such as the replaceable front fascia.
While Nokia never did release their sales figure for the unit, we can give you an idea by saying that it wasn’t too far off the 3210 in terms of popularity at the turn of the century and that model went on to shift over 160 million units.
The Motorola DynaTAC was the very first commercially available mobile phone, becoming available to the public in 1984 – although it was developed by Martin Cooper, an engineer at Motorola, in 1974. The first actual commercial call made on the handset was to Bob Barnett, a leading figure in the mobile communications industry at the time, who then called the grandson of Alexander Graham Bell – the man who created the very first telephone.
In short, this is Genesis. That alone is deserving of its position on our list.
The iPhone. We don’t think we need to go into too much detail as to why it’s #1 on our list but for those that are sceptical; the iPhone changed everything. Keypads were removed, touch screens became the standard and user experience was placed above all else. It redefined the way that we use our phones completely.
No longer were we playing snake on the bus because we had nothing to do, nor were we sitting through 15 voicemails to get to the one we actually wanted to listen to. Every barrier that you can think of was broken down by the iPhone and those that weren’t, well they probably weren’t possible before Apple set the new standard. The iPhone didn’t just change the game, it changed our lives.