Tech

Evolution of the mobile phone

Updated 1:48 AM ET, Mon September 22, 2014
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It all started with a truck driver in St. Louis. Ok, if we're being honest, it all started with a Swedish engineer named Lars Magnus Ericsson and some electrical wires... but let's skip ahead a few decades. The first mobile call was made on an AT&T car phone in 1946. But owning a car phone didn't become mainstream until the 1980s. Now 85% of American adults own a cell phone, and we're annoyed when we can't get service. In celebration of the iPhone 4S's release, take a look back at the evolution of popular mobile phones in the U.S. Thinkstock
In 1973, Martin Cooper made history when he demonstrated a prototype of the first cell phone on the streets of New York. Ten years later, Motorola released the phone to the public. The DynaTAC 8000X was the size of a brick, weighed more than 2 pounds and sold for $3,900. Courtesy Martin Cooper
Bell South/IBM's Simon Personal Communicator retailed for $899 and was the first phone to include PDA functions like a calculator, an address book and e-mail. It also had a revolutionary (for its time) touchscreen that replaced the number buttons. BellSouth/IBM
It seemed like everyone and their mother had a Nokia 5110 in the late 1990s. At the time Nokia was the leading cell phone company in the world; the 5110 was just one of many GSM (global system for mobile) communication devices Nokia produced. The interchangeable, colored covers made the product attractive to a wider audience, but what most people probably remember is that it featured one of the first popular mobile games, "Snake." Nokia
The first BlackBerry phone was released by RIM Corporation in 1999. The phone was unusual at the time in that it had a full keyboard, could access e-mail and was used as a personal planner. It was the beginning of the always-connected era, prompting PC World in 2005 to name it the 15th greatest gadget of the past 50 years. It's now known as a "CrackBerry" by corporate executives across the world for its addictive qualities. RIM Corporation
It's almost unimaginable that people once had cell phones without built-in cameras. One of the first, the PCS phone by Sanyo 5300, sold in Sprint stores for $400 in 2002. "When Sanyo introduced the color-screen SCP-5000 a couple of years ago, consumers got a glimpse of what cell phones might be able to do in the future," a CNET review said at the time. "Now, two iterations later, the SCP-5300, with its 65,000-color display and flash-equipped built-in camera, is making that vision a reality." Sprint
You can blame the Black & White T-Mobile Sidekick for the millennial generation's obsession with text messaging. The phone was basically a two-way pager, allowing messages to be sent back and forth. The phone retailed for $249 and appeared in Jay-Z's music video "Excuse Me Miss." Later versions added a color screen and quickly became a favorite among celebrities and teens. T-Mobile
Remember the RAZR? Better question... who doesn't remember the RAZR? One of the thinnest phones in the market at the time, the Motorola RAZR (pronounced "razor") V3 was introduced in 2004. "Motorola has always been on the forefront of flip phone design, making a profitable living catering to the clamshell-hungry market," Mobiledia reviewer Allen Tsai wrote in 2004. The phone sold for $59.50, and its descendants are still in stores today. From Amazon
Ah, Apple. Unless you've been living under a Wi-Fi-blocking rock for the last four years, little else needs to be said. In 2007, the computer company released the first iPhone, sending fans into a frenzy. The phone introduced us to a multi-touch interface, the virtual keyboard and, a year later, the App Store. Despite its initial status as a $499 luxury product, consumers ate it up. Getty Images
Not to be outdone, Google released its first Android smartphone in 2008 -- the T-Mobile G1. At $180 it was cheaper than the iPhone and offered those not able to (or wanting to) switch to AT&T an iPhone-like option. Since then HTC, Motorola and Samsung have all produced multiple smartphones running the popular Android OS. Getty Images
4G is the modern standard for wireless in mobile phone technology. Released by Sprint in 2010, the HTC Evo was the first 4G phone offered on a major U.S. carrier. "The HTC Evo combines the 'perfect specimen' hardware of the Touch HD2, the Sense-on-Android smoothness of the Legend, and unprecedented download speeds. It's a beast," wrote Brian Barrett in Gizmodo's review. Getty Images