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The Cell Phone Turns 40. What's Next?

  1. The 40th Anniversary of the Cell Phone

    The 40th Anniversary of the Cell Phone

    April 3, 2013, marks the 40th anniversary of the first call made from a handheld cell phone. But mobile communication had been around for a while. During World War II, soldiers used two-way radio transceivers (walkie-talkies) to communicate from the front line.

    Photograph by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images
  2. Car phone (1946)

    Car phone (1946)

    The first call from a car phone was made in 1946, from a handset under the dash. It used radio frequencies. Within two years, drivers could make calls from their cars in almost 100 cities and highway corridors. Pretty cool, as long as you were happy to hang out in your car.

    Photograph by Eileen Darby//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
  3. Mobile phones appear in pop culture (1960s)

    Mobile phones appear in pop culture (1960s)

    The idea of being able to call from anywhere continued to capture the public’s imagination. Secret agent Maxwell Smart made calls from his shoe phone in the TV comedy series Get Smart.

    Photograph by Everett Collection
  4. The communicator on ‘Star Trek’ (1960s)

    The communicator on ‘Star Trek’ (1960s)

    Starfleet members used the communicator to contact each other and other starships. Later, Motorola researcher and executive Martin Cooper said the communicator was his inspiration for the first cell phone.

    Photograph by Everett Collection
  5. First cell phone prototype (1973)

    First cell phone prototype (1973)

    Cooper’s prototype—designed for a cellular network—weighed more than 2 pounds, measured 9 inches long, took 10 hours to charge, and offered 30 minutes of talk time. In front of reporters, he made the first call from a sidewalk in Manhattan on April 3, 1973. He recalled during a 2003 interview that he called rival engineer Joel Engel at Bell Labs and said, “Joel, I'm calling you from a 'real' cellular telephone. A portable handheld telephone.”

    Photograph by Eric Risberg/AP Photo
  6. First commercial cell phone (1983)

    First commercial cell phone (1983)

    With billions invested in developing cellular service, commercial cell phone service started in 1983. In the decade since Cooper’s prototype was introduced, Motorola was able to shrink the DynaTAC 8000x phone to 28 ounces and offer 60 minutes of talk time. Price tag: $3,995.

    Photograph by Tim Boyle/Bloomberg
  7. ‘Wall Street’ (1987)

    ‘Wall Street’ (1987)

    By 1987, there were 1.23 million cell phone subscribers (including those installed in cars). They remained pricey—about $2,300 on average for a handheld phone—and became conspicuous accessories for the very wealthy. Gordon Gekko didn’t say “greed is good” on his cell phone, but wouldn’t it have been great if he had?

    Photograph by Everett Collection
  8. First flip phone (1989)

    First flip phone (1989)

    By 1989, there were 3.5 million mobile subscribers and phones were evolving to be more portable. That year, Motorola launched the MicroTAC flip phone, which weighed 10.7 ounces and fit into a jacket pocket. Cost: $2,495.

    Photograph by SSPL/Getty Images
  9. ‘Saved by the Bell’ (early 1990s)

    ‘Saved by the Bell’ (early 1990s)

    Cell phones showed up in youth entertainment—though not necessarily cutting-edge ones. On Saved by the Bell, high school prankster Zack Morris still managed to terrorize his high school principal from a classic “brick” style phone. Is that a hand-me-down, preppy?

    Courtesy Youtube
  10. Early ‘smartphones’ (1994)

    Early ‘smartphones’ (1994)

    They did not become common for another decade, but multi-functional “smartphones” actually existed in the ‘90s. The first, the Simon Personal Communicator from IBM and Bellsouth, had a touchscreen, predictive text, and apps. It launched in 1994 for $899 and was discontinued by early 1995.

    Photograph by 731
  11. ‘The Matrix’ (1999)

    ‘The Matrix’ (1999)

    That cell phone in The Matrix? It was a Nokia 8110, adapted with a spring-loaded slider for the film. "Nokia's mobile phones create the vital link between the dream world and the reality in The Matrix,” stated a release by the Finnish company. In 1999, the height of the dot-com bubble, Nokia was the largest mobile phone maker and had a market cap of €209.4 billion.

    Photograph by Everett Collection
  12. BlackBerry phone (2002)

    BlackBerry phone (2002)

    BlackBerry introduced its first devices with phone functionality, a logical extension of its “instant messaging pager,” which had become an essential device for tech executives and politicians. (Even presidential candidate Al Gore was receiving messages at 1:20 a.m. Central time on election night in 2000.) By this time, the brand had already been dubbed “Crackberry” for its addictive nature.

    Photograph by Justin Sullivan/AP Photo
  13. Camera phones (2002)

    Camera phones (2002)

    Sanyo and Sprint also introduced the first built-in camera phones in the U.S. The tiny, grainy phone pics managed to delight consumers. Meanwhile, mobile phone usage increased: The number of subscribers in the country reached 141.8 million this year.

  14. Motorola RAZR (2004)

    Motorola RAZR (2004)

    Motorola sold thinness. This sleek “fashion phone,” only about a half inch-thick but packed with features such as a camera and Bluetooth, had sales of more than 130 million in four years, making it the bestselling clamshell phone.

    Photograph by Benjamin Sklar/AP Photo
  15. €1 million luxury phone (2006)

    €1 million luxury phone (2006)

    This was pre-financial crisis, after all. Swiss luxury phone maker GoldVish’s 18-carat white gold, diamond-studded phone sold to a Russian businessman for €1 million at the Millionaire Fair in Cannes.

    Photograph by Benainous Alain/Gamma via Getty Images
  16. iPhone (2007)

    iPhone (2007)

    With loads of hype surrounding Apple’s beautifully designed, touchscreen cell phone-music player-Web browser, lines started forming ahead of its launch on June 29. Even the $499 to $599 price tag and AT&T-only service did not discourage consumers. Days after Apple introduced the iPhone, stores were sold out. This smartphone would replace the RAZR as the bestselling phone in 2008.

    Photograph by Michael Nagle/Getty Images
  17. ‘The Signal’ (2007)

    ‘The Signal’ (2007)

    By 2007, there were 263 million mobile subscribers in the U.S.—more than twice the number in 2001. People began to envision creepy side effects. In the horror film The Signal, cell phones, radios, and televisions emit a signal that evokes “violent, uncontrollable, psychotic chaos from everyone who comes in contact with them.”

  18. ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)

    ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008)

    Sonar cell phones? They appeared in The Dark Knight, and turned every cell phone in Gotham into a high-frequency generator-receiver that could be used as a sonar mapper. reports a rumor that the iPhone 6 may have some similar functionality to detect objects and assist people in the dark.

    Photograph by Everett Collection
  19. Samsung Galaxy Note ‘phablet’ (2012)

    Samsung Galaxy Note ‘phablet’ (2012)

    This 5.3-inch phone-tablet hybrid launched in Germany in 2011 and arrived in the U.S. in 2012. It looks funny if you hold it to your face. Despite skepticism about the device’s odd size, Samsung says it sold 10 million units worldwide in its first year.

    Photograph by David Becker/Getty Images
  20. Smartwatches (2013)

    Smartwatches (2013)

    Reminiscent of Dick Tracy, so-called “smartwatches,” like the $250 Martian watch featured at CES 2013, connect with users’ cell phones and can understand voice commands to make and receive calls, so users do not have to take their phones out of their pockets. Meanwhile, Apple is rumored to be working on an iWatch. It has yet to be determined how much demand there will be for wrist phones.

    Photograph by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images