Several examples of non-flip mobile phones, from the early 2000s.
Inventor Martin Cooper
Launch year 1973
A mobile phone (also called mobile, cellphone or handphone) is an electronic device used for full duplex
two-way radio telecommunications over a cellular network of base stations known as cell sites. Mobile
phones differ from cordless telephones, which only offer telephone service within limited range through
a single base station attached to a fixed land line, for example within a home or an office. Low-end
mobile phones are often referred to as feature phones, whereas high-end mobile phones that offer
more advanced computing ability are referred to as smartphones.
A mobile phone allows its user to make and receive telephone calls to and from the public telephone
network which includes other mobiles and fixed line phones across the world. It does this by connecting
to a cellular network owned by a mobile network operator. A key feature of the cellular network is that
it enables seamless telephone calls even when the user is moving around wide areas via a process
known as handoff or handover.
In addition to being a telephone, modern mobile phones also support many additional services, and
accessories, such as SMS (or text) messages, email, Internet access, gaming, Bluetooth, infrared, camera,
MMS messaging, MP3 player, radio and GPS.
The first hand held phone was demonstrated by Martin Cooper of Motorola in 1973, using a handset
weighing in at two kilos. In the year 1990, 12.4 million people worldwide had cellular subscriptions. By
the end of 2009, only 20 years later, the number of mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide reached
approximately 4.6 billion, 300 times the 1990 number, penetrating the developing economies and
reaching the bottom of the economic pyramid.
2 Handset Features
2.1 Software and applications
2.2 Power supply
2.3 SIM card
3 Mobile phones in society
3.1 Market share
6 Restriction on usage
6.1 Use while driving
7 Future evolution: Broadband Fourth generation (4G)
8 Comparison to similar systems
1 - History
Mobile car phone, 1964
Radiophones have a long and varied history going back to Reginald Fessenden's invention and shore-to-
ship demonstration of radio telephony, through the Second World War with military use of radio
telephony links and civil services in the 1950s, while hand-held mobile radio devices have been available
In 1960, the world’s first partly automatic car phone system, Mobile System A (MTA), was launched in
Sweden. MTA phones were composed of vacuum tubes and relays, and had a weight of 40 kg. In 1962, a
more modern version called Mobile System B (MTB) was launched, which was a push-button telephone,
and which used transistors in order to enhance the telephone’s calling capacity and improve its
operational reliability. In 1971 the MTD version was launched, opening for several different brands of
equipment and gaining commercial success.
Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher and executive is considered to be the inventor of the first
practical mobile phone for hand-held use in a non-vehicle setting, after a long race against Bell Labs for
the first portable mobile phone. Using a modern, if somewhat heavy portable handset, Cooper made the
first call on a hand-held mobile phone on April 3, 1973 to his rival, Dr. Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs.
The first commercially automated cellular network (the 1G generation) was launched in Japan by NTT in
1979, initially in the metropolitan area of Tokyo. Within five years, the NTT network had been expanded
to cover the whole population of Japan and became the first nation-wide 1G network. In 1981, this was
followed by the simultaneous launch of the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) system in Denmark,
Finland, Norway and Sweden. NMT was the first mobile phone network featuring international roaming.
The first 1G network launched in the USA was Chicago based Ameritech in 1983 using the Motorola
DynaTAC mobile phone. Several countries then followed in the early 1980s including the UK, Mexico and
The first "modern" network technology on digital 2G (second generation) cellular technology was
launched by Radiolinja (now part of Elisa Group) in 1991 in Finland on the GSM standard which also
marked the introduction of competition in mobile telecoms when Radiolinja challenged incumbent
Telecom Finland (now part of TeliaSonera) who ran a 1G NMT network.
In 2001 the first commercial launch of 3G (Third Generation) was again in Japan by NTT DoCoMo on the
One of the newest 3G technologies to be implemented is High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA).
It is an enhanced 3G (third generation) mobile telephony communications protocol in the High-Speed
Packet Access (HSPA) family, also coined 3.5G, 3G+ or turbo 3G, which allows networks based on
Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) to have higher data transfer speeds and capacity.
2 - Handset Features
A Nokia phone with box.
A printed circuit board inside a mobile phone
All mobile phones have a number of features in common, but manufacturers also try to differentiate
their own products by implementing additional functions to make them more attractive to consumers.
This has led to great innovation in mobile phone development over the last twenty years.
The common components found on all phones are:
1. A rechargeable battery providing the power source for the phone functions an input mechanism
and display to allow the user to interact with the phone.
2. The most common input mechanism is a keypad, but touch screens are also found in some high
end smart phones.
3. Basic mobile phone services allow users to make calls and send text messages.
4. All GSM phones use a SIM card to allow an account to be swapped to between devices. Some
CDMA devices also have a similar card called a R-UIM.
5. Low-end mobile phones are often referred to as feature phones, and offer basic telephony, as
well as functions such as playing music and taking photos, and sometimes simple applications
based on generic managed platforms such as Java ME or BREW. Handsets with more advanced
computing ability through the use of native software applications became known as smart
phones. The first smartphone was the Nokia 9000 Communicator in 1996 which added PDA
functionality to the basic mobile phone at the time. As miniaturisation and increased processing
power of microchips has enabled ever more features to be added to phones, the concept of the
smartphone has evolved, and what was a high-end smartphone five years ago, is a standard
6. Several phone series have been introduced to address a given market segment, such as the RIM
BlackBerry focusing on enterprise/corporate customer email needs; the SonyEricsson Walkman
series of musicphones and Cybershot series of cameraphones; the Nokia Nseries of multimedia
phones, the Palm Pre the HTC Dream and the Apple iPhone.
7. Other features that may be found on mobile phones include GPS navigation, music (MP3) and
video (MP4) playback, RDS radio receiver, alarms, memo recording, personal digital assistant
functions, ability to watch streaming video, video download, video calling, built-in cameras (1.0+
Mpx) and camcorders (video recording), with autofocus and flash, ringtones, games, PTT,
memory card reader (SD), USB (2.0), dual line support, infrared, Bluetooth (2.0) and WiFi
connectivity, instant messaging, Internet e-mail and browsing and serving as a wireless modem.
Nokia and the University of Cambridge demonstrated a bendable cell phone called the Morph.
2.1 - Software and applications
A phone with touchscreen feature.
The most commonly used data application on mobile phones is SMS text messaging. The first SMS text
message was sent from a computer to a mobile phone in 1992 in the UK, while the first person-to-
person SMS from phone to phone was sent in Finland in 1993.
Other non-SMS data services used on mobile phones include mobile music, downloadable logos and
pictures, gaming, gambling, adult entertainment and advertising. The first downloadable mobile content
was sold to a mobile phone in Finland in 1998, when Radiolinja (now Elisa) introduced the downloadable
ring tone service. In 1999 Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo introduced its mobile internet service,
i-Mode, which today is the world's largest mobile internet service.
The first mobile news service, delivered via SMS, was launched in Finland in 2000. Mobile news services
are expanding with many organisations providing "on-demand" news services by SMS. Some also
provide "instant" news pushed out by SMS.
Mobile payments were first trialled in Finland in 1998 when two Coca-Cola vending machines in Espoo
were enabled to work with SMS payments. Eventually the idea spread and in 1999 the Philippines
launched the first commercial mobile payments systems, on the mobile operators Globe and Smart.
Today mobile payments ranging from mobile banking to mobile credit cards to mobile commerce are
very widely used in Asia and Africa, and in selected European markets.
2.2 - Power supply
Mobile phone charging service in Uganda
Mobile phones generally obtain power from rechargeable batteries. There are a variety of ways used to
charge cell phones, including USB, portable batteries, mains power (using an AC adapter), cigarette
lighters (using an adapter), or a dynamo. In 2009, wireless charging became a reality, and the first
wireless charger was released for consumer use.
Standardization of Micro-USB connector for charging
Starting from 2010, many mobile phone manufacturers have agreed to use the Micro-USB connector for
charging their phones. The mobile phone manufacturers who have agreed to this standard include:
4. Research In Motion
6. Sony Ericsson
On 17 February 2009, the GSM Association announced that they had agreed on a standard charger for
mobile phones. The standard connector to be adopted by 17 manufacturers in the Open Mobile
Terminal Platform including Nokia, Motorola and Samsung is to be the micro-USB connector (several
media reports erroneously reported this as the mini-USB). The new chargers will be much more efficient
than existing chargers. Having a standard charger for all phones, means that manufacturers will no
longer have to supply a charger with every new phone.
In addition, on 22 October 2009 the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) announced that it had
embraced micro-USB as the Universal Charger Solution its "energy-efficient one-charger-fits-all new
mobile phone solution", and added: "Based on the Micro-USB interface, UCS chargers will also include a
4-star or higher efficiency rating — up to three times more energy-efficient than an unrated charger."
The world's five largest handset makers introduced a new rating system in November 2008 to help
consumers more easily identify the most energy-efficient chargers
The majority of energy lost in a mobile phone charger is in its no load condition, when the mobile phone
is not connected but the charger has been left plugged in and using power. To combat this in November
2008 the top five mobile phone manufacturers Nokia, Samsung, LG Electronics, Sony Ericsson and
Motorola set up a star rating system to rate the efficiency of their chargers in the no-load condition.
Starting at zero stars for >0.5 W and going up to the top five star rating for <0.03 W (30 mW) no load
A number of semiconductor companies offering flyback controllers, such as Power Integrations and
CamSemi, now claim that the five star standard can be achieved with use of their product.
Formerly, the most common form of mobile phone batteries were nickel metal-hydride, as they have a
low size and weight. lithium ion batteries are sometimes used, as they are lighter and do not have the
voltage depression that nickel metal-hydride batteries do. Many mobile phone manufacturers have now
switched to using lithium-polymer batteries as opposed to the older Lithium-Ion, the main advantages of
this being even lower weight and the possibility to make the battery a shape other than strict cuboid.
Mobile phone manufacturers have been experimenting with alternative power sources, including solar
cells and Coca Cola.
2.3 - SIM card
Typical mobile phone SIM card
GSM mobile phones require a small microchip called a Subscriber Identity Module or SIM Card, to
function. The SIM card is approximately the size of a small postage stamp and is usually placed
underneath the battery in the rear of the unit. The SIM securely stores the service-subscriber key (IMSI)
used to identify a subscriber on mobile telephony devices (such as mobile phones and computers). The
SIM card allows users to change phones by simply removing the SIM card from one mobile phone and
inserting it into another mobile phone or broadband telephony device.
A SIM card contains its unique serial number, internationally unique number of the mobile user (IMSI),
security authentication and ciphering information, temporary information related to the local network,
a list of the services the user has access to and two passwords (PIN for usual use and PUK for unlocking).
SIM cards are available in three standard sizes. The first is the size of a credit card (85.60 mm × 53.98
mm x 0.76 mm). The newer, most popular miniature version has the same thickness but a length of 25
mm and a width of 15 mm, and has one of its corners truncated (chamfered) to prevent misinsertion.
The newest incarnation known as the 3FF or micro-SIM has dimensions of 15 mm × 12 mm. Most cards
of the two smaller sizes are supplied as a full-sized card with the smaller card held in place by a few
plastic links; it can easily be broken off to be used in a device that uses the smaller SIM.
The first SIM card was made in 1991, with Munich smart card maker Giesecke & Devrient selling the first
300 SIM cards to Finnish wireless network operator Radiolinja.
Those cell phones that do not use a SIM Card have the data programmed in to their memory. This data is
accessed by using a special digit sequence to access the "NAM" as in "Name" or number programming
menu. From there, information can be added including: a new number for the phone, new Service
Provider numbers, new emergency numbers, new Authentication Key or A-Key code, and a Preferred
Roaming List or PRL. However, to prevent the phone being accidentally disabled or removed from the
network, the Service Provider typically locks this data with a Master Subsidiary Lock (MSL). The MSL also
locks the device to a particular carrier when it is sold as a loss leader.
The MSL applies to the SIM only so once the contract has been completed the MSL still applies to the
SIM. The phone however, is also initially locked by the manufacturer into the Service Providers MSL. This
lock may be disabled so that the phone can use other Service Providers SIM cards. Most phones
purchased outside the US are unlocked phones because there are numerous Service Providers in close
proximity to one another or have overlapping coverage. The cost to unlock a phone varies but is usually
very cheap and is sometimes provided by independent phone vendors.
A similar module called a Removable User Identity Module is present in some CDMA networks, notably
3 - Mobile phones in society
3.1 - Market share
Mobile phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants 1997–2007
The world's largest individual mobile operator is China Mobile with over 500 million mobile phone
subscribers. The world's largest mobile operator group by subscribers is UK based Vodafone. There are
over 600 mobile operators and carriers in commercial production worldwide. Over 50 mobile operators
have over 10 million subscribers each, and over 150 mobile operators have at least one million
subscribers by the end of 2009 (source wireless intelligence).
Source Date Nokia Samsung LG RIM Sony Others
Electronic Ericsson References
IDC Q1/2010 36.6% 21.8% 9.2% 3.6% 3.6% 25.3%
Gartner Q1/2010 35.0% 20.6% 8.6% 3.4% 3.1% 29.3%
In mobile phone handsets, in Q3/2009, Nokia was the world's largest manufacturer of mobile phones,
with a global device market share of 37.8%, followed by Samsung (21.0%), LG Electronics (11.0%), Sony
Ericsson (4.9%) and Motorola (4.7%). These manufacturers accounted for over 80% of all mobile phones
sold at that time.
Other manufacturers include Apple Inc., Audiovox (now UTStarcom), CECT, HTC Corporation, Fujitsu,
Kyocera, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Panasonic, Palm, Matsushita, Pantech Wireless Inc., Philips,
Qualcomm Inc., Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), Sagem, Sanyo, Sharp, Sierra Wireless, SK Teletech, T&A
Alcatel, Huawei, Trium, Toshiba and Vidalco. There are also specialist communication systems related to
(but distinct from) mobile phones.
3.2 - Media
The mobile phone became a mass media channel in 1998 when the first ringtones were sold to mobile
phones by Radiolinja in Finland. Soon other media content appeared such as news, videogames, jokes,
horoscopes, TV content and advertising. In 2006 the total value of mobile phone paid media content
exceeded internet paid media content and was worth 31 Billion dollars (source Informa 2007). The value
of music on phones was worth 9.3 Billion dollars in 2007 and gaming was worth over 5 billion dollars in
The mobile phone is often called the Fourth Screen (if counting cinema, TV and PC screens as the first
three) or Third Screen (counting only TV and PC screens).[weasel words] It is also called the Seventh of
the Mass Media (with Print, Recordings, Cinema, Radio, TV and Internet the first six). Most early content
for mobile tended to be copies of legacy media, such as the banner advertisement or the TV news
highlight video clip. Recently unique content for mobile has been emerging, from the ringing tones and
ringback tones in music to "mobisodes," video content that has been produced exclusively for mobile
The advent of media on the mobile phone has also produced the opportunity to identify and track Alpha
Users or Hubs, the most influential members of any social community. AMF Ventures measured in 2007
the relative accuracy of three mass media, and found that audience measures on mobile were nine
times more accurate than on the internet and 90 times more accurate than on TV.[original research?]
4 - Uses
Mobile phones are used for a variety of purposes, including keeping in touch with family members,
conducting business, and having access to a telephone in the event of an emergency. Some people carry
more than one cell phone for different purposes, such as for business and personal use. Multiple SIM
cards may also be used to take advantage of the benefits of different calling plans—a particular plan
might provide cheaper local calls, long-distance calls, international calls, or roaming. A study by
Motorola found that one in ten cell phone subscribers have a second phone that often is kept secret
from other family members. These phones may be used to engage in activities including extramarital
affairs or clandestine business dealings.
Cell phone sharing is a phenomenon which exists around the world. It is prevalent in urban India, as
families and groups of friends often share one or more mobiles among their members. Two types of
sharing which exist are "conspicuous" and "stealthy" sharing. An example of conspicuous sharing takes
place when someone calls the friend of the person they are trying to reach in hopes of being able to talk
to that individual; stealthy sharing occurs when an individual uses another's cell phone without their
knowledge. Phone sharing does not only take place because of its economic benefits, but also often due
to familial customs and traditional gender roles. An example of cell phone sharing occurs in Burkina
Faso. There it is not uncommon for a village to only have access to one cell phone. This cell phone is
typically owned by a person who is not natively from the village, such as a teacher or missionary.
Although the cell phone is the sole property of one individual, it is the expectation that other members
of the village are allowed to use the cell phone to make necessary calls. Although some may consider
this a burden, it can actually be an opportunity to engage in reciprocal obligations. This type of cell
phone sharing is an important for the small villages in Burkina Faso because it allows them to keep up
with the expectations of the globalizing world.
The mobile phone has also been used in a variety of diverse contexts in society, for example:
Organizations that aid victims of domestic violence may offer a cell phone to potential victims without
the abuser's knowledge. These devices are often old phones that are donated and refurbished to meet
the victim's emergency needs.
Child predators have taken advantage of cell phones to secretly communicate with children without the
knowledge of their parents or teachers.
The advent of widespread text messaging has resulted in the cell phone novel; the first literary genre to
emerge from the cellular age via text messaging to a website that collects the novels as a whole. Paul
Levinson, in Information on the Move (2004), says "...nowadays, a writer can write just about as easily,
anywhere, as a reader can read" and they are "not only personal but portable".
Mobile telephony also facilitates activism and public journalism being explored by Reuters and Yahoo!
and small independent news companies such as Jasmine News in Sri Lanka.
5 - Privacy
Cell phones have numerous privacy issues associated with them, and are regularly used by governments
to perform surveillance.
Law enforcement and intelligence services in the UK and the US possess technology to remotely activate
the microphones in cell phones in order to listen to conversations that take place nearby the person
who holds the phone.
Mobile phones are also commonly used to collect location data. The geographical location of a mobile
phone can be determined easily (whether it is being used or not), using a technique known
multilateration to calculate the differences in time for a signal to travel from the cell phone to each of
several cell towers near the owner of the phone.
6 - Restriction on usage
There exists a community which believes mobile phone use represents a long-term health risk, although
this is currently disupted by the World Health Organization, with forthcoming mobile phone usage
recommendations in 2010. Certain countries, including France, have warned against the use of cell
phones especially by minors due to health risk uncertainties. Groups of scientists, such as the US based
group Bioinitiative, argue that because mobile phone use is recently introduced technology, long-term
"proof" has been impossible and that use should be restricted, or monitored closely, while the
technology is still new.
6.1 - Use while driving
Mobile phone use while driving is common but controversial. Being distracted while operating a motor
vehicle has been shown to increase the risk of accident. Because of this, many jurisdictions prohibit the
use of mobile phones while driving. Egypt, Israel, Japan, Portugal and Singapore ban both hand-held and
hands-free use of a mobile phone whilst many other countries –including the UK, France, and many US
states– ban hand-held phone use only, allowing hands-free use.
Due to the increasing complexity of mobile phones –often more like mobile computers in their available
uses– it has introduced additional difficulties for law enforcement officials in being able to tell one usage
from another as drivers use their devices. This is more apparent in those countries who ban both hand-
held and hands-free usage, rather those who have banned hand-held use only, as officials cannot easily
tell which function of the mobile phone is being used simply by visually looking at the driver. This can
mean that drivers may be stopped for using their device illegally on a phone call, when in fact they were
not; instead using the device for a legal purpose such as the phones' incorporated controls for car stereo
or satnav usage – either as part of the cars' own device or directly on the mobile phone itself.
Cases like these can often only be proved otherwise by a check of the mobile operators phone call
records to see if a call was taking place during the journey concerned. Although in many countries the
law enforcement official may have stopped the driver for a differing offence, for example, for lack of due
care and attention in relation to their driving.
6.2 - Schools
Some schools limit or restrict the use of mobile phones. Schools set restrictions on the use of mobile
phones because of the use of cell phones for cheating on tests, harassment and bullying, causing threats
to the schools security, distractions to the students and facilitating gossip and other social activity in
school. Many mobile phones are banned in school locker room facilities, public restrooms and swimming
pools due to the built-in cameras that most phones now feature.
A recently published study has reviewed the incidence of mobile phone use while cycling and its effects
on behaviour and safety.
7 - Future evolution: Broadband Fourth generation (4G)
The recently released 4th generation, also known as Beyond 3G, aims to provide broadband wireless
access with nominal data rates of 100 Mbit/s to fast moving devices, and 1 Gbit/s to stationary devices
defined by the ITU-R 4G systems may be based on the 3GPP LTE (Long Term Evolution) cellular
standard, offering peak bit rates of 326.4 Mbit/s. It may perhaps also be based on WiMax or Flash-
OFDM wireless metropolitan area network technologies that promise broadband wireless access with
speeds that reaches 233 Mbit/s for mobile users. The radio interface in these systems is based on all-IP
packet switching, MIMO diversity, multi-carrier modulation schemes, Dynamic Channel Assignment
(DCA) and channel-dependent scheduling. A 4G system should be a complete replacement for current
network infrastructure and is expected to be able to provide a comprehensive and secure IP solution
where voice, data, and streamed multimedia can be given to users on a "Anytime, Anywhere" basis, and
at much higher data rates than previous generations. Sprint in the US has claimed its WiMax network to
be "4G network" which most cellular telecoms standardization experts dispute repeatedly around the
world. Sprint's 4G is seen as a marketing gimmick as WiMax itself is part of the 3G air interface. The
officially accepted, ITU ratified standards-based 4G networks are not expected to be commercially
launched until 2011.
8 - Comparison to similar systems
A type of telephone permanently mounted in a vehicle, these often have more powerful transmitters,
an external antenna and loudspeaker for hands free use. They usually connect to the same networks as
regular mobile phones.
Cordless telephone (portable phone)
Cordless phones are telephones which use one or more radio handsets in place of a wired handset. The
handsets connect wirelessly to a base station, which in turn connects to a conventional land line for
calling. Unlike mobile phones, cordless phones use private base stations (belonging to the land-line
subscriber), which are not shared.
Professional Mobile Radio
Advanced professional mobile radio systems can be very similar to mobile phone systems. Notably, the
IDEN standard has been used as both a private trunked radio system as well as the technology for
several large public providers. Similar attempts have even been made to use TETRA, the European digital
PMR standard, to implement public mobile networks.
This is a term which covers radios which could connect into the telephone network. These phones may
not be mobile; for example, they may require a mains power supply, or they may require the assistance
of a human operator to set up a PSTN phone call.
This type of phone communicates directly with an artificial satellite, which in turn relays calls to a base
station or another satellite phone. A single satellite can provide coverage to a much greater area than
terrestrial base stations. Since satellite phones are costly, their use is typically limited to people in
remote areas where no mobile phone coverage exists, such as mountain climbers, mariners in the open
sea, and news reporters at disaster sites.
This type of phone delivers or receives calls over internet, LAN or WAN networks using VoIP as opposed
to traditional CDMA and GSM networks. In business, the majority of these IP Phones tend to be
connected via wired Ethernet, however wireless varieties do exist. Several vendors have developed
standalone WiFi phones. Additionally, some cellular mobile phones include the ability to place VoIP calls
over cellular high speed data networks and/or wireless internet.