The “cellphone” turns 45 years old today

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – On April 3, 1973, Motorola engineer Martin Cooper stood in midtown Manhattan and placed a phone call to the headquarters of Bell Labs in New Jersey1 from his new innovation, the first cellular phone. This one act would forever change the way we communicate – allowing people to make calls from anywhere. During the early years of cellphones, users handled expensive “brick-like” devices which had a single function – to make phone calls.

Cellphones have since become integral to our lives with more functions including cameras, text messaging and internet access. The vast majority of Americans – 95 percent – currently own a cellphone, according to Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, a recent U.S. Cellular survey found that 61 percent of respondents don’t leave home without their phone.

The evolution of and increased reliance on cellphones has been revolutionary, as you can now do almost anything on your phone. Some highlights are:

•1984: More than ten years after Motorola’s DynaTAC cellphone, the first truly portable phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, was created and was made available to consumers, costing nearly $4,000 per device4. The device weighed more than two pounds and provided users with 35 minutes of talk time.

•1989: The first flip phone was introduced – the Motorola MicroTAC. It was the first pocketsize phone and provided twice the battery life, allowing for more than one hour of talk time.

•1992: The first text message (“Merry Christmas”) was sent. Soon after phones were introduced with full QWERTY keyboards, the first of which was the Nokia Communicator 9000 released in the mid-1990.

•1993: The first “smartphone” was introduced by IBM. The Simon Personal communicator could be used for calls, faxes and text messages. It also featured a built-in calendar, address book, notes folders and appointment scheduler.

•2000: Sharp launched the first cellphone with a camera.

•2007: Apple’s first iPhone was introduced and boasted an all-in-one digital music player, camera and Internet-enabled PDA device equipped with a touch interface that replaced the traditional QWERTY keyboard.

•2008: The first Android phone, the HTC Dream Slider, was made available to consumers.

•2010: The first 4G device was introduced in the U.S. The HTC Evo7 offered a larger touchscreen, two cameras, GPS navigation, HDMI output and mobile hotspot capability.

•2017: The iPhone X offered the first facial recognition security feature on smartphones.

“As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of the cellphone, it’s inspiring to reflect on the past and exciting to imagine what the future holds for the cellphone,” said Nathan Waddell, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in the Mid-South, “Coupled with innovations such as augmented reality and smart technology, the cellphone will continue to enhance the way we communicate.”
U.S. Cellular provides insight on newer trends and the future of mobile devices:

•Smartphones: The future of smartphones will most likely center around the device’s camera8 and how they can interact with people and spaces around them. With the help of augmented reality (AR), home owners can take a photo of a piece of furniture while shopping and then view it as if they were sitting in their own living room with the click of a button. Other possibilities could involve interactive experiences at museums and retail stores allowing users to take a photo of a display and see it come to life. Many tech industry experts predict that AR will transform smartphones9.

•Wearable devices: Today, 22 percent of smartphone owners also own a wearable connected device, such as an Apple Watch, Samsung Watch or Fitbit, and, nearly 40 percent of respondents surveyed by U.S. Cellular are considering purchasing such a device in the coming year.

•Smart glasses: Apple reportedly is working on a pair of consumer-friendly smart glasses11 that will come with the ability to download AR apps onto them.

•Virtual reality (VR): While VR technology isn’t new itself, affordable virtual reality headsets have transformed its usage with new content being developed regularly.

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Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at