10 mobile phones that changed the world

Fantastic phones we'll never forget

10 mobile phones that changed the world

You can trace the history of the newest smartphones right back to the early 1990s, where cutting edge technology was a two-line LCD and phones weighed as much as a pack of beef mince.

Since then, several phones have changed the world, introducing new technologies or new approaches that have altered the path of mobile communications. But which ones stand out?

Here are 10 handsets that we think deserve their place in history. Maybe you owned one of them?

Nokia 1011 (1992)

Perhaps surprisingly, we're not kicking off this list by lugging out the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, the 1980's cellular briquette that's acknowledged to be the first truly 'mobile' phone. But we do give it a warm, appreciative hug in our article Five phones we'll never forget.

Instead, we tip our TechRadar cap to the half-forgotten Nokia 1011. It's not only the world's first commercially available GSM phone, but potentially the world's blandest handset – barely curved and relentlessly grey.

Nokia 1011

Image credit: www.thinkersblog.net

It weighed a hefty 475g, sported a 2-line monochrome LCD and included a wealth of extras such as text messaging and… more text messaging. But take a look at the phone you currently own. You can trace its history back to the Nokia 1011.

BellSouth/IBM Simon Personal Communicator (1993)

You might not remember Simon. Not to be confused with the four-colour electronic memory game of the same name, this futuristic phone/pager/PDA/fax was arguably the iPhone of the 1990s.

Simon wasn't a phone with PDA abilities bolted on. Nor was it a PDA with GSM connectivity as an afterthought. It was a true all-rounder, a device that was an early (and surprisingly accurate) stab at what a smartphone should do and what it might look like.

IBM simon

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Note the 160 x 293 pixel monochrome touchscreen and a suite of 'apps' including a calendar, notepad, email, sketch pad and games.

Nokia 7110 (1999)

The striking Nokia 7110 grabs a place in our list because it was the first phone to include a WAP browser for mobile Internet access. Of course, by 'mobile Internet', we mean a teeny-tiny version of Ceefax, dripped over the GSM network at speeds nowhere near the advertised 14.4kbps. When it worked, viewing the BBC Sport site on a 95 x 95 pixel mono LCD via the 'Navi Roller' was a glimpse into a future we never really appreciated.

Nokia 7110

Image credit: Amazon

WAP didn't set the world alight. Data speeds just weren't fast enough. But the 7110 marked the first tentative steps towards a mobile web that we now take for granted on modern smartphones. The sliding front panel that hides the keypad takes its cues from the design of the Nokia 8110 'banana phone' that shot to 15 minutes of fame in The Matrix.

Nokia 3210 (1999)

The Nokia 3210 doesn't look like a phone that changed the world. No internet connectivity. No camera. No clever sliding keypad cover. But this simply designed handset is actually one of the most popular mobiles ever made. Over 160 million were shipped.

Nokia 3210

Image credit: Amazon

The 3210 also broke new ground, eliminating the external antenna, debuting T9 predictive text. It also featured that great bus stop timewaster, Snake, which appeared first on the Nokia 5110.

Ericsson T68 (2001)

Breaking the Nokia monopoly on technology firsts, the Ericsson T68 was the first phone to include a colour display. In this age of Super AMOLED and high-res 'Retina' screens, the 256-colour 101 x 80 pixel LCD here seems archaic. But it transformed picture messaging, gaming and proved vital when Sony Ericsson (after the joint venture was confirmed) released the T68's digital camera add-on – the CommuniCam.


Image credit: Amazon

Colour display aside, the T68 was a great little phone. It weighed a mere 84g, had 11 hours of talktime and featured built-in email, GPRS connectivity and Bluetooth v1.0. A later model, the T68i, was released under the new Sony Ericsson name.

NEC e606 (2003)

When Three became the first company to roll out a 3G network in the UK, the NEC e606 was one of only three UMTS-capable handsets that would work on it. It could do things that other phones couldn't, such as video calling and speedier Internet browsing. But this joy of tech quickly faded as users suffered its low resolution display, dismal camera and disappointingly brief battery life.

NEC e606

Image credit: www.gsmarena.com

Motorola RAZR (2004)

Like or not, style matters when choosing a mobile phone. Bad design can kill a handset stone dead – the ridiculous Virgin Lobster 700TV, the winged Nokia 6810 and the Bang & Olufsen Serene spring to mind. But good design can give a phone real star power. Cue the Motorola RAZR…


Eye-catchingly thin, the RAZR's 13.9mm waistline and anodised aluminium chassis marked it out as a real fashion phone. More than just a size-zero StarTAC with a disco makeover, the RAZR proved that we secretly yearn for a little bit of style with our technology. It sparked rival manufacturers to be a bit more adventurous with their mobile designs.

Apple iPhone (2007)

The Apple iPhone changed the way we think about a smartphone. It gave us multi-touch control, flick-to-scroll and pinch-to-zoom. It gave us a more powerful web browser that brought a desktop Internet experience to the palm of your hand.


The iPhone also gave us the App Store (eventually), a better way to find, buy and download new software to our phones. Every touchscreen smartphone that has been released since follows reluctantly in its footsteps.

HTC MAX 4G (2008)

Dubbed the 'world's first 4G phone', the big-screened HTC MAX was the forerunner to the HTC EVO. Fitted with a WiMAX (802.16) chipset, this future phone revved mobile connectivity up another notch. In some cases, three notches. Web pages loaded almost instantaneously; video didn't just stream, it practically gushed.

HTC max 4g

While the UK dallies with existing 3G technologies, the 4G revolution is well underway in the US, pitching WiMAX against LTE (Long Term Evolution) and almost-as-fast-as-4G HSPA+. A cluster of new 4G-capable handsets were launched at this year's CES, including the EVO Shift, HTC Inspire, Samsung Infuse and Motorola Atrix.

LG Optimus 2X (2010)

The LG Optimus 2X narrowly pipped Motorola's Atrix to the post in the race to become the 'world's first dual-core smartphone'. It grabs this accolade thanks to Nvidia's Tegra 2 system-on-a-chip (SoC), which consists of a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU, Ultra-low powered Nvidia GeForce GPU and a 1080p Video Playback Processor.

LG optimus 2x

The age of the 'smartphone' has ended. We're now moving into 'super-phone' territory…

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