How it all began: Check out major manufacturers' very first phone devices


UPDATE: LG got back to us! The first phone it ever released was the LDP-200, check it out below.

Not all of us were around when the portable telephony revolution took place back in the 80s and the 90s, and even if some of us were, there are no guarantees we were old enough to actually appreciate the game changer that it was.

Given enough time, high tech hardware can sometimes morph into the most unexpected things and serve entirely different functions, with just a tiny leftover of what brought said innovation to the forefront of consumers' minds in the first place. That categorization definitely applies to cell phones and, subsequently, smartphones.

Indeed, what started out as a device that gave us the means to communicate over great distances on the go is now much more about the design, hardware muscle, and the app ecosystem, not telephony. But, at the end of day, we still do calls. 

If you ever wondered which device is the ancestor to your fancy new smartphone from any of the major manufacturers, then you came to the right place. It's time to follow your current device's family tree and trace its original point of origin!

Motorola


The very first actually portable cell phone was developed and manufactured by Motorola. The DynaTAC 8000x, also known as the brick phone, was made commercially available in 1984, but prototypes and earlier versions of the device were in existence as early as 1974. Why "brick"? Because of its brick-sized body, of course.

Jokes aside, the original DynaTAC, as unwieldy as it may look today, was considered a true revolution at the time. Motorola went on to release a number of successive models based on it (thankfully, size went down), and continued selling under the DynaTAC name until 1994.

At launch, the DynaTAC 8000x cost just short of $4,000 and offered 30 minutes of talk time and about 8 hours of standby time, had an LED display, and could hold up to 30 phone numbers. And you thought iPhones are expensive!


Nokia


The Nokia that we know no longer exists, and that's all the more saddening considering its pioneering role in the mobile industry. Its first ever portable cell phone was the Mobira Senator, released in 1982, and ran on a 1st-generation (1G) analog network. 

Unlike the DynaTAC, we're unaware of any nicknames for the Senator, but at 22 lb (9.8 kg), it weighed more than a bowling ball, so there's one possibility. Still, it was portable, and it was Nokia's first ever commercially-available phone, so it checks both boxes.


Samsung 


The first ever truly mobile cellular phone from Samsung was the SH-100. It went on sale in South Korea in 1988, 3 years after the electronics giant attacked (unsuccessfully) the market with the SC-1000 (pictured below), which was only partially portable in that it was designed for use in cars.

From what we know, the Samsung SH-100 sold in very small numbers – between 1,000 and 2,000 – but that was obviously enough to convince Samsung to continue investing in the field. Of course, you should also keep in mind that demand for a just-emerging technology that cost a small fortune was quite limited in comparison with what we have today.

Check out the great-great-grandfather of your Samsung Galaxy Note 4 below.


Sony


Digging for Sony's first ever portable cell phone proved to be a difficult task since, as we were later informed by the folks over at Sony's PR department, the Sony Mobile daughter company that produces your current Xperia phone didn't even exist back then. We were instead referred to Sony Electronics, and found that our initial guess – the Sony CM-H333 – was, indeed, the first commercially available Sony phone.

While we couldn't find any relevant pricing info, we do know that the CM-H333 first attacked the market in 1992, which explains its relatively smaller physical size.


LG


Of all the devices on the list, LG's very first handheld portable mobile phone was the hardest to identify and find. The situation here is very much alike to that with Sony's – LG Electronics, the company that made your G3, didn't even do phones two decades ago. Instead, it was LG Information and Communication (LGIC, seen on the top left hand side) that produced the first LG-branded phone, the LDP-200, in the distant 1996.

Finding high quality images of the LDP-200 proved impossible, however, so we had to make do with what was available.


HTC


Released back in 2002, the HTC Wallaby, also known as the O2 XDA, was the company's first phone ever built. By 2002, phones had gotten much more sophisticated, so after the initial shock from the DynaTAC, you'll find that HTC's little pioneer is far more manageable.

The Wallaby ran on the Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition and cost £899 at the time (about $1370 today). It featured a 3.5-inch, 240 x 320 pixel resolution display, a single-core Intel processor clocked at 206MHz, 32MB of RAM, and 32MB of internal storage.


RIM 


While the BlackBerry 850 was RIM's very first device made (e-mail and limited browsing only), it wasn't until the BlackBerry 5810 that the company entered the phone market.

The 5810 was released in 2002 and needed a headset in order to actually call people, since it didn't feature a built-in speaker. The BlackBerry 5810 had access to e-mail, did SMS messaging, could browse the Web (slowly), had an organizer, and many others.


Huawei


Since we weren't positive, we reached out to Huawei and inquired about their first ever mobile phone device. As it turns out, it is no other than the 3G-enabled U626 – a clamshell-type phone with 2.4-inch TFT display with a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels.

The Huawei U626 saw its launch in June of 2005 and immediately went on to win Charlton Media Group's award for 'Best 3G Smartphone'.


Apple


Released in the middle of 2007, Apple's first (smart)phone – dubbed only iPhone – took the industry and the world by storm and finally settled and the age-old argument on what the best form factor for a smartphone is. As you now know, phones with QWERTY keyboards lost and touch won.

The original iPhone had a 3.5-inch LCD display with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels, a single-core processor ticking at 412MHz, 128MB of RAM, a 2-megapixel rear camera, and a 1,400 mAh battery. If you're feeling adventurous, you could head over to our review of the first iPhone from 2007.


Xiaomi


Xiaomi only entered the limelight recently, but it has since become a respectable competitor to even well-established, mainstream brands like Samsung. While Xiaomi first started out by developing the custom MIUI Android ROM that runs on all its devices, it didn't take long for the company to realize that it could enter the hardware business.

And it did, with the Xiaomi Mi-1. Released in October of 2011, the Mi-1 cost only about $300 and offered high-end specs such as a 4-inch display with 480 x 854 pixels, a dual-core Snapdragon S3 processor, 1GB of RAM, and an 8-megapixel rear camera.

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24 Comments

1. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

I didn't even know that Sony made phones before Sony Ericcsson XD btw that HTC is cute ^_^ lol

3. spin9

Posts: 310; Member since: May 31, 2014

The image no top is wrong though. After the very small one on the right, it had to go upwards to phablet size. Back to the future :)

6. Aploine

Posts: 445; Member since: Oct 24, 2013

With a tablet on your face. Curved, folowing its shape naturaly... Never too late to ditch what you know about life

24. pegasso

Posts: 285; Member since: Nov 27, 2011

i remember Sony Z1 and Sony J5. my friends had them. and i also remember how people thought that the Z1 was a very ugly phone.

2. You_Dont_Say

Posts: 431; Member since: Jan 26, 2015

I loved the trend of smaller phones. Now we have a trend of larger screen sizes that needs to stop. 6" needs to be the limit. My ideal size is 5.2 to 5.5 (assuming the 5.5 is no larger than the LG G3).

4. Marathrone

Posts: 14; Member since: Jan 20, 2015

The Sony was equal to Siemens S3 ( or was it S2, can't remember) except of the slidable top part (to answer and end a call). I got it in 1996 for 99,00DM (50€) on a 2 year plan.

5. gtrc11

Posts: 32; Member since: Feb 05, 2015

where is lg?

7. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3165; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

If we're talking pioneers, where is Palm? BTW, the author needs to understand that not everybody here is a Millennial. Some of us were born in the early 60s and were adults in the 80s.

8. a961009

Posts: 120; Member since: Aug 04, 2011

Whoa no LG? So dissapointed PA.

10. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

Will update (and add) once they get back to me. At the moment, my understanding is that they just don't know since the company that used to produce those phones has since been dissolved.

31. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

Added!

9. Cyberchum

Posts: 1101; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

There larger phones now for a reason, things change. There are lots of Web based media contents now and the desire to consume them on-the-go is on the high. I bet that there are other justifiable reasons.

13. SuperNova

Posts: 649; Member since: Jan 15, 2015

Nokia device looks like a radio box. LOL

15. SuperAndroid507

Posts: 361; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

If you look carefully though, the first image clearly show a downward growing trend of the screen size, the before-last (sorry dunno how to say that) I assume is referencing the original RAZR which have a big screen.

19. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

When it was just cell phones, no data or media consumption, phones sizes started out large and evolved into smaller devices. With the advent of color screens and data and media consumption, device sizes started to grow larger, to better make use of data and media. One of the largest devices I've owned, the Motorola MicroTac650, was an analog cell phone with a seven segment display, capable of showing a single phone number, and that was it. It's extended batteries were larger and heavier than any smartphone out today, so I always chuckle when people talk about the size or weight of these phablets as being so large or heavy. One of the smallest I'd seen in person, the Motorola Vader, was a StarTac variant that was about 2/3 the size of a standard flip phone. My brother called it a bite size phone.

18. TruthSpeaker unregistered

I remember having the Sony "mars bar" phone when it came out. It was very popular, but it didn't seem as well built or solid as the Nokias at the time.

20. Planterz

Posts: 2120; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

Is that Motorola the phone that Zack Morris had?

21. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

I remember the old Motorola's, telling my age. McDonald's use to offer them if you made a sizable donation to their charity which is how my mom got hers. The problem with those phones were size and weight. They weren't really mobile at all. The charging station was huge and has to be mounted in the car. I remember my mom would rush calls due to short talk time. When real mobile phones came out, I took it apart to see and it is amazing how hard it much have been to make chip small. Many of the chips in the old Moto with similar capabilities are now very small and lead to phone being smaller. Its pretty much like the old days, when a hard drive was the size of a suitcase, yet held less data than a 5 1/4" floppy. Thanks God manufacturing got better fast. My first cellphone I purchase was from LG in 1996 via Verizon and I paid $400 for that flip phone, I think the LG VX3200. It wasn't long after Verizon popped up in Florida after buying GTE. But it is surely amazing how what was considered a mobile phone back in the 70's and 80's when I was growing up, and watching them evolve to what we have today. Back then we only wished phones had cameras and I don't even recall mention of touchscreens. Also, their weren't any fanbois arguing on who had the best phones or best features, or worrying about stupid benchmarks. Back then it wasn't as easy for everyone to have a cellphone like today. Most people couldn't meet the credit score needed or meet the huge deposits required to even get a flip phone. I remember I paid $150 upfront to get my first phone and I was smiling ear to ear as I do today when I open my new toy. I miss those days when it was simple.

22. PBXtech

Posts: 1032; Member since: Oct 21, 2013

What about Apple's Rokr E1? Considered Apple's first venture into the phone world, even though it was built by Motorola, it was Apple's iTunes project.

25. pegasso

Posts: 285; Member since: Nov 27, 2011

it was rebranded Motorola E398.

23. deftdrummer

Posts: 2; Member since: Feb 05, 2015

What no Motorola Bag Phone? Preposterous.

28. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Nokia was manufacturing tanks right from the beginning.

30. tokuzumi

Posts: 1953; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

The HTC XDA is how the xda-developers site got its name.

32. TechNerd

Posts: 66; Member since: May 03, 2014

No Ericsson!? That htc wallaby has better bezels than htc's newest offerings...

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