A Short History Of Mobile Phones

With my latest mobile phone upgrade, I realized that this is now the tenth mobile phone I’ve owned, in about ten years. As the Generation Y that I am, mobile phones were one of those things that slowly crept out into the mainstream, starting with wealthy businessmen and to the days now of virtually every person having one, or even two, mobile phones.

Lots has changed, so I thought I’d write a history of the mobile phones from my time as a teenager to adult. And yep, I’ve stayed loyal to Nokia the whole time.

01 – Nokia 5110 (1998)

It eventually became known as ‘the brick’, but the Nokia 5110 is the Model T of mobile phones. It was one of the first and most popular phones that were affordable for old and young, with such classic features as the game ‘snake’, interchangeable snap-on front covers and the bonus accessories available like slim or vibrating batteries. I think you could only hold about 12 messages on them before your inbox was full. Some people went a step further to the 5110i upgrade.

02 – Nokia 3310 (2000)

From here I skipped the natural progressive to Nokia 3210 and held out for the even better, slimmer looking Nokia 3310. It had now progressed to Snake II (which many people claimed was nowhere near as good as the original) and had the option of changing both front and back covers. Unfortunately, some person at school (who’s probably a multiple felon now) decided to steal mine, so I actually owned two.

03 – Nokia 7110 (2000)

This was a phone made popular from its use in the film ‘Matrix’, and also the phone my dad got for work. Of course, we thought it was awesome due to its large screen, rear button which slid down the keypad cover, roller button and tennis game. Because I liked it so much, I bought one second hand from a schoolmate, owning it at the same time as my 3310. Because of its uniqueness, everyone thought it was a very cool phone.

04 – Nokia 5210 (2002)


This was probably the first phone I owned that I had the money to buy something a bit more expensive. I liked it because it was unique and not many people were familiar with it. It had an orange backlit screen and snap-on rubber covers which were much thicker then the bare bones phone itself. This allowed it to be splash proof and impact proof (to a certain extent, I think I had smashed the screen one and had to get it repaired). You could run it under a tap and it would be fine. It had a unique orange backlit screen, a bunch of different colored cases available and even a thermometer.

05 – Nokia 7250i (2003)

The Nokia 7250i was the first phone I bought on a contract. I sold off my old 5210 and proceeded to the 7250i which was immensely popular at the time. It was very popular due to it having a color-screen, camera and polyphonic ringtones. We can now all admit that the camera quality, screen quality and polyphonic ringtones were pretty rubbish.

06 – Nokia 5140i (2005)

I liked that Nokia 5210 so much that I ended up upgrading to its successor, the color-screen 5140i. It was my first camera phone that could video record, with short times and awful quality mind you, thermometer, compass and my first Bluetooth phone. Like the 5210, it has a protective casing make it splash proof and impact proof.

07 – Nokia 6230i (2005)

I think this is probably the phone I remember the least about. It had a 1.3-megapixel camera and a raised selection button in the middle. One of the new things about it was the USB connectivity, meaning I could upload MP3s onto it, but only with the few MBs it had available. I don’t think there was anything spectacularly exciting about this phone, hence my limited memories.

08 – Nokia 6280 (2006)

The Nokia 6280 was my next phone, which had a large screen and slide feature. It had a VGA camera along with a second camera on the front for video calling. It came with a 64MB memory card meaning I could fit a lot of MP3s. I think I upgraded this to 1GB. It could also play MP4 video, and was probably the first to have more of an ‘operating system’ feel.

09 – Nokia 6110 Navigator (2007)

And now we’re starting to enter modern times. This is when I had decided that constantly buying new phones was no longer necessary, probably with the discovery of more interesting things, like cars. The 6110 Navigator had the useful feature of integrated, stand-alone GPS, which worked well (well, most of the time). It also had MicroSD storage, S60 platform and 2-megapixel camera.

10 – Nokia 5800 XpressMusic (2009)

So here we are today, with the first touch screen phone in my possession. We’re now up to a 3.2-megapixel camera, Symbian operating system, up to 16GB of memory and the ability to easily add new applications. It also has Wi-Fi and a whole bunch of other features that, back in those 5110 days, would have been truly amazing.

What will the next ten years bring?


  1. You forgot your Alcatel…

  2. It was cooler than your Ericsson T10 with clown ringtone.

  3. haha smellcatel

  4. Wow, you are the biggest Nokia supporter i knw. I mean, i like Nokias, they are the best!, bt you break the record for me. You should get an award from Nokia, you deserve it.

  5. Former Nokia supporter! Android has converted me 🙂

    After my last Nokia (the 5800), I will never buy a Nokia again.

  6. Hello!

    I found this site by accident, when I was searching for what the model number for that orange rubberish thing was.

    Apparently you are a little younger than I am, because your phone history seems shortish. In about 1990 I was an apprentice for a local AV store, and I still remember installing a phone in a car was a 2 day job. With all additional wiring, a suitcase size central unit in the trunk and an additional car battery just to power the phone.

    I think the very first phone that got popular here in Finland, aside swedish Ericsson phones, was the Nokia 121, a NMT phone. First popular GSM that was prices so everybody could buy one was the Nokia 1011. I reckon it was about 4000 finnish markka at the time, I’d say a working class employee got paid approx 6000-8000 markka per month.

    Fun memories, though!!

    -Dennis from Finland

  7. Hi DL,

    The orange rubberish thing (5210) was probably one of my favourite Nokias that I owned. The thermometer was always an impressive feature back in the day, and I had my collection of different snap-on cases.

    It’s amazing how things have moved along, I can’t imagine a suitcase sized phone myself! I do remember my dad bringing home the first digital camera I ever saw, a huge yellow suitcase-looking thing and we were so amazed when the photo slowly came up on the computer screen!

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing some of your phone history!

  8. The internet is a wonderful invention… I came here looking an image of that “orange rubberish thing (Nokia 5210)”, I ended up reading your interesting story, and finally felt compelled to reply.

    I’m a little older than you. I remember my father had a brick Motorola phone since the early 90’s. In 2003 my father found an Alcatel OT 500 and I kept it for year (still have it charging; no kidding). Surprisingly, my first phone ever was a Nokia 6230 in 2004, I preferred it over the Alcatel due to the camera and the radio (a year later I found a Nokia 6600, coincidentally the one that I didn’t buy because it had a lower resolution camera, and gave it to my father), I was so happy that I even stopped using my multi-sensor Casio Protrek PRT-40 wristwatch. In 2008 I bought my second mobile phone, the first generation iPhone, and I used it simultaneously in a foreign country with a different sim card, it served me well especially as a dictionary and translator and everybody was jealous of it, however in 2012 unfortunately the screen for unknown reasons became partially unresponsive (keep in mind that I had never updated the jailbroken 1.1 OS and even had the whole Wikipedia installed in it; more than 1GB). Guess what phone I’m still using now? The Nokia 6230, which for 10 years has never stop serving me, and I only had to change it’s battery once! Coincidentally, my father is still using the Nokia 6230i, which for unknown reasons is very slow compared to mine. I forgot to mention that in my house, inside a box, there is a small collection of a dozen of old mobile phones from my whole family, acquired all these years.

    Yesterday, I was browsing the new “Samsung Galaxy S5 Active” and I liked it a lot, even though I don’t intend to buy it. I’m getting older, the economic crisis ruined everything and I am more into computers, even though I only bought 3 laptops so far (Compaq, MacbookPro and Alienware). Nonetheless, I have to admit that it is strange and rather depressing looking back at all this, even though this is our life.

    The internet is a wonderful invention… I came here looking an image of that “orange rubberish thing”, because I still wish I had bought that orange rubberish thing; if I could turn back time, I would have bought it and still use it.

What do you think?