Modern mobile telephone services use a cellular network architecture and, therefore, mobile telephones are called cellular telephones or cell phones in North America.

In addition to telephony, digital mobile phones (2G) support a variety of other services, such as text messagingMMSemailInternet access, short-range wireless communications (infraredBluetooth), business applications, video games and digital photography. Mobile phones offering only those capabilities are known as feature phones; mobile phones that offer greatly advanced computing capabilities are referred to as smartphones.

The development of metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) large-scale integration (LSI) technology, information theory and cellular networking led to the development of affordable mobile communications. The first handheld mobile phone was demonstrated by Martin Cooper of Motorola in New York City in 1973, using a handset weighing c. 2 kilograms (4.4 lbs). In 1979, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) launched the world’s first cellular network in Japan.

 In 1983, the DynaTAC 8000x was the first commercially available handheld mobile phone. From 1983 to 2014, worldwide mobile phone subscriptions grew to over seven billion; enough to provide one for every person on Earth. In the first quarter of 2016, the top smartphone developers worldwide were SamsungApple and Huawei; smartphone sales represented 78 percent of total mobile phone sales. For feature phones as of 2016, the top-selling brands were Samsung, Nokia and Alcatel.

Mobile phones are considered an important human invention as it has been one of the most widely used and sold pieces of consumer technology. The growth in popularity has been rapid in some places, for example, in the UK the total number of mobile phones overtook the number of houses in 1999. Today mobile phones are globally ubiquitous and in almost half the world’s countries, over 90% of the population own at least one.

Digital cellular networks appeared in the 1990s, enabled by the wide adoption of MOSFET-based RF power amplifiers (power MOSFET and LDMOS) and RF circuits (RF CMOS), leading to the introduction of digital signal processing in wireless communications. In 1991, the second-generation (2G) digital cellular technology was launched in Finland by Radiolinja on the GSM standard. This sparked competition in the sector as the new operators challenged the incumbent 1G network operators.

The GSM standard is a European initiative expressed at the CEPT (“Conférence Européenne des Postes et Telecommunications”, European Postal and Telecommunications conference). The first version of the GSM (=2G) standard had 6,000 pages. The IEEE and RSE awarded to Thomas Haug and Philippe Dupuis the 2018 James Clerk Maxwell medal for their contributions to the first digital mobile telephone standard. In 2018, the GSM was used by over 5 billion people in 220 countries.

Smartphones have a number of distinguishing features. The International Telecommunication Union measures those with an Internet connection, which it calls Active Mobile-Broadband subscriptions (which includes tablets, etc.). In the developed world, smartphones have now overtaken the usage of earlier mobile systems. However, in the developing world, they account for around 50% of mobile telephony.


Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash