Mobile phones are becoming collector’s items, despite their relatively short existence, due to their retro styling and a sense of nostalgia for old technology.
In the same way in many people collect vintage computers, mobile phone collectors look for early models, and innovative and unusual designs. The rapid pace of changing technology means mobile phones are quickly outdated, and the majority of older phones have been discarded or recycled. Early models from the 1980s are now increasingly popular with collectors, particularly if still in their original packaging.
Collectors may choose to concentrate on phones from a particular manufacturer such as Motorola or Nokia, or a particular type of phone such as ‘bricks’, 1-G phones or car phones. Although the market for collectible mobile phones is still young, the number of collectors has grown in recent years and nostalgia for the 1980s means early ‘brick’ phones are slowly becoming more sought-after.
Modern mobile phones have their roots in the portable radio phones of the 1940s used by the emergency services. In 1946 a mobile telephone service was introduced in the United States by the company AT&T. Users who wished to use a ‘radiotelephone’ had to search manually for an unused 35-megahertz or 150-megahertz band before they could place a call. Only one person could speak at a time and the call direction was controlled by a push-to-talk button on the handset similar to a walkie-talkie.
In 1971 a cellular mobile phone network was proposed by the research departments of AT&T and Bell Labs.
They proposed that the network would consist of many small broadcast towers, covering a small area or 'cell’, with a radius of a couple of miles. As users moved across this network, their call would be automatically passed on from tower to tower.
The race was on to build the first practical hand-held mobile phone, as opposed to the large impractical car phones which required enormous batteries. The race was won by Motorola researcher Martin Cooper, who placed the first ‘cellular’ mobile phone call on April 3 1973 to his rival at Bell Labs Dr. Joel S. Engel, to inform him of his victory.
The first commercial cellular network was launched in Japan in 1979 by telecommunications company NTT. This was followed in 1981 by the Nordic Mobile Telephone system covering Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, and the rest of the world soon had their own networks up and running by the mid-1980s. The first commercially-available hand-held mobile phone was the Motorola DynaTAC8000x launched in 1983 with a retail price of $3,995.
The world’s most expensive mobile phone
The world’s most expensive mobile phone is the Goldstriker iPhone 3GS Supreme, created by designer Stuart Hughes. It is made with 271 grams of 22 carat pure solid gold, and encrusted with more than 200 diamonds. The Apple logo on the back features 53 gems and home button is covered with a single 7.1 carat diamond. The phone has a price of $3.2 million.
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