How did we get here? A look at the evolution of mobile phones – Elucidat Blog

How did we get here? A look at the evolution of mobile phones

On Monday, Ian Budden (one of our directors) tweeted about the sheer amount of devices that learning designers need to cater for.

This got me thinking about the evolution of mobile phones and which devices were key in influencing the devices of today and how they have affected the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture that businesses (has yours yet?) are now embracing.

DynaTAC 8000X

The first cell phone to be offered commercially in 1984 was the catchily named ‘Motorola DynaTAC 8000X‘.

It would set you back £5,500 in today’s money and weighed 1KG, 10 times more than your iPhone 5!

How has this phone paved the way for BYOD?

We’ve all got to start somewhere! The 8000x began the mobile phone revolution and introduced people to the freedom of portable devices.

Motorola MicroTAC 9800X

1989’s Motorola MicroTAC 9800X is considered ‘the first truly portable phone’ as up until its release, other mobiles were too monstrously huge to fit in your coat pocket!

The Microtac was advertised by this incredibly weird (not for the faint-hearted) advert campaign that makes Playstation’s endeavours look tame:

How has this phone paved the way for BYOD?

The Microtac was the first device to allow you to comfortably communicate wirelessly.

IBM Simon

1992’s IBM Simon, was a mobile phone and PDA (remember PDAs!?) hybrid. £1000 bought you a monochrome display with restricted touch functionality.

How has this phone paved the way for BYOD?

The IBM Simon was the first smart phone and introduced the concept of using devices for more than just calls.

Nokia 9000

In 1996 the Nokia 9000 Communicator became the most affordable and sleek smart phone.

The 9000 was brought to life in this majestic piece of advertising Cinema (it’s a bit like a bad perfume ad!)

How has this phone paved the way for BYOD?

The Nokia 9000 popularised the smart -phone and was perhaps the first ‘mainstream’ device that offered the potential to replace desktop and laptop computers for certain tasks such as sending and receiving email.

Nokia phones from 1998-2006

Nokia’s output from 1998-2006 made mobile phones affordable and accessible to everyone.

In 1998 they introduced the 7110, the first Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)-enabled phone. For you youngsters, WAP was a crude way to browse web sites in text only form on your phone (mind blowing at the time!).

Before the introduction of WAP, mobile service providers had limited opportunities to offer interactive data services.

How have Nokia paved the way for BYOD?

Nokia vastly sped up the spread of mobile devices, they were so popular during this period that they still remain amongst the top ten best selling mobile phones ever (not an iPhone in sight!) :

Motorola A920

In 2003 the Motorola A920 was the first phone to be release with 3G enabled.

With 3G users could access broadband speed internet on the go.

How has this phone paved the way for BYOD?

Without the Motorola A920 and the consequent adoption of 3G browsing would still be obscenely slow!


I think you saw this one coming! 2007 saw the birth of the ‘God phone’.

The iPhone not only changed how we interact with our devices but it also set a new benchmark in BYOB reliability, connectivity and mobile security.

The iPhone established the concept of apps. Whereas in the past people had mostly worked with what their devices had provided them by default, apps allowed you to chop and change to suit almost all your needs.

How has this phone paved the way for BYOD?

The iPhone has established a culture where learners expect to be able to access learning as quickly, safely and easily as any other mobile-enabled task.

2014 onwards

Since the success of the iPhone in 2007 trends in device size have drastically changed with screen size both increasing and diversifying.

Whereas once there was only one phone and one screen size, there are now thousands.

This emphasises the need to use smart tools when creating your learning that cater for all devices and future-proof your works.

Smart tools (such as Elucidat) allow you to design for all device sizes.

What do you think? How do you currently design for various device sizes? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments box below and I guarantee I’ll get back to you.

Images courtesy of:, main image from the film American Psycho.


Post author Joe Burns is a Support and Presales advocate for Elucidat. Joe’s role is to help people easily implement mobile learning strategies and create inventive, future-proofed resources. ‘Having worked with many of the archaic desktop based software to produce materials in the past, I recognise there is a need for intuitive and rapid new tools.’

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