Mobile Phones

There are over 7 billion people in the world and now over 6 billion mobile subscribers. You may have heard that more people have cell phones than access to clean toilets.

How did it get here though? Watch this short naration of the history of cellphones below:

Tech History Ep 2: The History Of Cellphones: 6:32 min:


While we may believe that cell phones are a luxury, in developing countries phones are often a necessity.

Cell Phone Uses: People around the world are using their cell phones for a variety of purposes, especially for texting and taking pictures, while smaller numbers also use their phones to get political, consumer and health information. Mobile technology is also changing economic life in parts of Africa, where many are using cell phones to make or receive payments. For example, 68% of Kenyans who own a cell phone say they regularly use it to make or receive payments.

Global Development Through Mobile Technology: 4:26 min:


Cell phones in developing countries: 2:23 min:


Interested in finding out more on how money is transferred in Kenya by phone? Click on the next link and watch the video (we couldn't embed it in this program)

Cell phones, specifically smart phones, have an even better use for health purposes. This next article shows how phones can be used for Medical eye testing:


Quiz time!

Answer the questions below to see how much you know about cell phones and their history. Answers will be at the end.

1. Cooper made the first public wireless phone call walking along Sixth Avenue in New York City on 3 April 1973. But whom did he ring?
a. His wife
b. His boss
c. His rival

2. Ten years later the world's first commercial handheld mobile phone, dubbed the Brick, went on sale for an eye-watering $3,995. How much heavier than the world's thinnest 3G mobile was it?
a. Three times
b. Eleven times
c. Eighteen times

3. The first text message was sent by a 22-year-old engineer more than 20 years ago. What did it say?
a. Happy Easter
b. Merry Christmas
c. Hello world

4. The Nokia tune is arguably still the most recognised mobile ringtone. What's its origin?
a. A phrase from a 1902 composition
b. An oboe concerto by Handel
c. A computer-generated tune by Nokia

5. Philippe Kahn is credited with creating the first camera phone and transmitting the first publicly shared photo in 1997. What was the photo of?
a. His daughter
b. His dog
c. His hand

6. The most expensive telephone number sold at auction cost 10 million Qatari Riyals (then £1.46m; $2.75m). What was the number?
a. 11-11-11-11
b. 5537-8008
c. 666-6666

7. Many associate modern phones with apps. When is the OED's first recorded use of the word?
a. 1985
b. 1998
c. 2007



1. It was his rival, Joel Engel, who was head of research at Bell Labs and also committed to developing the first mobile phone.

2. It's 11 times. The Brick, a Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, weighed 785g (28oz) and measured a colossal 300 x 44 x 89mm (13 x 1.75 x 3.5in). According to the Guinness World Records, the world's thinnest 3G mobile phone, Samsung's Ultra Edition 8.4 Z370, weighed just 71g (2.5oz).

3. It's Merry Christmas. The first text message was sent by Neil Papworth on 3 December 1992. He sent Vodafone's Richard Jarvis the festive greeting on Jarvis's Orbitel 901 mobile phone.

4. It's a phrase from a 1902 composition by Spanish classical guitarist and composer Francisco Tarrega, called Gran Vals. At one point, it was estimated that the Nokia tune was heard about 1.8 billion times per day worldwide.

5. It's his newborn daughter, Sophie. The entrepreneur shared photos from the maternity ward where she was born with thousands of friends and associates around the world.

6. It's 666-6666. The number was bought by an anonymous Qatari bidder during a charity auction hosted by Qatar Telecom in Doha on 23 May 2006, according to Guinness World Records.

7. It's July 1985, when Info World wrote: "One step in that direction is Apple's recent beta testing of the new programming tools called Mac App." Apple launched its colourful iMacs in 1998, and the iPhone in 2007, which sent the word into the mainstream.


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