The Evolution of Mobile Phones: A 30-Year Journey

The mobile phone market has radically transformed over the last 30 years. Mobile phones have come a long way in design, features, and capabilities, from being a luxury item to an essential part of our daily lives. We are all used to the small computers nestled in our pockets or resting next to us on our desks. Our lives would be much different if we didn’t have information at our fingertips and all of the other great ways you can use your phone.

But can we remember what it was like to have a phone that could only make calls and send texts?

A woman dressed in pink, holding a pink phone. The woman is smiling at her phone.

Mobile phones in the ’90s

In the 1990s, mobile phones were expensive and bulky devices only available to a small group of people. It seems baffling today, but it was a fact in the early 90s. The phones had limited functionality, unlike today’s all-singing and dancing version. In the 90s, phones were primarily used for making calls and sending texts. The overall design of the phones was basic, with small, monochrome screens.

Take a look back with us at the phones of yesteryear and see how many you remember.

1996 – Motorola StarTAC

The original ‘flip phone,’ the Motorola StarTAC, was considered a luxury product. It was featured in numerous marketing campaigns and films. The StarTAC was noticeably different from the other phones available, and it was small enough to fit in your pocket. It also came with clips ideal for attaching to belt buckles and other clothing accessories.

A old flip phone, it has a keypad and an antenna


Mobile phones in the ’00s

In the early 2000s, Nokia dominated the mobile phone market. The company’s iconic 3310 model was one of the most popular phones of its time. It was also this decade when we witnessed the rise of smartphones.

2000 – Nokia 3310

When we say ‘Nokia,’ most people over 25 will imagine the Nokia 3310. It was made famous for its long battery life and sturdy design. This Nokia was put to the test countless times with durability tests. The phone was utterly iconic and could be entirely customised with interchangeable Xpress-On covers. Any design you could have wanted, there was a cover for it. Much like modern cases, made for protecting your phone.

Nokia 3310’s legacy has been cemented online due to countless memes made about the phone being indestructible. So much so that a revived version of the 3310 was created in 2017, continuing the legacy into a new generation.

A Nokia 3310. Its a small phone that has a keypad.

2007 – The iPhone

The iPhone was a significant turning point in the mobile phone market. The launch of the iconic iPhone changed the game and introduced the world to the first smartphone. Apple’s distinctive and iconic minimalist design and touchscreen interface revolutionised how we use our phones.

An iPhone

2009 – Blackberry Curve 8520

Blackberry introduced the Curve 8520 in 2009. Sales for the brand skyrocketed after the phone’s release, rising from just under 20 million units sold in 2009 to 50 million in 2010. This sudden jump in sales was partly due to the widespread popularity of BlackBerry’s instant messaging platform, the first of its kind on a mobile device that replicated the favourable MSN instant messaging available on computer-based systems. BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) remained a popular service, even though further phone developments, and had 90 million users by 2015 after being released as an app in 2013.

A blackberry curve

Mobile phones in the 10’s

From flagship smartphones to feature phones and specialised devices, the 2010s witnessed an exciting range of mobile phone options. Brands like Apple, Samsung, Huawei and even Google introduced pioneering models each year, offering top-of-the-line performance, the latest software capabilities, and sleek designs.

2010 – Samsung Galaxy S

Samsung unveiled the first Galaxy S, arguably one of the most successful phone lines in history, in June 2010. Throughout the last ten years, the Galaxy S line has been one of Apple’s biggest and most constant competitors, with the S9 and S9 + outselling all the other available smartphones back in 2018.

A Samsung Galaxy S

2016 – Google Pixel

Google’s flagship phones, the Pixel and Pixel XL, were well received when released in 2016. While the model’s look was unremarkable, its high-quality hardware and software earned it near 5-star ratings, compared to Google’s previous attempt with the Google Nexus range of smartphones. These phones are still popular and offer some of the best features in photography and integration with the latest Google updates before any other smartphone brand.

A Google Pixel

2019 – iPhone 11

Over the years, we’ve seen the growth of the iPhone and, in turn, Apple go from strength to strength. Being at the forefront of mobile innovation. The last iPhone of the 2010s was no different. It boasted a wide range of features, including Night mode – taking better images in lower lighting – ultra-wide lens, Dolby Atmos supported audio system and swipe-to-type capabilities with QuickPath.

However, with so many new developments since this edition, you may want to consider an iPhone 11 trade-in for the newest model. There are many great new features you are missing out on, and with our quick services, you can have the cash to get the upgrade you want.

2020 – Samsung Galaxy Z Flip

Returning to the nostalgic feel of the late 90s and early 00s, Samsung has recreated the ‘flip phone’ for a 2020 audience. They turned a smartphone into a foldable phone. This phone comes with all the features a modern person could need: faster internet speeds, 5G compatibility and a top-of-the-line camera.

As new smartphones continue to get bigger, Samsung has returned to mobile’s roots by making the Z Flip more portable. Affordability is also key; clamshell designs are cheaper than an iPhone or Pixel and can offer a great alternative to the standard smartphone. If you are looking for a place to trade in your Samsung phone for the latest model, we can help.

A Samsung z-flip in purple

Looking at the future of phones

The industry has already returned to a more nostalgic time, with flip phones making a comeback in the last three years, but could those extra-large screens make 3D calling an option?  While no one can see into the future, we must admit, with all the developments in AI, we imagine in the next 5-10 years, they are getting yet another huge upgrade in capabilities. Even though we are still moving over to 5G, 6G is already in development, which promises an increase in data capacity, allowing virtual presence to become much more accessible, which could reimagine phone designs once again.

While looking back at old phones offers a bit of guilt-free nostalgia, creating a phone graveyard of all your old devices can clutter your home. Luckily, we offer the most competitive prices online for your devices. So even if you want to sell a broken phone, we can take it off your hands. Unless you are looking to create a museum of smartphones, you may as well get some cash for them. Use our sell my mobile services today and treat yourself to something whilst embracing a clutter-free home!

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