Have you ever opened the junk drawer or pilfered through the couch cushions and come across an old cell phone you used 10 or 15 years ago? Don’t they look ridiculous? Cell phones have changed a lot over the years, becoming more sleek and stylish along the way. But the innards have actually come a lot farther than the designs. Here’s a peek back through the history of cell phone designs.

cell phone evolution

The Zach Morris Phone

The ancestor of today’s cell phones is the brick, also called the Zach Morris phone, so named for the character in “Saved by the Bell.” This phone was only portable in the sense that it didn’t have to be plugged into the wall. Most were used as car phones, and the battery made up most of the brick’s size and weight. It was the first cell phone to receive FCC approval.

At first, the Zack Morris phone was the coolest, but as phones rapidly shrunk, these bulky ancestors became the symbol of someone behind the times. Since analog technology won’t work with today’s digital cellular service providers, these phones are the sole domain of museums, movie prop trailers and collectors.

The Matrix Phone

In 1999, Keanu Reeves’ character in the Matrix used a futuristic-looking phone that would later become commonplace in real life. It was among the first slider phones available, but the movie phone was equipped with spring action the real life phone didn’t have. Of course, using the phone in the movie made sales soar, and another company attempted to recreate this marketing success by designing a phone to premier in the second Matrix movie, The Matrix: Reloaded. Sales of the second phone just never reached the level of the phone used in the original movie, however.

The Flip Phone

Flip phones made a splash in 2000, bringing more features than ever before. These cutting-edge cell phones were offered with fancy color screens, calendars, infrared, FM radio and Bluetooth. A lot of progress was made in memory capacity, too, and the best phones were available with 360 kb (try not to laugh). By 2002, GPRS Internet service on cell phones reaches the masses, along with phones with cameras, LCD screens, better battery life and a whopping 128 mb of memory (we’re getting there).

The Slide Phone

By 2007, the slide phone and dual processors hit the market. Touch screen technology had been around awhile, but it was finally making its way onto mass marketed cell phones. QWERTY keyboards became the norm, and we started to see more specialized phones, such as splash proof ones for pool-loving users and beach-bum consumers.

Smartphones of Today

Today’s cell phones enjoy 16 megapixel cameras, up to 15 hours talk time and 128 times more memory capacity than those of 2000. Innovations like BlackBerry mobile device management allow us to hook computers and other devices easily to transfer data instantly. Since the touchscreens naturally limit design possibilities of today’s phones, we don’t normally see reincarnations of the flip or slide styles. However, with the vast selection of plans, options, features, and apps, nobody seems to be complaining about a lack of design style. As an old commercial once said, we’ve come a long way, baby!

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