The best phones of the 1990s – a look back at a time when the mobile phone industry was more interesting | Techy Kings


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Mobile phone has become one of the most important things in our life.

We take them everywhere; Many of us rarely use our phone’s features, but use them for messaging, contactless payments, photography, GPS and online shopping.

They are a marvel of modern technology and almost feel like something out of science fiction when you remember what technology was like in the not too distant past.

As much as I love mobile phone technology, writing about and reviewing the latest devices has become quite boring. Technology has gotten worse and every new phone that comes out is an incremental improvement over the previous model.

I miss the days when I would have to try new and amazing technology every time I updated my phone. I remember someone bought a Nokia 8110 and then I got a Nokia 3210 which I think was my first phone. I had a Samsung SGH-V2000 which was the first phone with a camera and I think my first phone with a color screen. I remember when WiFi first came out in phones and when one of my friends got his first Symbian smartphone which I think was a Nokia 7650.

I’d say the 2000s were when cell phones really took off, and most of the phones listed above are from that era, but it’s important to look back at how quickly phones evolved in the 90s.

Cell phones started hitting the market in the 1980s alongside analog phones, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the technology really gained popularity and became mainstream. Digital phones began to be produced in the early 90s

Orbitel TPU 900 (1991)

This phone may not be that well known, and its design makes it barely a mobile phone, but it is a special device because it was the world’s first GSM phone and the first phone to receive a text message.

Nokia 1011 (1992)

The Nokia 1011 isn’t as iconic as the other Nokia phones on this list, but it was the brand’s first GSM and candy design.

Nokia 2110 and 2110i (1994 and 1995)

The Nokia 2110 was launched in 1994. and its smaller portable design quickly made it a must-have for business users. It was the first Nokia phone to feature the famous Nokia ringtone.

Other cutting-edge features include the ability to send and receive SMS messages; and list ten dialed calls, ten received calls, and ten missed calls.

Motorola StarTAC (1996)

Probably inspired by the Star Trek Communicator, the Motorola StarTAC and subsequent models were incredibly popular. The StarTAC was the first flip phone and the smallest phone on the market at the time, weighing just 88g (compared to the Nokia 2110’s 236g).

It was one of the first phones to use vibration as an alternative notification method, and it also featured an optional lithium-ion battery at a time when most phones were limited to lower-capacity NiMH batteries.

The Motorola StarTAC reportedly sold 60 million units, making it the second most popular phone sold in the 90s.

Nokia 8110 (1996)

Launched three years before The Matrix, the Nokia 8110 is affectionately known as the Matrix phone or, due to its shape, the banana phone. It was another phone that redefined phone design by being smaller and lighter than previous Nokia phones. It was also the first Nokia device to feature a transparent monochrome graphic LCD screen.

The original Nokia 8110 lacked the spring slide mechanism we saw in the Matrix, but it proved to be such a popular idea that Nokia implemented it in the Nokia 7110.

Nokia 6110 (1997)

Nokia 6110 blue

The Nokia 6110 is probably the first phone I really remember people my age getting. There was an incredible amount of excitement that it had a built-in Snake game, and I fondly remember playing two-player Snake using the infrared port as a connection.

The 6110 improved on the Nokia 2110 with a smaller size and increased talk time, and was the first phone to use an ARM processor.

Siemens S10 (1997) and SL10 (1998)

The Siemens S10 was the first phone to use a color display, using red, green, blue and white. It could display up to six lines of text. Unfortunately, the 97 x 54 pixel color display wasn’t that good and the phone suffered from screen visibility issues and the phone struggled to gain much traction. Siemens then had more success with the SL10, which was a sliding phone to compete with the Nokia 8110.

Nokia 3210 (1999)

The Nokia 3210 is reported to be 7th the best-selling phone of all time – 161 million sold Interestingly, the top 10 phones are dominated by Nokia and Apple, with Nokia taking the top two spots.

This phone was launched at a relatively comfortable price of £150 and quickly became popular among teenagers. Until 2000 you can pick it up for around £70 towards the end of the year.

Back in 1999 only 35% of under-18s were thought to have a mobile phone, and the 3210 helped boost those numbers.

In addition to the reasonable price, the popularity was due to the popular Snake game, which was launched on the Nokia 6110, and the introduction of Xpress-on interchangeable covers. It allowed you to customize the look of your phone

Nokia 8210 (1999)


This phone was introduced as a premium device, but it quickly became affordable and enjoyed commercial success for many years, remaining popular until 2010. It was announced in October, 7 months after 3210, during Paris Fashion Week

The Nokia 8210 helped make phones more fashionable. It was small and light, and the phone’s cover could be removed using Xpress-on interchangeable covers (first introduced with the Nokia 5110).


I’m a little too young to appreciate all the phones on this list, but like many children of the 80s, it was the Nokia 3210 that really sparked my interest in cell phone technology. But I believe the 2000s are when phones got really interesting.


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