01. 06. 2023

A Special Showcase for Vodafone Challenger Live

We’ve had a busy start to 2023 and it was a huge pleasure to be invited to exhibit at Vodafone UK’s Challenger Live event at its Newbury HQ in the UK recently. This gave us the chance to meet with over 700 members of the Vodafone UK team and we were overwhelmed by the interest in the selection of mobile phones we were showcasing from our extensive collection. It provided a real trip down memory lane for many of the attendees.

Phone Display 1

We had devices from all eras including large transportable mobile phones from Motorola and Mobira. The very rare Vodafone VP1 – of which only five prototypes were made - also proved popular. This device eventually shipped commercially as the Orbitel Cityfone.

Other phones that always grab people's attention are Nokia’s eclectic mix of fashion-centric phones from the 2000s, including the iconic “lipstick phone”.

It was great to be able to contribute to the event and we continue to be very grateful to the Vodafone UK team for their on-going role as the lead sponsor for the Mobile Phone Museum charity. We look forward to working together on more events in future.

read post
07. 05. 2023

Growing Interest in Vintage Mobile Phones

Over the last few years, there has been increased nostalgia towards vintage consumer electronics, and mobile phones are no exception. Reflecting this, the prices of older mobile phones have started to increase on auction sites such as eBay – particularly rarer devices that have played an important role in the history of the mobile technology.

Since launching the Mobile Phone Museum we’ve noticed several sellers making reference to our descriptions of the more sought-after devices.

We are also getting a growing number of requests from people asking our view on the value of old mobile phones and have been happy to help when we can. Most recently we were contacted by a journalist writing an article for The Sun newspaper in the UK.

This provided readers with advice about whether the old phones they own have any value. Our founder, Ben Wood, was interviewed for the article.

You can find it here if you would like to read the details.

read post
03. 04. 2023

First Mobile Phone Call Made 50 Years Ago Today

Today is a major milestone in the history of mobile phones as it marks the 50th anniversary since the first phone call was made on a portable cellular phone.

On Tuesday April 3, 1973, Martin (Marty) Cooper stood on Sixth Avenue in New York and called his rival Dr. Joel S. Engel who worked at AT&T’s Bell Labs to share the news that Motorola had beaten AT&T in the race to create a “personal, portable handheld cell phone”.

The call was made from a prototype DynaTAC phone, a version of which went on sale in 1984 as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X.

The Mobile Phone Museum team recently met with Marty Cooper at MWC Barcelona earlier this year where he was awarded GLOMO Lifetime Achievement Award by the GSMA. This award recognised Marty’s innovative and pioneering leadership in the technology industry. We were also featured on the BBC sharing our thoughts on this milestone with a few key phones from the collection.

Mobile Phone Museum Founder, Ben Wood with Marty Cooper at MWC Barcelona 2023

Mobile Phone Museum Founder, Ben Wood with Marty Cooper at MWC Barcelona 2023

Our collection includes a DynaTAC 8000X and we took the opportunity to have a chat with Marty and get him to sign our phone at the event to make it a truly unique asset in our collection.

read post
03. 03. 2023

20 Years of 3G in the UK

The year is 2003. The Black Eyed Peas are topping the charts with the single “Where Is the Love?" while the mobile scene is dominated by simple voice and SMS from existing telcos BT Cellnet (O2), Orange, One2One (T-Mobile) and Vodafone Airtouch (Vodafone). A new mobile network operator is preparing to enter the stage and conquer the British market.

Twenty years ago today, Hutchison 3G launched the UK’s first 3G network, using the brand Three (stylised as “3”). The launch marked a turning point in the UK market - the introduction of 3G technology was expected to revolutionise mobile communications, providing faster internet speeds, video calling, and other multimedia services.

Three's Launch Logo

Three’s original logo from launch in 2003

It’s often forgotten that Three was a tech start-up swimming against the tide of the dot-com bubble burst with limited resources to deliver what cynics described as a pointless upgrade to the already perfectly functional 2G networks being delivered by existing operators. However, this was actually an advantage when building the network; it was a completely fresh start with total focus on delivering 3G with no legacy equipment to support or executives to convince of the benefits. 

The main focus was video calling. Previous attempts at video calls on 2G devices such as the Orange Videophone never achieved mainstream consumer support, whereas all of Three’s launch phones natively supported video calling. This was a big push by Canning Fok, who was Group Managing Director of Hutchison Whampoa (majority stakeholder of Three), who told the development teams that two way video had to work or they should go home.

Patricia Hewitt with the e606

Patricia Hewitt MP, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, makes a public mobile video call over Three's network to Canning Fok -  Image from Hutchison Whampoa in 2003.

The Mobile Phone Museum caught up with Peter Simpson, Director of Handset Technology at Three from 2000 to 2004. He recalled matters were not straightward at the network; “it's not called the bleeding edge for without reason”. Every aspect was being developed as the standards were still being ratified leading to some interesting interpretations. There was a massive focus on end to end interoperability testing, particularly as Three was taking a walled garden approach to content.

The three handsets that were ready for launch were the NEC e606, e808, and the Motorola A830. Both manufacturers were keen to push into the UK market, especially as they had lost large amounts of market share to Nokia, the dominant handset manufacturer at the time.

The Launch Devices - NEC e606, e808 and Motorola A830

The launch devices: NEC e606, e808 and Motorola A830

Simpson said that the 03/03/03 date was decided very late in the timeline - the original launch was aimed for Q2'2002 but this got pushed back to Q4'2002 and then into Q1'2003. The magic date was set and pressure was really put on across the company to make it a reality.

Jumping back to present day, Three is still a leading player in the UK telecoms market. However, the era of 3G is coming to an end - it plans to switch off the 3G network by the end of 2024.

Thank you to Peter Simpson, Peter Clarke and David Wheatley for their contributions to this blog.

read post
23. 01. 2023

Sea Cubs Phone Up the Past

Will and I were recently invited to the 2nd St Ives Sea Cubs in Cambridgeshire. It was an excellent opportunity for us to share the Mobile Phone Museum’s “Fantastic Phones” workshop. With my experience in the mobile industry and Will’s experience as a Scout Leader, we followed the timeline of the mobile phone from Martin Cooper’s first mobile phone call with a Motorola phone in New York in 1973 up to Steve Jobs’ unveiling the Apple iPhone in 2007.

The Cubs got hands-on with some highlights from the Mobile Phone Museum collection, including the Motorola 5000X, Orbitel 901, Nokia 9000 Communicator, Nokia 8110, Siemens SK65 and Motorola V70.

One of the Cubs holding the Motorola 5000X

After learning about the collection, the Cubs designed their phone of the future – influences included flexible display technology, longer battery life and the exploration of new input methods.

Thank you to 2nd St Ives for hosting the Mobile Phone Museum. We look forward to giving more workshops in the future.

read post
03. 12. 2022

30 Years of Texting Thanks to the Orbitel 901

On 3 December 1992, the first text message using the Short Message Service (SMS) was officially sent from a computer terminal in Reading, UK by an engineer at Sema Group Telecoms. It was received on an Orbitel 901 mobile phone by Richard Jarvis, the Engineering Director at Vodafone’s value-added services subsidiary Vodata. The message consisted of two words: “Merry Christmas”. It was sent to show off this unique new service to the CEO of Vodafone at a Christmas drinks gathering.

Orbitel 901 Front Mpmbrand Black

Forming part of the GSM 2G cellular standard, the SMS was envisaged as a secondary service for operators to send update messages of up to 160 characters to customers. When the standard was first launched, handset manufacturers didn’t include proper keypads because mobiles were regarded as only being used to make telephone calls and receive messages. At the time, text messaging was synonymous with pagers, so the idea that you could receive and send messages on a mobile phone was like something from a science fiction film.

However, the technology quickly caught on, and over the years we’ve increasingly seen a transition in the way we interact with a mobile phone — from voice to visual. Gone are the days when the default use of a phone was to hold it to your ear. Most people now spend more time looking at their mobile phones than talking into them. SMS was the catalyst for this transition.

Video from Vodafone UK showcasing the Museum's Orbitel 901

Working at Vodafone around 1994, I remember doing training on how to send and receive text messages using a Nokia 2110. People would give me a look of incredulity when I explained that to send my name as a text message I’d have to press the number 2 key twice, followed by a further two presses on both the 3 key and the 6 key — just to create three letters B - E - N on the phone’s screen. Before long people were getting so fast at texting on phones that they could pretty much touch-type on a numeric keypad. Phone makers were also starting to introduce innovative solutions to aid texting such as the Ericsson Chatboard and the Nokia 6800.Nokia 6800 OpenWe’ve now reached a point where people take text messaging on mobile phones for granted when they use services like WhatsApp that handle over 100 billion messages per day.

Over time, SMS text messages have largely been usurped by other messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Apple’s iMessage, WeChat, and others but the technology that started it all still has an important role as a reliable and robust basic messaging service. In the modern era, many people get texts with messages to authenticate an online purchase or confirm a login as it’s the lowest common denominator when it comes to sending a message and it’s still super reliable.

Not bad for a service that is now 30 years old, and was never intended to be used for person-to-person communications. 


read post