A mobile phone (also known as a cellular phone, cell phone and a hand phone) is a device that can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile phone operator, allowing access to the public telephone network. By contrast, a cordless telephone is used only within the short range of a single, private base station.
In addition to telephony, modern mobile phones also support a wide variety of other services such as text messaging, MMS, email, Internet access, short-range wireless communications (infrared, Bluetooth), business applications, gaming and photography. Mobile phones that offer these and more general computing capabilities are referred to as smartphones.
The first hand-held mobile phone was demonstrated by Dr Martin Cooper of Motorola in 1973, using a handset weighing around 1 kg. In 1983, the DynaTAC 8000x was the first to be commercially available. In the twenty years from 1990 to 2011, worldwide mobile phone subscriptions grew from 12.4 million to over 5.6 billion, penetrating the developing economies and reaching the bottom of the economic pyramid.
Radiophones have a long and varied history going back to Reginald Fessenden's invention and shore-to-ship demonstration of radio telephony, through the Second World War with military use of radio telephony links and civil services in the 1950s.
The first mobile telephone call made from a car occurred in St. Louis, Missouri, USA on June 17, 1946, using the Bell System's Mobile Telephone Service. In 1956, the world’s first partly automatic car phone system, Mobile System A (MTA), was launched in Sweden. MTA phones were composed of vacuum tubes and relays, and had a weight of 40 kg.
Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher and executive is considered to be the inventor of the first practical mobile phone for handheld use in a non-vehicle setting, after a long race against Bell Labs for the first portable mobile phone. Using a modern, if somewhat heavy portable handset, Cooper made the first call on a handheld mobile phone on April 3, 1973 to his rival, Dr. Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs.
The world's first commercial automated cellular network was launched in Japan by NTT in 1979, initially in the metropolitan area of Tokyo. In 1981, this was followed by the simultaneous launch of the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) system in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. The first 1G network launched in the USA was Chicago-based Ameritech in 1983 using the Motorola DynaTAC mobile phone. Several countries then followed in the early-to-mid 1980s including the UK, Mexico and Canada.
In 1991, the second generation (2G) cellular technology was launched in Finland by Radiolinja on the GSM standard, which sparked competition in the sector as the new operators challenged the incumbent 1G network operators.
Ten years later, in 2001, the third generation (3G) was launched in Japan by NTT DoCoMo on the WCDMA standard. This was followed by 3.5G, 3G+ or turbo 3G enhancements based on the high-speed packet access (HSPA) family, allowing UMTS networks to have higher data transfer speeds and capacity.
All mobile phones have a number of features in common, but manufacturers also try to differentiate their own products by implementing additional functions to make them more attractive to consumers. This has led to great innovation in mobile phone development over the past 20 years.
The common components found on all phones are:
- A battery, providing the power source for the phone functions.
- An input mechanism to allow the user to interact with the phone. The most common input mechanism is a keypad, but touch screens are also found in some high-end smartphones.
- Basic mobile phone services to allow users to make calls and send text messages.
- All GSM phones use a SIM card to allow an account to be swapped among devices. Some CDMA devices also have a similar card called a R-UIM.
- Individual GSM, WCDMA, iDEN and some satellite phone devices are uniquely identified by an International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.
Low-end mobile phones are often referred to as feature phones, and offer basic telephony. Handsets with more advanced computing ability through the use of native software applications became known as smartphones.
Several phone series have been introduced to address a given market segment, such as the RIM BlackBerry focusing on enterprise/corporate customer email needs; the SonyEricsson Walkman series of musicphones and Cybershot series of cameraphones; the Nokia Nseries of multimedia phones, the Palm Pre the HTC Dream and the Apple iPhone.
The most commonly used data application on mobile phones is SMS text messaging. The first SMS text message was sent from a computer to a mobile phone in 1992 in the UK, while the first person-to-person SMS from phone to phone was sent in Finland in 1993.
The first mobile news service, delivered via SMS, was launched in Finland in 2000. Mobile news services are expanding with many organizations providing "on-demand" news services by SMS. Some also provide "instant" news pushed out by SMS.
Multi-card hybrid phones
A hybrid mobile phone can take more than one SIM card, even of different types. The SIM and RUIM cards can be mixed together, and some phones also support three or four SIMs.
From 2010 onwards they became popular in India and Indonesia and other emerging markets, attributed to the desire to obtain the lowest on-net calling rate. In Q3 2011, Nokia shipped 18 million of its low cost dual SIM phone range in an attempt to make up lost ground in the higher end smartphone market.
Mobile phone operators
Global mobile phone subscribers per country from 1980-2009. The growth in users has been exponential since they were first made available.
The world's largest individual mobile operator by subscribers is China Mobile with over 500 million mobile phone subscribers. Over 50 mobile operators have over 10 million subscribers each, and over 150 mobile operators had at least one million subscribers by the end of 2009. In February 2010, there were 5.6 billion mobile phone subscribers, a number that is expected to grow.
Prior to 2010, Nokia was the market leader. However, during that year competition emerged in the Asia Pacific region with brands such as Micromax, Nexian, and i-Mobile and chipped away at Nokia's market share. Android powered smartphones also gained momentum across the region at the expense of Nokia. In India, their market share also dropped significantly to around 31 percent from 56 percent in the same period. Their share was displaced by Chinese and Indian vendors of low-end mobile phones.
In 2010 worldwide sales were 1.6 billion units, an increase of 31.8 percent from 2009. The top five manufacturers by market share were Nokia followed by Samsung, LG Electronics, ZTE and Apple. The last three replaced RIM, Sony Ericsson and Motorola who were previously among the top five list. Outside the top five a significant market share increase from 16.5 percent to 30.6 percent was achieved by many smaller and new brands.
In Q1 2011, Apple surpassed Nokia as the world's biggest handset vendor by revenue, as Nokia's market share dropped to 29 percent in Q1 2011, the lowest level since the late 1990s. In June 2011, Nokia announced lower expectations for sales and margin due to global competition in both low-and-high end markets. By Q2 2011, worldwide sales grew 16.5 percent to 428.7 million units.
Top five manufacturers by market share in Q2 2011
- Note: Vendor shipments are branded shipments and exclude OEM sales for all vendors
Other manufacturers outside the top five are Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM), HTC Corporation, Motorola, Huawei, Sony Ericsson. Smaller players include Audiovox (now UTStarcom), BenQ-Siemens, CECT, Fujitsu, Kyocera, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Panasonic, Palm, Pantech Wireless Inc., Philips, Qualcomm Inc., Sagem, Sanyo, Sharp, Sierra Wireless, Just5, SK Teletech, T&A Alcatel, Trium, Toshiba, and Vidalco.
Use of mobile phones
Mobile phones are used for a variety of purposes, including keeping in touch with family members, conducting business, and having access to a telephone in the event of an emergency. Some people carry more than one cell phone for different purposes, such as for business and personal use. Multiple SIM cards may also be used to take advantage of the benefits of different calling plans—a particular plan might provide cheaper local calls, long-distance calls, international calls, or roaming. The mobile phone has also been used in a variety of diverse contexts in society, for example:
- A study by Motorola found that one in ten cell phone subscribers have a second phone that often is kept secret from other family members. These phones may be used to engage in activities including extramarital affairs or clandestine business dealings.
- Some organizations assist victims of domestic violence by providing mobile phones for use in emergencies. They are often refurbished phones.
- The advent of widespread text messaging has resulted in the cell phone novel; the first literary genre to emerge from the cellular age via text messaging to a website that collects the novels as a whole.
- Mobile telephony also facilitates activism and public journalism being explored by Reuters and Yahoo! and small independent news companies such as Jasmine News in Sri Lanka.
- The United Nations reported that mobile phones have spread faster than any other technology and can improve the livelihood of the poorest people in developing countries by providing access to information in places where landlines or the Internet are not available, especially in the least developed countries. Use of mobile phones also spawns a wealth of micro-enterprises, by providing work, such as selling airtime on the streets and repairing or refurbishing handsets.
- In Mali and other African countries, people travel from village to village to let friends and relatives know about weddings, births and other events, which is avoided if the villages are within mobile phone coverage areas. In many African countries, mobile phone coverage is greater than land line penetration, so most people own a mobile phone. In the smaller villages without electricity, phones are recharged using a solar panel or motorcycle battery.
- The TV industry has recently started using mobile phones to drive live TV viewing through mobile apps, advertising, social tv, and mobile TV. 86% of Americans use their mobile phone while watching TV.
- In parts of the world, mobile phone sharing is common. It is prevalent in urban India, as families and groups of friends often share one or more mobiles among their members. There are obvious economic benefits, but often familial customs and traditional gender roles play a part. For example, in Burkina Faso, it is not uncommon for a village to have access to only one mobile phone. The phone is typically owned by a person who is not natively from the village, such as a teacher or missionary, but it is expected that other members of the village are allowed to use the cell phone to make necessary calls.
For distributing content
In 1998, one of the first examples of distributing and selling media content through the mobile phone was the sale of ringtones by Radiolinja in Finland. Soon afterwards, other media content appeared such as news, video games, jokes, horoscopes, TV content and advertising. Most early content for mobile tended to be copies of legacy media, such as the banner advertisement or the TV news highlight video clip. Recently, unique content for mobile has been emerging, from the ringing tones and ringback tones in music to "mobisodes," video content that has been produced exclusively for mobile phones.
In 2006, the total value of mobile-phone-paid media content exceeded Internet-paid media content and was worth 31 billion dollars. The value of music on phones was worth 9.3 billion dollars in 2007 and gaming was worth over 5 billion dollars in 2007.
The advent of media on the mobile phone has also produced the opportunity to identify and track alpha users or hubs, the most influential members of any social community. AMF Ventures measured in 2007 the relative accuracy of three mass media, and found that audience measures on mobile were nine times more accurate than on the Internet and 90 times more accurate than on TV.
Mobile phone use while driving is common but controversial. Being distracted while operating a motor vehicle has been shown to increase the risk of accident. Because of this, many jurisdictions prohibit the use of mobile phones while driving. Egypt, Israel, Japan, Portugal and Singapore ban both handheld and hands-free use of a mobile phone; others —including the UK, France, and many U.S. states—ban handheld phone use only, allowing hands-free use.
Due to the increasing complexity of mobile phones, they are often more like mobile computers in their available uses. This has introduced additional difficulties for law enforcement officials in distinguishing one usage from another as drivers use their devices. This is more apparent in those countries which ban both handheld and hands-free usage, rather those who have banned handheld use only, as officials cannot easily tell which function of the mobile phone is being used simply by looking at the driver. This can lead to drivers being stopped for using their device illegally on a phone call when, in fact, they were using the device for a legal purpose such as the phone's incorporated controls for car stereo or satnav.
A recently published study has reviewed the incidence of mobile phone use while cycling and its effects on behaviour and safety.
Some schools limit or restrict the use of mobile phones. Schools set restrictions on the use of mobile phones because of the use of cell phones for cheating on tests, harassment and bullying, causing threats to the schools security, distractions to the students, and facilitating gossip and other social activity in school. Many mobile phones are banned in school locker room facilities, public restrooms and swimming pools due to the built-in cameras that most phones now feature.
Mobile banking and payments
In many countries, mobile phones are used to provide mobile banking services, which may include the ability to transfer cash payments by secure SMS text message. Kenya's M-PESA mobile banking service, for example, allows customers of the mobile phone operator Safaricom to hold cash balances which are recorded on their SIM cards. Cash may be deposited or withdrawn from M-PESA accounts at Safaricom retail outlets located throughout the country, and may be transferred electronically from person to person as well as used to pay bills to companies.
Branchless banking has also been successful in South Africa and Philippines. A pilot project in Bali was launched in 2011 by the International Finance Corporation and an Indonesian bank Bank Mandiri.
Another application of mobile banking technology is Zidisha, a US-based nonprofit microlending platform that allows residents of developing countries to raise small business loans from web users worldwide. Zidisha uses mobile banking for loan disbursements and repayments, transferring funds from lenders in the United States to the borrowers in rural Africa using the internet and mobile phones.
Mobile payments were first trialled in Finland in 1998 when two Coca-Cola vending machines in Espoo were enabled to work with SMS payments. Eventually, the idea spread and in 1999 the Philippines launched the first commercial mobile payments systems, on the mobile operators Globe and Smart.
Some mobile phone can make mobile payments via direct mobile billing schemes or through contactless payments if the phone and point of sale support near field communication (NFC). This requires the co-operation of manufacturers, network operators and retail merchants to enable contactless payments through NFC-equipped mobile phones.
Tracking and privacy
Mobile phones are also commonly used to collect location data. While the phone is turned on, the geographical location of a mobile phone can be determined easily (whether it is being used or not), using a technique known as multilateration to calculate the differences in time for a signal to travel from the cell phone to each of several cell towers near the owner of the phone.
The movements of a mobile phone user can be tracked by their service provider and, if desired, by law enforcement agencies and their government. Both the SIM card and the handset can be tracked.
China has proposed using this technology to track commuting patterns of Beijing city residents. In the UK and US, law enforcement and intelligence services use mobiles to perform surveillance. They possess technology to activate the microphones in cell phones remotely in order to listen to conversations that take place near to the person who holds the phone.
The effect mobile phone radiation has on human health is the subject of recent interest and study, as a result of the enormous increase in mobile phone usage throughout the world. Mobile phones use electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range, which some believe may be harmful to human health. A large body of research exists, both epidemiological and experimental, in non-human animals and in humans, of which the majority shows no definite causative relationship between exposure to mobile phones and harmful biological effects in humans. This is often paraphrased simply as the balance of evidence showing no harm to humans from mobile phones, although a significant number of individual studies do suggest such a relationship, or are inconclusive. Other digital wireless systems, such as data communication networks, produce similar radiation.
On 31 May 2011, the World Health Organization confirmed that mobile phone use may represent a long-term health risk, classifying mobile phone radiation as a "carcinogenic hazard" and "possibly carcinogenic to humans" after a team of scientists reviewed peer-review studies on cell phone safety. One study of past cell phone use cited in the report showed a "40% increased risk for gliomas (brain cancer) in the highest category of heavy users (reported average: 30 minutes per day over a 10‐year period)." This is a reversal from their prior position that cancer was unlikely to be caused by cellular phones or their base stations and that reviews had found no convincing evidence for other health effects.Certain countries, including France, have warned against the use of cell phones especially by minors due to health risk uncertainties.
At least some recent studies have found an association between cell phone use and certain kinds of brain and salivary gland tumors. Lennart Hardell and other authors of a 2009 meta-analysis of 11 studies from peer-reviewed journals concluded that cell phone usage for at least ten years “approximately doubles the risk of being diagnosed with a brain tumor on the same ('ipsilateral') side of the head as that preferred for cell phone use.”
In addition, a mobile phone can spread infectious diseases by its frequent contact with hands. One study came to the result that pathogenic bacteria are present on approximately 40% of mobile phones belonging to patients in a hospital, and on approximately 20% of mobile phones belonging to hospital staff.