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50 years of the first phone call that changed the world

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Q REPORTS – Motorola’s pioneering spirit has proven to be a fundamental part of the evolution of the mobile industry to what it is today. From the first marketable 5G smartphone to the first foldable smartphone, Motorola has a long heritage of rewriting the way people access and experience innovation.

50 years ago the first call was made from a mobile phone: the day Martin Cooper made history

But perhaps the most defining moment in the history of mobile technology occurred exactly 50 years ago, on April 3, 1973, when Martin Cooper, former Vice President and Director of Innovation and Development for Motorola, used the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X to perform the world’s first commercial mobile phone call from New York’s Sixth Avenue.

It was a pivotal moment for society, as we no longer had to wait for a landline or to be called to make sure we didn’t miss a call. It meant that we could communicate with anyone, at any time, from anywhere.

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“When I made the first public call with a portable mobile phone on April 3, 1973, I knew that it was only the beginning; that Motorola and the mobile phone industry were starting a revolution in personal communications,” says Martin Cooper.

On April 3, 1973, 50 years ago, Martin Cooper made a call from his cell phone and changed human history forever.

“Since then, there have been a number of fundamental innovations, many of them created by Motorola. The first fifty years were just the warm-up exercise. There will be many more exciting breakthroughs that will transform humanity.

“50 years later, we’re proud to say that Motorola has continued to be at the forefront of other breakthrough technologies, patents and innovations that have shaped the world as we know it.

“We’ve come a long way since the release of the DynaTAC 8000X, which was over 30cm long and weighed almost 1kg at the time. Some examples are the original RAZR V3, a device that came out in the early 2000s, a time when mobile design had become predictable. The RAZR V3, popular for its unique folding-like design and slim look, remains an iconic piece of technology around the world today,” says Cooper.

As recently as April 3, 2019, the moto z3 paired with the moto modTM 5G became the world’s first commercially available smartphone to connect to 5G. Since then, we’ve Motorola has been determined to democratize 5G technology by bringing ultra-fast 5G speeds to the mid-range segment through our moto g family.

The company has also been instrumental in pushing the limits of alternative designs.

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In 2019, Motorola launched the world’s first foldable smartphone, the Motorola Razr, giving consumers portability without sacrificing the display capabilities of a full-size smartphone.

Motorola also introduced innovations like the neckband, a 5G wearable that redefines the role of the smartphone by allowing you to display content on more immersive screens all around you. And most recently, Motorola introduced a rollable smartphone. Looking ahead, Motorola is excited to continue testing the limits of mobile technology and look forward to sharing more in this space.

To celebrate our 50th anniversary, Argentine illustrator Costhanzo has recreated 50 of Motorola’s most iconic devices to date.


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“Working at Motorola for more than 20 years, I have had the opportunity to witness many of these iconic innovations,” said Sergio Buniac, Motorola’s president.

“Innovation is in our DNA. We have revolutionized the industry countless times and we are excited to continue playing this critical role in shaping the future of the industry,” concluded Buniac.

A half-century

The cell phone today, a half-century later, even above the landline, is used by more than 68% of the world’s population.

Motorola celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first commercial call from a mobile phone

The cell phone is used an average of five hours a day and, assuming that a person sleeps an average of between 7 and 8 hours per day, the figures indicate that users spend 30% of their lives awake using the mobile, according to the Summary Report global digital 2023, produced by Datareportal in collaboration with Meltwater and We Are Social.

On Monday, April 3, 1973, Cooper called Joel Engel, a competition researcher at Bell Laboratories, to say, “Joel, I’m calling from a cell phone. From a real one.” Silence was the response he got.

It was a device weighing almost one kilogram, which took 10 hours to charge and barely 30 minutes of autonomy.

That invention has led to the “smartphones” that are used today and that already work with 5G technology.

There was nothing to presage that that mobile call could lead to all the functionalities that the mobile was going to have today.

Cooper recently recalled in an interview with EFE that when he proceeded to make the call to Engel, he did not imagine that in the future digital cameras or the Internet would be incorporated into these devices.

However, Cooper did predict that everyone would have a mobile.

That mobile phone has derived half a century later into sophisticated smartphones, devices that have the necessary power to be used as computers. Foldable, without folding, extendable, light or heavy, the range of devices is abundant. 92.3% of mobile phones have Internet access.

A revolution of 5.44 billion users

This invention has become one of the “great revolutions of humanity due to the change it has introduced in our lives, even beyond the landline telephone,” the president of the College of Computer Engineers of Spain, Fernando Suárez, explained to EFE.

“It took the conventional telephone almost 65 years to reach 100 million users, the mobile phone has not taken fifty years to exceed 5 billion,” recalls Suárez.

Its use is increasing year by year, and, according to the Digital Global Summary Report 2023, a total of 5.44 billion people use it.

Mobile users increased just over 3% over the past year, with 168 million new users in the last 12 months.

The average usage rate is also growing. Seven minutes more on average in 2022 compared to 2021.

The average five hours of usage comes from a analysis, which is based on a selection of the largest markets. If usage were the same for all markets, that would mean combined mobile usage would be 10 trillion hours per year.

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