The mobile phone (also called a wireless phone or cellular phone) is a short-range, portable electronic device used for mobile voice or data communication over a network of specialized base stations known as cell sites. In addition to the standard voice function of a telephone, current mobile phones may support many additional services, and accessories, such as SMS for text messaging, email, packet switching for access to the Internet, gaming, bluetooth, infrared, camera with video recorder and MMS for sending and receiving photos and video. Most current mobile phones connect to a cellular network of base stations (cell sites), which is in turn interconnected to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) (the exception is satellite phones).
According to internal memos, American Telephone & Telegraph discussed developing a wireless phone in 1915, but were afraid deployment of the technology could undermine its monopoly on wired service in the U.S.
The first commercial mobile phone service was launched in Japan by NTT in 1978. By November 2007, the total number of mobile phone subscriptions in the world had reached 3.3 billion, or half of the human population (although some users have multiple subscriptions, or inactive subscriptions), which also makes the mobile phone the most widely spread technology and the most common electronic device in the world.
The first mobile phone to enable internet connectivity and wireless email, the Nokia Communicator, was released in 1996, creating a new category of multi-use devices called smartphones. In 1999 the first mobile internet service was launched by NTT DoCoMo in Japan under the i-Mode service. By 2007 over 798 million people around the world accessed the internet or equivalent mobile internet services such as WAP and i-Mode at least occasionally using a mobile phone rather than a personal computer.
Nokia is currently the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile phones, with a global device market share of approximately 40% in 2008. Other major mobile phone manufacturers (in order of market share) include Samsung (14%), Motorola (14%), Sony Ericsson (9%) and LG (7%). These manufacturers account for over 80% of all mobile phones sold and produce phones for sale in most countries.
Other manufacturers include Apple Inc., Audiovox (now UTStarcom), Benefon, BenQ-Siemens, CECT, High Tech Computer Corporation (HTC), Fujitsu, Kyocera, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Neonode, Panasonic (Matsushita Electric), Pantech Curitel, Philips, Research In Motion, Sagem, Sanyo, Sharp, Siemens, Sendo, Sierra Wireless, SK Teletech, Sonim Technologies, T&A Alcatel, Huawei, Trium and Toshiba. There are also specialist communication systems related to (but distinct from) mobile phones.
There are several categories of mobile phones, from basic phones to feature phones such as musicphones and cameraphones, to smartphones. The first smartphone was the Nokia 9000 Communicator in 1996 which incorporated PDA functionality to the basic mobile phone at the time. As miniaturization and increased processing power of microchips has enabled ever more features to be added to phones, the concept of the smartphone has evolved, and what was a high-end smartphone five years ago, is a standard phone today. 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 N-Series of multimedia phones; and the Apple iPhone which provides full-featured web access and multimedia capabilities.