13 Old Cell Phone Brands: Powerful names that shaped the mobile phone industry

Old cell phone brands, a history of pioneer mobile phone makers, by Mister Mobility

Long before the modern smartphone revolution triggered by the arrival of the iPhone in July 2007, pioneers of old drove an earlier revolution by introducing the world to mobile phones.

Some of these old cell phone brands are still around and kicking dust till today, and you will perhaps be surprised to know that some of your favourite smartphone brands today are ancestors that have been around since the 80s.

I like to refer to the 80s brands as the 1st generation brands. A second generation of phone brands came on stream in the 90s and early 2000s. I classify brands that arrived after 2007 as 3rd generation mobile brands.

These are the old cell phone brands that your grandparents used

Alcatel

The first Alcatel mobile phone was made in 1996 when Alcatel started out as a French brand. Yes; that was a long time before the modern Alcatel Mobile came into being in 2004 as a joint venture between Alcatel-Lucent and Chinese TCL Corporation. In 205, the joint venture was done away with and Alcatel Mobile became a full subsidiary of TCL Corporation.

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I owned two models during the years of the original Alcatel, Alcatel 311, and Alcatel Idol 3.

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BlackBerry

BlackBerry was initially known for making email pages, but in 2003, the first BlackBerry smartphone was announced, and so the Canadian company began its journey into the world of cell phones. It went on to achieve fame and acclaim, before it hit years of decline.

Ericsson

Ericsson is one of the really old cell phone brands. The first Ericsson mobile phone was released in 1994. The brand later merged with Sony to become Sony Ericsson, and later died off when Sony bought them out of the joint venture. I owned two models, Ericsson R320s and Ericsson R380s.

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By the way, Ericsson is Swedish.

HTC

The first HTC phone that I can trace back was the Apache, also sold as the PPC-6700 in the USA. This was in 2005. The company started out by making phones for mobile networks and carriers, as well as other phone brands. It later switched to making its own name-branded devices, but struggled financially, till it eventually exited the cell phone market.

Back in the old days, I owned a handful of HTC smartphones, namely: HTC Titan/Sprint Mogul pocket PC, HTC Touch Pro2, HTC HD7, HTC 7 Mozart, HTC Desire HD, HTC One X, and HTC Desire 816.

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HTC is Taiwanese.

LG

LG is a South Korean manufacturer and made its first mobile phone in 2000. It isn’t quite among the grandest of the old cell phone brands who forayed into phones in the 80s.

In 2021, LG announced that it was exiting the mobile phone market. This was after years of struggling with sales.

By the way, LG is not an abbreviation for “Life’s Good”; it actually stands for Lucky Goldstar. Now you know.

Motorola

Speaking of old cell phone brands, Motorola has the honour of being the oldest. It was the first to make a mobile phone. The DynaTAC 8000X phone, approved in September 1983, was the world’s first commercial portable cell phone. Motorola is an American business brand.

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Motorola was split into two in 2011 resulting in tow separate entities, Motorola Mobility and Motorola Enterprise. Motorola Mobility was sold off to Google in 2012. Two years later, Google sold it to Lenovo, a Chinese business, which it has remained with till today.

Incidentally, a Motorola (the T2288) was my first mobile phone ever. I also later owned the Accompli A008, along with a few budget models.

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Nokia

With a head start in 1987, just a few years shy of Motorola, Nokia sits as an elder at the table of old cell phone brands. Its first mobile phones was the “Mobira Cityman 900“, released In 1987.

I owned the 3310, 9500, E90, E7, N8, N9, Lumia 950 and many more.

Palm

Palm is a handheld brand that goes way back to the 90s. The first Palm handhelds were not mobile phones, but more like mobile computing devices. They were popular and were forerunners to modern smartphones. It was not until 2002 that Palm made their first mobile phone, the Treo 180.

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I owned the Palm Treo 700P and Palm Pre smartphones. Palm Computing was an American business.

Panasonic

Panasonic was also one of the 2nd generation old cell phone brands. In 1996, the brand made the first mobile phone that weighed less than 100g. I never owned a Panasonic phone, though I longed to.

Samsung

Yes; Samsung may still be making trendy mobile phones, and be leading the charge as the world’s largest phone maker in 2021, but they are an old cell phone brand. Samsung’s first mobile phone was developed in 1988. That makes the Korean brand peers with Motorola, Nokia, and Siemens.

Which was the first Samsung phone? It was called SC-1000. I have owned a modest number of Samsung phones till date. The list includes Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S9+, among others.

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Siemens

Siemens is another elder at the table of old cell phone brands. The first Siemens phone hit the market in 1985 and the brand went on to make some very interesting mobile phones till its demise in 2005, when the brand was sold to BenQ. Siemens was also the first mobile phone brand to make a phone with a colour screen.

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Siemens is a German brand.

Sony

If you think that Sony is a new phone brand, you are highly mistaken. Back in 2001, the Japanese brand began to make mobile phones, later merged with Ericsson to become Sony Ericsson, and then bought over ownership again to revert to Sony.

While I owned 11 Sony Ericsson phones, I got to experience only one original Sony phone, the Sony J5.

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Trium

Trium was a Mitsubishi subsidiary founded in 1983 and was one of the pioneer mobile phone brands in the world. The first Trium mobile phone was released in 1999. The company exited the mobile phone market in 2008.

Interesting fact: for decades, the Japanese stayed ahead of the curve of mobile technology and had the most advanced phones and networks.

Old cell phone brands: Conclusion

Now, you know which mobile phone makers are old cell phone brands. Siemens, Trium, and Ericsson are history now. But other oldies like Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, and Alcatel still make phones till today, though they have gone through different ownership in all these years.

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