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Mobile Phones

The Origin and Spread of Mobile Phones

shoulder phone

A shoulder phone (NTT DoCoMo)

What people think of nowadays when they hear the words mobile phone appeared in the 1990s. Portable phone services that could be used by individuals, however, actually began more than 10 years earlier. The car phone appeared in 1979, and in 1985 NTT released the "shoulder phone," which could be carried freely by a user.

The shoulder phone, however, weighed 3 kilograms (7 pounds) and was quite large. In addition, it could only be used in limited areas. Mobile phones really began to take off in 1991, when NTT released very light models that weighed only 220 grams (about a half pound). This is what is now known as the first generation of mobile phones.

second generation mobile phone

A second-generation mobile phone (NTT DoCoMo)

In 1993, what were called second-generation mobile phones hit the market. In comparison with first-generation phones, these new models offered much clearer sound quality, and the problem of having the signal cut off when many users congregated in one area was overcome. The mainstream mobile phones of today, which have been referred to as generation 2.5, provide a variety of useful functions, such as allowing users to send and receive e-mail and access the Internet.

The number of mobile phones in use in Japan passed 1 million in 1991, and this figure has grown very rapidly since then. The number reached 10 million in 1995, 50 million in 1999, and stood at 80 million as of the end of 2003. Mobile phones have become common in all corners of the country.