Mobile Communication: Types, History & Timeline

Instructor: Mary Matthiesen-Jones

Mary has worked around the world for over 30 years in international business, advertising, and market research. She has a Master's degree in International Management and has taught University undergraduate and graduate level courses .

Today's mobile devices are an essential part of daily life and communications. Learn about the history of mobile communications and some of today's most popular mobile communications applications.

The Cellular Revolution

Mobile communications are often thought of as a recent invention, but mobile communications were commercially available just after WWII when Bell Telephone launched a mobile service that could reach what was then an amazing distance of 50 miles! The challenge with this early system was the limited strength of the transmitters. Bell Labs quickly worked to solve this problem using cellular technology where calls could be handed off to different base stations. One major hurdle to truly mobile communications was overcome and the mobile communications race was on.

A Mobile Communications Timeline

1982 The first US cellular system is put into place. But how mobile was mobile? Those first phones weighed about two pounds, took ten hours to charge, gave about 30 minutes of talk time, were the size of a brick, and cost around $4,000!
1983 Apple's Steve Jobs predicts wireless networking.
1996 WAP or Wireless Application Protocol becomes available for mobile devices, opening the door for accessing information over mobile wireless networks.
2007 Apple's iPhone is launched and within a year the Apple App store has over 100 million downloads.
2008 Google's Android system and their apps join the market quickly followed by Blackberry and Windows.
2010 The word ''App'' is actually voted the Word of the Year!
2013 One million apps are available in the Apple App Store

An Application for Every Communication

There are over four billion mobile phone users worldwide and there are applications for every type of communication. Mobile communications have evolved to take advantage of higher Internet speeds and address consumer concerns about the cost of communications.

Two key technologies have come into broad use to help address the cost issue in particular.

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, allows messaging, video, and phone calls to be made over the Internet. Consumers can avoid using their cellular minutes and text plans that are often expensive when users exceed their limits. The only charges are for data usage.

Push Notifications are messages that appear on mobile devices where a user has installed an app. Consumers control the specific types of notifications that they want from an app. The convenience of up-to-the-minute information offers convenience and value whether airline flight information or coupons are being delivered. As consumers decide what to receive, they control their costs by avoiding unwanted messages.

Also, new apps are being added on an almost daily basis. A handful, however, are the leaders in meeting the mobile communication needs for both consumers and businesses as well as addressing demands for greater security and encryption and global reach that doesn't rely on a single network.

Facebook Messenger

In addition to being the world's most popular social network, Facebook offers Messenger, their free mobile messaging and chat app for most smartphones and tablets. Messenger can deliver free texts and chats because it operates over the Internet and does not use up monthly allowances for texts and voice calls. It can, however, use up any data allowances!

Google Hangouts

While a Google account is needed, group calls and chats can happen on a phone or a computer. Both video and voice calls are possible on mobile devices.


Skype takes mobile communications to the next level by allowing free voice and video calls using VoIP. Skype enables users to communicate around the world for only the cost of their Internet service.

What's App

Used by over 1 billion people worldwide, WhatsApp allows the secure transmission of messages, voice and video calls as well as videos and documents, and it doesn't matter what type of phone you are using. Since it uses a phone's Internet connection, it helps users avoid text and phone minute charges.


For users who do not want their messages to stay around, Snapchat allows users to send multimedia messages that self-destruct within seconds. This feature has, however, been a source of controversy because of the fear that it enables questionable content to be sent and then not traced as well as possible enabling cyberbullying and cyberstalking.

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