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Happy 30th birthday to the world’s first mobile phone

On January 1st 1985, the UK’s first mobile phone call was made by the son of Vodafone’s first chairman. But how far has technology advanced in that time, and what’s the next big leap for mobile tech?

The first functioning mobile phone was the rather sexily named Vodafone VT1, and exactly 30 years ago today it was used for the first wireless phone call, between Vodafone chairman Ernest Harrison and his son Michael. The call itself was about as exciting as the annual insomniacs conference (““Hi Dad. It’s Mike. This is the first-ever call made on a UK commercial mobile network.” – not exactly ‘one giant leap for mankind’ territory, is it?) but it was a massive day for mobile tech, giving birth to the glorious freedom we now enjoy daily thanks to our pocket pals.

Comedian Ernie Wise was the first member of the general public to make a mobile call a few days later, in Parliament Square. It was probably a lot more entertaining, but no one actually bothered to write down what he said.

Those first mobile phones cost a whopping £2000 each, weighed almost 5kg and enjoyed a full half hour of battery life. Still, Vodafone shifted 12,000 of them in the first year alone, and people were actually buying the things before Vodafone’s network even went live, giving them probably the most expensive and ugly paperweight ever devised.

Vodafone originally predicted that its mobile network would be popular with people on the move, including businessmen, doctors and – randomly – veterinary surgeons. Little did it know that in three decades, every pleb in Britain would own a mobile phone, and most likely their kids and pets as well.

In 30 years, we’ve seen mobile phones advance a hell of a lot. Fair enough, they’re not much cheaper these days – in fact, most flagship phones still cost over £500, and Apple’s iPhones are barely half the cost of that original handheld blower if you opt for the premium models. But at least the public can pick up a mobile for just £100 or less thanks to the likes of Motorola’s Moto E, Nokia’s Lumia 630 and the Sony Xperia E3.

And battery life isn’t exactly massively better either, with most phones dying in around a day. We’ve actually regressed on that front, and younger readers possibly won’t even remember the fantastic week-long life we used to enjoy on Nokia’s original feature phones.

But at least we don’t have to cart around a ridiculously sized handset which requires its own suitcase any more…well, unless you opt for a phablet.

But now our precious mobiles can obviously do a lot more than just place and take calls, with the likes of apps, mobile web browsing and media playback all important functions. It’s hardlies a ridiculous exaggeration to say that most of us probably couldn’t function as well without our trusty pocket pals.

So will we see anything quite as exciting as that very first mobile phone call in our lifetimes? Lately, mobile innovation can be best described as baby steps rather than flipping massive leaps. We now have 4G for better media streaming, phone cameras that are actually worth using and frantic 3D action games rather than shonky efforts like Snake, but nothing that will cause jaws to crash to the ground.

2015 promises the rise of foldable and bendable phones, but is that really the kind of innovation we need? And will we ever see a phone that can last more than a couple of days between charges?

Let us know what you think the next big mobile innovation will be in the comments below, and happy new year!

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