When Mobile Phones Became Colourful

Screen tech in mobile phones has come a long way. The first handsets, like the Motorola DynaTAC could only display a row of numbers on an LED display. Now, imagine that. Your mobile phone can only display one row of characters. Simple tasks we take for granted today, like looking through a phone book, become incredibly difficult.

It wasn’t long until we moved from LEDs to LCDs and multi-line displays became the norm. Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola - everyone got onto the LCD bandwagon and it wasn’t long until we started to see increasingly larger displays that could handle showing contact details and the complex menu systems we’ve become used to over the years.

Eventually, despite the protestations of some naysayers, those monochrome LCDs gave way to colour and a new dawn began. At first, colour screens didn’t really offer much more than the same stuff we did in black and white but with more confusing icons as the graphic designers got a little carried away.

The distinction of the first mobile phone with a colour screen is in some dispute but the two contenders are Sony Ericsson with the super popular T68i and Nokia with the Communicator and their 3500 series in the early 2000s.

Early units with colour did little more than put a set of paints on the same software that had been running before. However, it didn't take long for two things to happen. Resolutions increased and displays got bigger. Some of the more popular phones, like the MotoRAZR even introduced a second screen so that the flip didn't have to be opened to read the caller ID.

Today, displays employ LED-lit LCDs that are up to 4 inches from corner to corner and can show video in stunning clarity. That improvement in screen tech has driven the transition in our phones from mere voice communicators into portable multimedia powerhouses capable of browsing the Internet and connecting us with the world.

MobileModo is Gizmodo Australia’s look at the rise and rise of the mobile phone, from Bell’s landline to the ubiquitous mobiles of today.

Trending Stories Right Now