The world cellular, as it describes phone technology, was used by engineers Douglas H. Ring and W. Rae Young at Bell Labs. They diagrammed a network of wireless towers into what they called a cellular layout. Cellular was the chosen term because each tower and its coverage map looked like a biological cell. Eventually, phones that operated on this type of wireless network were called cellular phones.
The term mobile phone predates its cellular counterpart. The first mobile phone call was placed in 1946 over Bell System’s Mobile telephone service, a closed radiotelephone system. And the first commercial mobile phones were installed cars in the 1970s.
Eventually, the two names, mobile phone and cellular phone, became synonymous, especially in the US. But some people disagree with that usage. They consider the term “cellular phone” to be a misnomer because the phone is not cellular, the network is. The phone is a mobile phone and it operates on a cellular network. So what do you think, is this just splitting hairs or do we need to be more careful about what we call our phones? [The Atlantic]