Your First Cellphone: True Stories of Cellphones Past

I got my first cellphone when I was around 14. It was my father's, actually; I just got to carry it when I went anywhere without my parents, and he didn't want it in the first place, so it became de facto mine. It was a Samsung SPH-N400—an old Samsung flip phone. In any case, what I had was a little blue block about two inches wide and four inches tall with a retractable antenna and a bright green screen whose pixels you could count on your fingers. It had the game Snake and it took me 30 minutes to draft a single text message—a capability I didn't even know the phone had for the first several months it was in my possession. I loved it dearly.

I switched to an iPhone 5c in 2014—my first iPhone and first smartphone—and never looked back. Until now, that is. As I reminisce about my little flip phone (which must have had phone anxiety even worse than mine, given how often it dropped calls), I can't help but wonder if you think back as fondly on your first cellphones. So, I asked, and you answered! Below, find some of my favorite stories readers shared about their introduction to mobile telecommunications. And for more great iPhone stories, be sure to check out our free Tip of the Day newsletter.

Many of you had much earlier introductions to cellular technology:

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“Back in the ‘80s, I convinced the owner of the company [I worked for] to invest in a Motorola “bag phone” for me as I traveled throughout New England as a sales manager. I had one account in Presque Isle, Maine on the Canadian border and still remember getting out of my car while it was snowing and placing the bag phone on the roof to make a cell call to my office! 500 miles away and 6 1/2 hour drive! At the time it seemed like an Alexander Graham Bell moment!”


Wade wasn’t the only one of you who had a bag phone, but his story was the only one that included a miraculous call during a snowstorm at the Canadian border, so it made the cut. Well, okay, there's one more bag phone story that features similar dramatics:

“Approximately 35 years ago, construction was taking place in the parking lot of the school where I was principal. It was a secondary school with about 2,000 students and staff.

As fate would have it, one of the construction machines severed the telephone line into the school. This was a serious loss of communication with our community, specifically parents and emergency services. At that time, I had a “bag mobile phone” in my car, which I immediately put into service informing specific people as to our situation. Fortunately, we finished the school day with no emergencies.

The bag mobile phone had a receiver with a dial and a modest-sized holder attached to a small bag of sand so it could be set down securely. This was connected by cable to a large box under the dash containing the electronics needed to make it function.”


I'm just fascinated by the logistics of attaching a phone to a bag of sand! The hoops we had to jump through.

“My wife and I, for years, went out for dinner on Friday nights with another couple. One night, we headed to Starbucks to wrap up the evening in conversation. Ron worked for Apple, and Steve Jobs had just introduced the first iPhone earlier that week. While at Starbucks, Ron reached in his pocket and pulled out his brand-new iPhone. Everyone in Starbucks gathered around and marveled at this new “wonder” and thought life would never get better. Looking back, we were SO WRONG.”


Little did we know then! I know, technically, this isn't a story about Chuck’s first phone. But I couldn't resist a story in which people gather around to gaze at the first iPhone like it's a newborn baby.

“My first cellphone was a Motorola MicroTAC Lite that I got via a special promotion in late 1991. At the time, I was an advertising photographer, so being able to be reached via phone when not in the studio sounded like an advantage. Plus, of course, I wanted to be The Cool Guy on the block, when having a cellphone was an anomaly.

The MicroTAC, at over 8” long open and weighing around 8oz, was considered “compact” at the time, and I believe was one of the first flip phones; it was advertised as fitting in a shirt pocket (but no one I knew would chance carrying it like that). It worked surprisingly well, but I had to be quite careful with usage, because the per-minute charges were obscenely expensive—”unlimited minutes” were still 25 years away! I think my plan gave me 45 minutes of talk; any overage was $1 a minute. As for texting… what was that?

… Nostalgia compelled me to keep the ol’ MicroTAC. Believe it or not, I still have the thing. It’s quite amusing to set it out next to my current iPhone!”


Darren, you can't just tease us like that. Send pics of the phones together!

This next story is from my mother, who is also an iPhone Life reader because she is contractually obliged to support everything I do.

“Our first cellphone was a large black rectangular phone. For a couple of days, we couldn’t find it. We had a white German Shepherd named Kevin, and we finally saw that Kevin was carrying the phone around in his mouth. He had evidently found it where we dropped it in the yard and thought it was a toy and/or was saving it for us. We retrieved the phone, which had Kevin’s tooth marks on it, including a hole in the screen. But the phone still worked!”

-Susan G.

There you have it! Your true stories of first (cellphone) love. I love reading stories like this, and marveling at the variety of experiences on display. Whether we were baffled, enamored, confident, or skeptical, we're all here now, years and decades later, keeping up to date on the latest technology.

Top image credits: Katya Havok /

Dan Kosmayer /

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Author Details

Elisabeth Garry's picture

Author Details

Elisabeth Garry

Elisabeth Garry is an Associate Editor for iPhone Life. Formerly of Gartner and Software Advice, they have six years of experience writing about technology for everyday users, specializing in iPhones, HomePods, and Apple TV. As a former college writing instructor, they are passionate about effective, accessible communication, which is perhaps why they love helping readers master the strongest communication tools they have available: their iPhones. They have a degree in Russian Literature and Language from Reed College.

When they’re not writing for iPhone Life, they’re reading about maritime disasters, writing fiction, rock climbing, or walking their adorable dog, Moosh.