The earliest cell phones were far from portable. In fact, the earliest cell phones were not even phones; they were radios. Mobile rigs were the first version of a portable phone. They were used in taxis and police cars as early as 1930, and eventually became popular as a way of communication among the regular population. Mobile rigs required a base station and a hand-held device, and could be used either from home, or installed in cars and boats.
The earliest actual cell phones were released by Ericsson in 1971. The phone, called MTB (Mobile Telephone system B) was released first in Sweden and then in Norway and Finland. The system never expanded to other countries, and lasted until 1983 with only 600 customers. The MTB weighed 20 pounds (9 kg) and it was extremely expensive to install and use. A typical cell phone battery lasted for about 35 minutes of talking time, and then had to be recharged for 10 hours.
The earliest cell phones to be truly portable were released by Motorola in 1973. By 1983, the DynaTAC 8000X weighed two pounds (907 g) and was about 11 inches (37.9 cm) long. "The brick," as it was known by users, sold for $3995 US Dollars (USD). It took Motorola seven years to amass a million customers. The earliest cell phones to have a true network were released in Saudi Arabia in 1981, followed a month later by a vastly superior system in the Nordic countries. The earliest cell phones were not only expensive to buy, but also to use. Companies charge a line rental fee of about $6 USD a month, plus 50 cents per minute of talking time.
In the 1990s, Second Generation Cellulars (or 2G) were introduced, and smaller phones became the norm. This was possible in part because 2G phones were digital rather than analog as previous phones, which allowed for smaller batteries and more advanced technology. Analog phones also had another serious drawback: It was easy for somebody to clone the phone and charge calls to somebody else's number. It was also extremely easy to listen to private conversations using a simple scanner.