Media

A whopping 5 billion people now have a mobile phone

By Oliver Smith 19 June 2017
Marty Cooper, inventor of the first cellular phone. Image: Getty/Sandy Huffaker / Contributor.
Summary

Most people on planet earth are now connected.

Think mobile phones are only for the wealthy few? Think again.

Just 44 years since the mobile phone (or cellular phone as it was then known) was first invented, today over five billion of us now carry them around on a daily basis.

According to figures recorded by GSMA, the trade body that represents mobile operators, we’ve just surpassed the 5 billion mark and are well on our way to connecting every single one of the world’s 7.34 billion people.

That’s nearly 70% of the world’s population calling, texting, WhatsApp’ing, Snapchatting, communicating, learning, browsing, playing, paying and much, much more.

It’s an incredible achievement, both for mankind and for Marty Cooper, the 88-year-old who invented the first cellular phone while working at Motorola just back in 1973.

A dubious designer

It might seem odd today, but Cooper was actually quite downbeat on the chances of his innovation ever really catching on.

“Cellular phones will absolutely not replace local wire systems,” he said in 1981.

“Even if you project it beyond our lifetimes, it won’t be cheap enough.”

That’s probably the worst technology prediction of the last 100 years, but we’ll forgive Cooper because, well, his innovation paved the way for the mobile world we now live in.

Today it’s clear that universal mobile phone ownership across all 7 billion people on planet earth will happen, and maybe even within Cooper’s own lifetime.