Museum of 2,100 handsets shows history of mobile phones back to 1984

By Neil Shaw

A Mobile Phone Museum has gone live today, showcasing a history of thousands of notable and iconic devices, spanning back to 1984.

The launch will be celebrated with an exhibition in London’s Soho, co-hosted by five-year sponsor Vodafone, and attended by prominent figures from the mobile industry.

From today, everybody can explore and learn about hundreds of the museum's collection of more than 2,100 unique handsets on the museum's website. Many of the catalogued handsets exhibited in the collection are detailed in high-resolution images and come with supporting background information, featuring technical specifications alongside interesting stories about the device's design, development, features and launch.

The idea for the museum was born in 2004 but it was in 2019, when founder Ben Wood joined forces with fellow mobile industry veteran Matt Chatterley, that the vision started to gather pace and the pair used their industry connections to add rare and iconic devices to the collection.

The launch exhibition, organised and backed by the museum's partner Vodafone, showcased many of the museum's most fascinating and unusual devices, with displays curated into thematic zones mirroring the museum's online exhibits: movies, fashion and culture, the 80s, and a special section on firsts — including the first mobile phones to launch landmark features such as cameras, Internet browsing, apps and e-mail.

As well as forming a fascinating collection in their own right, the museum's exhibits are also an important history lesson about the impact of technology and design on social culture, behaviour and communication. For these reasons, and to help inspire the next generation of mobile industry engineers and designers, founder Ben Wood will welcome a Year 2 class and their teacher from nearby Soho Parish primary school to come and see the exhibition at first hand on launch day. The children will hear a ‘show and tell’ from Ben and the Mobile Phone Museum education team, revealing some interesting facts about the devices we see around us every day and highlighting the increasing importance of sustainability in their design and use.

Ben Wood, who is also Chief Analyst at technology research firm CCS Insight, said, "This all started as a passion project over 25 years ago, so it's immensely exciting to work with Vodafone to launch the museum and to see so many industry veterans and other friendly faces at the exhibition. None of this would have been possible without the extraordinary generosity and effort of a handful of eager volunteers, donors and sponsors, so I want to thank them sincerely for their contributions.

"No other invention in recent memory has shaped how we live more fundamentally than the mobile phone. From mobile payments to citizen journalism, always-on social media and the ability to work anywhere, it's difficult to overstate the importance of the mobile phone. It's a privilege to be able to recognise and celebrate the devices and people who have made such a significant contribution to the world, as we preserve that history and make it available to all by launching the Mobile Phone Museum today."

The Mobile Phone Museum project has also been generously supported by other companies, including technology research firm CCS Insight and mobile technology recovery and distribution experts Genuine Solutions.


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