Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
CLOSE ×
Search
Leaving AARP.org Website

You are now leaving AARP.org and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

First Cellular Phone Call Was Made 45 Years Ago

The prototype mobile ‘shoe' phone weighed 2 1/2 pounds

Motorola executive demonstrates the first cell phone
A Motorola executive demonstrates a "shoe" phone in New York City. The first phone call made on a handheld cellular phone was made on April 3, 1973.
Bettmann/Getty Images

The first handheld cellular phone call was made on April 3, 1973, by Motorola engineer Martin Cooper from Sixth Avenue in New York while walking between 53rd and 54th streets.

Cooper hoisted the 2 1/2-pound prototype to his ear and called a rival, Joel Engel of Bell Laboratories at AT&T, to declare that his Motorola team had devised a functional portable phone. “There was silence at the other end of the line,” Cooper recalled to Bloomberg in 2015. “To this day, Joel doesn’t remember that call, and I’m not sure I blame him.”

member card

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

The clunky “shoe” phone, almost as big as a shoebox, allowed a user to talk for 35 minutes and required 10 hours to recharge, according to Wired magazine.

Motorola spent 10 years overcoming technical and regulatory hurdles, and began commercial service in 1983 using a slimmer 16-ounce model that cost between $3,500 and $4,000.

The early phones were too big and expensive to suit most consumers, but they set a precedent for today’s sleek and lightweight models that have become standard equipment for just about everybody.

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.