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What caused the rise and virtual ubiquity of the cell (mobile) phone in the United States?

Over the past 25 years (+/-) in the United States, the mobile phone has morphed from being a novelty or extravagant luxury of the rich and powerful, into a commonplace 'every-day' accessory, perhaps as common as a ball point pen or a wristwatch - something no one thinks about twice. (This assertion is readily observable to anyone over the age of 20 or 25, so I don't believe it requires documentation)

How and when did this great change come about? Was it simply a gradual evolutionary process: As technology incrementally improved and facilitated the manufacture of cheaper, easier to use and more portable phones, market forces kicked in, causing these devices to become ever increasingly popular, until we reached today's state of affairs?

But sometimes, certain particular inventions and advances cause a sudden spurt of change in a relatively short period of time. For a recent historical example, consider the development of the transistor: Following its development in the early 1950s, the transistor revolutionized the field of electronics

Were there certain technological innovations that jump-started the mobile phone revolution and caused sudden, rapid increases in their distribution and use at certain points in time? If so, what were they? How and when did they come about? Was this a case of Evolution or Revolution?

Edits in response to some comments:

Although this question might appear to be asking for a general history of recent electronic innovations, that is not the case: Certain specific technologies are particularly relevant to certain specific devices. The development of certain types of antennas or microphones, for example, could be very important for phones, but not particularly relevant to personal computers or mp3 players.

This is not an opinion based question: Comparing the timing of the introduction of certain technological and commercial innovations to possible 'spikes' in cell phone use (or the lack thereof) can certainly yield an empirically based answer, similar to any sort of statistically based historical analysis. For starters, see Cell Phone Subscribers in the U.S., 1985–2010. In 1990, the figure given is 5,283,055, in 2000, 109,478,031: i.e. in ten years, a twenty-fold increase. Now: Graph the curve of usage, and compare it to significant developments in cell phone related technology, for example: Hide the Antenna Inside the Cell Phone and Cell Phone Antenna Design All that's required is some good statistical analysis and research. Someone's inability to understand how to approach and answer a question does not make it opinion based or impossible to answer. It simply means that not everyone has the knowledge and skills to answer it.

(Perhaps this question, or its answer, could be subdivided, to distinguish between 'plain vanilla' cell phones and 'smart phones', a more recent, sophisticated and now exceedingly popular version of this technology)

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closed as too broad by Louis Rhys, Gwenn, coleopterist, Steven Drennon Aug 25 '13 at 18:31

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I've voted to close this question, because I think it is opinion based and maybe too broad. I can't imagine any good answer not being someone's opinion. –  Voitcus Aug 18 '13 at 21:53
I voted to close, as basically asking for a history of the electronics industry over the past 50 years is too broad a topic for the site. –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 18 '13 at 22:41
too broad, too many factors involved, ripe for conspiracy theorists to step in. –  jwenting Aug 19 '13 at 5:21
To be honest, you almost have a good question - but I believe you answered it as well. It was a gradual evolution caused by steady technological increase. The only addition I would make to that is that mobile phones require a great deal of infrastructure which delayed it's original release to market and would have effected the take up curve - if you had no signal where you live then there was no point having a mobile phone. Once this changed it's too useful not to have, well - at least for many people. –  Kobunite Aug 19 '13 at 8:58
Comments related to the closure/reopening of this question are welcome. However, typically, the comments section is not a discussion board. Please use the chat room "The Time Machine" for prolonged discussions: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/1560/the-time-machine –  ihtkwot Aug 20 '13 at 0:29

1 Answer 1

The only sensible answer to this question shorter than a book is really as simple as Moore's Law. The phones got smaller every year because they could; the smaller phones were cheaper and more energy efficient by virtue of their reduced size; cheaper phones were bought by more people, which inspired phone companies to erect more towers providing better coverage. And this happened every 18 months for almost 70 years:

The first mobile telephone calls were made from automobiles in 1946. The Bell System's - Mobile Telephone Service - inaugural call was made on 17 June of that year in St. Louis, Missouri, followed by Illinois Bell Telephone Company's car radiotelephone service in Chicago on 2 October.

Quote from here

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Comments related to the closure/reopening of this question are welcome. However, typically, the comments section is not a discussion board. Please use the chat room "The Time Machine" for prolonged discussions: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/1560/the-time-machine –  ihtkwot Aug 20 '13 at 0:30

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