Tech Transformers

Classic cellphones: 10 iconic handsets

From phones the size of your head to the super-slim smartphones of today, cellphones have changed dramatically.

Over the decades, everyone has owned a cellphone they have loved—or even hated. And device-makers have experimented over the years to bring out the next groundbreaking device, from flip phones, to slide phones and touchscreens.

Now, the mobile space is fiercer than ever before, with over 1.7 billion handset shipments in 2014.

CNBC takes a look at some of the most iconic mobile phones of the last 30 years...

By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal

Motorola DynaTAC 8000x (1984)

Source: Redrum0486/Wikipedia | 20th Century Fox

"No list would be complete without the DynaTac because it was the first commercially-available mobile phone in 1984," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC.

Designed by Rudy Krolopp and overseen by Martin Cooper, this brick of a phone weighed 2 pounds, offered just half an hour of talk per charge and sold for a whopping $3,995.

But the device became an '80s icon and was popularized by notorious "Wall Street" character, Gordon Gekko.

Nokia 3310 (2000)

SSPL | Getty Images

A stalwart in mobile history, the Nokia 3310 was hugely popular, selling over 100 million units.

Known for its reliability and the game "Snake", the small device—which cost around $199—was simple and easy to use.

"It just ticked so many boxes – great battery life, easy to use and really robust," Wood said.

The 133-gram phone targeted a younger audience, with customizable faces and an online chat function—a move forward from SMS messaging.

TMobile Sidekick (2002)

"Color sidekick". Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons -

This stylish phone with its QWERTY keyboard was an advanced handset for its time, with an internet connection and a 2.6-inch screen—big for the time.

It was originally called the Danger HipTop and later rebranded as the TMobile Sidekick.

The phone was revived when TMobile released the Sidekick 4G in 2011, but retired it the following year.

BlackBerry 6230 (2003)

Ben Wood | CCS Insight

This was a biggie from BlackBerry: a device that propelled it into the consumer market, having just had its focus on businesses.

In its heyday, people loved the Blackberry's QWERTY keyboard and email functionality. Commentators note that Blackberry saw the device as a business tool and wasn't actively looking to tap retail consumers in 2003, when the device was launched.

"The interesting thing with this was it was the first sign that Blackberry had a design that might appeal to consumers not just business users. It was a tipping point," Wood said.

"Blackberry wasn't looking to become a consumer products, consumers found Blackberry."

The device had a 2.6 inch screen, weighed 136 grams and its battery could handle up to 5 hours' talk time.

Motorola Razr V3 (2004)

Emile Wamsteker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Edgy, sharp and sleek, the Motorola Razr V3 bought fashion and technology together.

"That is the first time that companies realized handsets were fashion items and that they needed to be designed well," Daniel Gleeson, senior mobile analyst at IHS, told CNBC by phone.

The device was launched when Motorola was at the forefront of the mobile industry, but also "sowed the seeds" of its decline, Gleeson said; the company, which is now owned by Lenovo, became too dependent on the success of this model.

The phone's camera—which was able to take pictures at a 640x480 resolution—cost around $500.

Sony Ericsson W880 (2007)

Ben Wood | CCS Insight

This phone was all about music, with the Sony Walkman a key feature of the device.

A press release at the time said it could hold up to 900 full-length tracks in its 1GB memory, and came equipped with a 2-megapixel camera.

It was one of Sony Ericsson's slimmest phone at the time, at just 9.4 millimetres thick.

"It was just jaw-droppingly beautiful. The big trend was toward smaller and thinner phones and brought together aspects of Sony's strengths," Wood said.

It retailed at around $215 at the time.

Nokia N95 (2007)

Ethan Miller| Getty Images

This phone embodied Nokia's dominance, but also the beginning of its steady decline.

It had everything people wanted: a 2.6-inch screen, battery life of six-and-a-half-hours' talk time, and a 5-megapixel camera.

It cost around $320 dollars and was the "pinnacle" of Nokia's success, Wood said, but also the point that the "crown slipped."

"It was ahead of its time. It was unveiled at a glitzy event in New York in 2006 and it was referred to as a 'multimedia computer'," Wood told CNBC.

iPhone (2007)

Tony Avelar | AFP | Getty Images

Apple's smartphone changed the way that all handsets were designed.

"The iPhone is one of the most disruptive pieces of technology we have seen in the last 10 years," Wood noted. "All of a sudden Apple defined the dominant design for the smartphone."

Many of the smartphones released since the 2007 iPhone launch have similar designs: rectangular with touch screens.

In the fourth quarter of 2014, Apple had a 19.85 percent global market share, just behind Samsung's 20.01 percent, driven mainly by its large-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

The original iPhone had a 3.5 inch screen, a 2 megapixel camera and was priced at around $499.

Samsung Galaxy S2 (2011)

Ben Wood | CCS Insight

This was Samsung's answer to the iPhone, and the device that pushed it to the top of the smartphone market.

"The Galaxy S2 was the breakthrough moment for Samsung, that is when it really catapulted itself," Gleeson said.

With a screen measuring 4.3 inches, Samsung set the trend for bigger screens—one of the main reasons for the phone's success and something most smartphone makers do now. Apple's larger-screen iPhones were a direct response to this.

The device ran on Google's Android operating system and came fitted with an 8-megapixel camera. It cost around $529 when it was released.

In 2010, Samsung had shipped around 25 million smartphones, but in 2011 the South Korean electronics giant pushed that figure to 95 million, according to IHS.

Since then, Samsung has seen its market share eaten away by Apple and many of the Chinese smartphone players, however.

Xiaomi Mi Note (2015)

Lei Jun, chairman and CEO of China's Xiaomi
ChinaFotoPress | Getty Images

It may seem odd to have Xiaomi's Mi Note in the list, but the impact the company has had on the smartphone market can't be ignored.

Out of nowhere, Xiaomi knocked Samsung off the top spot in China, and became the fifth-biggest smartphone vendor in the world in 2014. Good going for a company that was relatively unknown to Western audiences in 2013.

Its business model has relied on selling high-spec phones at low prices and monetizing through software and services sales. Xiaomi drums up support on social media and sells its items to tech-savvy consumers online.

Often called "China's Apple", the company compares itself to its U.S. rival. At the launch of the Mi Note, the founder Lei Jun made many comparisons with the iPhone.

The Xiaomi Mi Note has a 5.7-inch screen and 13-megapixel camera. The 16 gigabyte version sells for around $370.