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11 Things You’ll Only Know If You Had A Mobile In the 90’s

In today’s modern world it seems like everyone owns a phone, each with varying degrees of quality. But it’s easy to forget how far things have come; the original iPhone didn’t exist just 12 years ago, and before the 1990’s, mobiles were a huge financial investment. It was the 90’s, though, that really brought the wonders of the affordable mobile into family homes, and what wonders they were!

The thrill of having to pay for top-up credit at the grocery store, the confusion of trying to decipher your friend’s “txt spk” and the relief when your Nokia 3310 registered barely a scratch when it fell out of your hands. Sure, we may have got proper spelling back thanks to autocorrect, but do you yearn for a simpler time when these were the things you had to deal with?

1. Your battery lasted ages

As screens progressively got larger on our smartphones, an inverse relationship was found with battery life. That is, with earlier models, it was not uncommon to have to recharge your phone by midday. However, in the 90’s, there was no need to anxiously scour your current location looking for a wall socket or USB to charge your phone. This was because old school mobiles could hold battery for over a week despite having far lower mAh capacity than modern day smartphones.

2. Your phone credit didn’t

Look, the option was there to top up our phones for credit with our debit cards, but for some reason we just preferred to go all the way to the supermarket for it. Admittedly, “Sorry, I ran out of credit” was a decent excuse for ghosting a recent date. These days, not so much.

3. You could only store 20 numbers in your phone’s address book.

And 10 texts. Better make them count.

4. Being butt-dialled was super common if you had a name starting with A.

Answering the phone only to be met with loud traffic or inane chatter? You probably got butt-dialled.

5. The phone’s antenna was on the outside.

Ooh, how very sleek and retro.

6. Smaller handsets = more “high tech”

In 2019, we have stunning AMOLED 6.6-inch notch-less displays such as in the OPPO Reno 5G but back in the day, slim and compact was all the rage. In fact the Motorola RAZR V3 replaced the 

7. Nokia was supreme

In the 90’s, Apple (or Macintosh) was still making those oddly-shaped desktop computers.

If you wanted a quality phone, it was all about Nokia and their indestructible 3210 and 3310 models. Released in 1999, the 3210 even came with an internal antenna. Absolute madness.

8. Phone screens had 2 colors: black and green

Not a single in-built camera or color screen in sight – you got a green and black display and that was it. 

9. Flip phones and sliders were the height of phone fashion

Motorola brought the first clam-shel” phone into the world in 1997. The StarTAC was – and this is not a joke – inspired by the communication system in Star Trek.

The $1,000USD price tag at launch was a turn-off.

Nokia’s 8110, meanwhile, affectionately named the “banana phone”, had a unique sliding face and was featured in 1999’s “The Matrix”.

10. Trying to decipher text speak was a struggle

You definitely had to make the most of those 160 characters! Given you had to press the same button multiple times to get the letter you wanted, it took you awhile as well. 

Trying to subsequently figure out your friend’s messages through their character limitations became a part-time job.


In more modern times, we can type email-length text messages. With autocorrect and a full on-screen keyboard, writing with one-two fingers on a small device is no longer a challenge. But back in the day, even with T9, only the most seasoned of texters could compose messages quickly.

11. All you could do besides text and call was play Snake

To be fair, your phone probably had a clock, calculator and – if you were lucky – a ringtone creator. You’d only get one major game, and what a game it was.

It’s so crazy to think about how far mobiles have come in 20 years. With the jump in price, size and quality, people have more options available to them than ever before. A real solid option is OPPO, providing the quality and uniqueness that phones in the 90’s could only dream of.

In conclusion, the 90’s were a whole lot of fun but mobile technology sure has come a long way since!

By: Daniel Cheung