It's Vodafone's 30th birthday! To kick off the celebrations, we've compiled a list of 30 brilliant mobile facts to wow your friends with. Read on to school up...


It’s our birthday month! 1 January 2015 marked 30 years since we made the very first mobile phone call in the UK, kicking off three decades of mobile pioneering. Vodafone UK has got loads planned to celebrate such a big milestone, and we at Vodafone Social will be there every step of the way.

But before all that, there’s time to get a little bit retrospective. We’ve been digging through mobile text books and have drawn up a list of 30 mobile facts for our 30 years of life. Want to impress everyone with a few tech tidbits? Read on…

30 amazing mobile facts

1. It took three years for Vodafone to form from conception, and our first office was above a curry house in Newbury. Tasty.

2. The name Vodafone originated from the words ‘voice’, ‘data’ and ‘phone’, although the ‘ph’ in phone was swapped for an ‘f’ on the advice of advertising experts Saatchi and Saatchi. It’s fair to say that not many of the original directors agreed with the recommendation, but Saatchi and Saatchi made the case, and the rest is history.

3. The first two mobile calls in the UK were made on our network. Britain’s first commercial mobile phone call was actually made by Michael Harrison, the son of Vodafone’s first chairman Sir Ernest Harrison, when he called his father at one second past midnight on January 1st, 1985. Comedian Ernie Wise made the first ‘official’ call, though – proving to the public that the technology worked.

Vodafone's first phone call

4. That call was made with a Mobira Transportable, which weighed in at a mighty 11 pounds – that’s roughly the same weight as 12 full cans of cola.

5. For nine days after that first mobile call, Vodafone was the only company with a mobile network in the UK.

6. The pioneering mobile phone owners of the 80s struggled for a full year before voicemail was added to the service – they could only record and listen to their vital messages from 1986.

7. We also carried the first ever text message. It was Richard Jarvis of Vodafone who received the inaugural SMS, sent on Christmas Eve 1992 from one of his test engineers – 22 year old Neil Papworth. The message read: “Happy Christmas”.

8. Vodafone hit 1,000,000 customers in 1993.

9. The first photo message ever was sent in 1997, and the tech was put to good use from the off: the photo message’s inventor Philippe Kahn took a snap of his newborn daughter Sophie, and sent it to those who couldn’t be there.


10. It was in that same year (1997) that James Bond used his first mobile phone. As you’d expect, his was a bit more advanced than the real life handsets of the time. The Ericsson JB988 he used in Tomorrow Never Dies could control his car via inbuilt trackpad!

11. Enjoying ultrafast 4G? We’ve come a long way… We launched Vodafone 3G way back in 2004. The tech started a revolution in mobile connectivity, with speeds eventually reaching those comparable to home broadband connections.

12. Between 2007 and 2013, across the whole industry, there has been an estimated 967 million smartphone shipments worldwide.

13. The Apple App Store opened in 2008, marking the start of a new era for mobiles. As of December 2014 there are more than a million apps in both the App Store and the Google Play Store for Android devices. Windows Phone users, meanwhile, already have more than 300,000 apps to choose from.

14. According to an Ofcom report in 2011, 81 percent of UK smartphone owners made calls every single day. Only 53 percent of people with non-smart mobiles did the same.

15. In that same research, Ofcom found that a huge 81 percent of smartphone owners in the UK kept theirs switched on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

smartphone platforms

16. …And nearly half (47 percent) of teenage smartphone users admitted to using or answering their phone while on the toilet.

17. Phoning from the loo may be acceptable, but behind the wheel certainly isn’t: research shows that drivers’ reaction speeds are a third slower when talking on a handheld phone than when under the influence of alcohol.

18. In February 2013, The Shard in London became the highest man made structure in Europe that you can make a phone call from, thanks to Vodafone’s own clever signal-sending technology.

“In the whole of 2013, the UK sent 145 billion SMS messages. Th@s alt of txts!”

19. In May 2013, Apple marked 50 billion app downloads. The most popular free iOS app of all time is (maybe unsurprisingly) Facebook.

20. We launched ultrafast Vodafone 4G in August 2013, and you can now experience it in over 382 towns, cities and districts and in thousands of smaller communities across the UK.

21. In the whole of 2013, the UK sent 145 billion SMS messages. Th@s alt of txts!

22. At the start of 2014, research showed that the average person in the UK sends 170 SMS or MMS messages a month. Do you send loads more than that? Let us know in the comments section below.

23. Around the world, more than 400 Instagram photos are uploaded from mobiles every second.
24. According to an Ofcom report published in the first quarter of 2014, 93% of UK adults now own a mobile phone.

25. Of those people, 61% own a smartphone.

free phone

26. The uptake of tablets, meanwhile, has skyrocketed in 2014. 24% of households had one in 2013, but this year that figure almost doubled, hitting 44%.

27. A modern smartphone with 1GB of RAM has 250,000 times more memory than the computers used to send Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon and back in 1969.

28. How tough is your phone? We wouldn’t try this at home, but the Sonim XP3300 is officially recognised as the world’s toughest, having dropped 84 feet onto solid ground without breaking.

29. The title for the world’s biggest selling phone might surprise you. It’s not an all-singing-all-dancing smartphone, but the simple, small and classic Nokia 1100. It sold 250 million worldwide.

30. Are you a big smartphone fan? Or a fan of big smartphones? It’s predicted that 146 million 5-inch+ smartphones will ship in 2016. Time to get bigger pockets…

More on mobile history… Thirsty for more tech knowledge? You can read a brief history of mobile data here, and more about Vodafone’s history here. Got some great mobile facts under your belt? Let us know in the comments section below!