Retro: Motorola StarTAC

Retro: Motorola StarTAC.
Launched 1996. About 10 years ago, the Motorola StarTAC was
probably the coolest mobile phone on the market. In terms of size and weight, the StarTAC closely
matches modern clamshell phones, and you could consider the StarTAC as perhaps being the
first truly modern mobile phone. At the time of its launch, the StarTAC made
a huge impact. At roughly half the weight of most competing handsets, and in a much
more compact size, the StarTAC made headlines, especially in the business press (for example
BusinessWeek and Fortune Magazine). Nobody had ever seen a mobile phone like this before,
and it was the first phone that you could easily put in your pocket or clip to a belt
and not really notice it. There were several different models of StarTAC
handset, covering both analogue and digital phone networks, including CDMA and GSM versions.
Original StarTAC models had a small LED display, although this was later changed to a monochrome
LCD panel. The original StarTAC phone was fearsomely
expensive – shortly after launch the full retail price of the StarTAC (without a contract)
was somewhere in the region of $1500 to $2000. For a device weighing just 88 grams or 3.1
ounces, the StarTAC was more expensive to buy (by weight) than pure gold. The StarTAC pictured here is a single-band
GSM 900 model, the StarTAC 130 (model MG2-4D11) dating from around 1999. The front of the
phone has a quite prominent clip which is the battery cover. Inside, one immediately
noticeable feature is that the screen and keypad are all on the lower side of the phone,
and the upper half only has the speaker. Compare this with a typical recent clamshell device,
and you can immediately see that the StarTAC had a very cramped layout. (Pictured left
is the Nokia 6131 alongside the StarTAC). Despite the stylish black design and diminutive
size, the StarTAC was not really very advanced. The StarTAC 130 could handle SMS messaging,
it had a small number of mono ringtones to choose from and a basic address book. The
user interface was truly horrible to use, a problem that dogged Motorola for many years
afterwards. There’s also an extendable antenna, which is something you never see these days..
unfortunately, this was quite prone to damage. Over the five years or so that the various
StarTAC models were in production, very little changed in the way of looks, and Motorola
didn’t produce anything with this much “wow factor” until the RAZR came out several years
later. In 2006, PC World magazine named it the number 6 “greatest gadget” in the past
50 years.. there are even companies such as Retrobrick that sell the StarTAC to collectors

23 Replies to “Retro: Motorola StarTAC

  1. I've had a StarTac 70 in 1998 and it was crap.
    Poor built quality and weak sound.
    But it looked very cool and I still like it!

  2. God, I remember this… I had it about 8-10 years ago. The only problem at the time that I found with it was that just about every month, I'd be going to Verizon to get a new antennae.

  3. this phone was actually very advanced even by todays standards. there was a bunch of accesories you could get like a desktop charger to charge a spare battery, and you could actually run the phone off the wall without a battery attached.

  4. I loved my startac. It cost me like 200 bucks back in 2001, I had to sign a contact with sprint. This was my first sprint phone ever. I went threw 2 of them. I lost one in Vegas, damn GF left it in the car….

  5. @SentOWNSU That's not true at all. I owned a dual band startac in high school, and am now using it again while my blackberry is being repaired. It sends and receives txts just fine. Pain in the ass to type, but it still works after 9 years.

  6. And to think, I found one in the trash at a Cell Phone store, many years ago. Well I guess one man's junk is another's treasure, am I right?

  7. @Ghost3170 You need the sim card intact in it's big holder card. Then, you slide it up the bottom of the phone where there is a small gap. Sim installed, have fun!

  8. The should do a porn video together, just find another quadriplegic in a wheelchair and use this voiceover. Imagine computerized sexual grunting. LMAO

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