1G, or "first generation," mobile phones were cell phones that used the first successful standard network technology. The 1G standard was dominant in the 1980s, when many Americans became aware of cell phone technology for the first time. 1G phones had several advantages after being introduced, but 2G mobile phones made 1G technology largely obsolete in the 1990s.
1G mobile phones used a single, universal network standard, known as the Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS). Introduced in 1976, this analog network saw adoption around the world and brought different cell phone service providers together under a single network, allowing for shared cost of network development and maintenance.
Earlier cell phone networks, mostly intended for industrial, military and research applications, used a series of dissimilar networks with very small broadcast areas. The idea of a universal network that started with 1G persists in today's worldwide digital networks.
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Compared to earlier phones, which required wired connections to the telephone network, 1G phones gave users true mobility for the first time, allowing people to take phones outdoors and in cars. Though bulky by modern standards, most 1G mobile phones were comparable in size to a standard telephone handset.
1G mobile phones were also among the first cell phones that service providers marketed directly to individual users. Because of their cost, the phones were aimed at high-end consumers such as executives and the very wealthy. However, even these customers required standardized monthly bills based on consistent service rates.
In the late-1980s, cell phone providers began to invest in the next-generation, 2G network. This was to be an all-digital network offering higher-quality calls, more bandwidth to accommodate more users and a greater coverage area. 2G cell phones began appearing in the early-1990s.
For a time, with new, high-tech 2G phones on the market, the price of 1G mobile phones fell as demand slacked off. This marked the beginning of mobile phones that were affordable to a large number of middle-class users.