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see cellular telephonecellular telephone
or cellular radio,
telecommunications system in which a portable or mobile radio transmitter and receiver, or "cellphone," is linked via microwave radio frequencies to base transmitter and receiver stations that connect the user to a conventional
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(CELLular telePHONE) The first ubiquitous wireless telephone. Originally analog, all cellular systems today are digital, which has enabled the cellphone to turn into a handheld personal computer (see smartphone and cellphones vs. smartphones). A cellphone is also called a "mobile," "mobile phone," "handset" or "cell." In the U.S., there are more than 20 companies offering cellphone service (see cellphone services).

In 1983, the Motorola DynaTAC was the first cellphone, which sold for USD $3,995 (see image below). In the 1990s, cellphone sales were exploding worldwide, and three billion units were in use by 2008. The cellphone became an addiction for many people, who would never leave their house without it (see nomophobia). By 2012, there were more than 300 million cellphone subscriptions (including smartphones) in the U.S. Although third-world countries adopted cellphones without ever having landlines, by 2016, half the homes in the U.S. relied only on cellular technology.

Major Carriers
In the U.S., the major cellular carriers are Verizon Wireless (formerly Bell Atlantic Mobile and Alltel), AT&T Mobility (formerly Cingular) and T-Mobile. T-Mobile absorbed Sprint in 2020, which was a merger of Sprint and Nextel in 2005. Outside the U.S., the largest companies are China Mobile, UK-based Vodafone and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone (NTT).

Cell Technology
Geographic areas are divided into a number of slightly overlapping circular "cells." Each cell contains a base station, which is identifiable by its transmitting and receiving antenna located on a tower at the top of a hill or building. The base stations connect to the landline telephone system of the country and to the Internet.

The multiple cells combined with low power transmitters allow the same frequencies to be reused with different conversations in different cells within the same city or locale. The primary digital cellphone technologies are LTE, GSM, CDMA and TDMA. See 3G, PCS, AMPS, LTE, GSM, CDMA, TDMA, WAP, feature phone, cellspace, cellular network extender, screaming cellphone and cordless phone.

The Cells
The cellular system uses multiple base stations to cover a geographic area. As the mobile phone user travels from cell to cell, the call is automatically "handed off" to the next station. The more cells, the greater number of customers can be handled at the same time, because the same frequencies are reused within each cell.

First Cellphone in U.S.
Introduced in 1983, this Motorola DynaTAC 8000X cost USD $3,995 and weighed two pounds. (Image courtesy of Motorola, Inc.)

Could They Have Imagined?
As Europeans began to use their new-fangled Ericsson phones in the late 1800s, could they have imagined today's smartphones? Photo taken at Antoni Gaudi's famous "La Pedrera" apartment house in Barcelona.

A Cellphone to Die For
This is an example of a "fantasy coffin" in the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. Popularized in the mid-1950s by Ghanaian artist Kane Kwei, each custom-crafted coffin was built to illustrate an important aspect of the deceased's life.
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References in periodicals archive ?
'Minsan nababangga ka nila kasi 'di nila tinitingnan dinadaanan nila dahil sa kaka-cellphone (sometimes they bump into you because they do not pay attention while walking because of the use of cellphones),' Jona said.
In 2018, 3.7 percent of drivers in Northern Virginia were observed talking on a hand-held cellphone, compared with 4.1 percent of drivers in 2014, while 2.8 percent of drivers in 2018 were seen holding a cellphone, compared with 4.9 percent in the prior survey.
GUJRANWALA -- Citizens were deprived of cash, gold ornaments, vehicles, cellphones and other valuables worth millions of rupees in 17 different dacoity and theft incidents occurred in various areas of the district here the other day.
In a seeming contradiction, male rats exposed to cellphone signals lived longer than rats not exposed.
Members of the public heading into certain Massachusetts courthouses may find themselves facing an unpleasant surprise with regard to their cellphones.
Students who use cellphones during class do so because they are bored in class and they don't care about education.
They noted that the animal studies were meant to test extreme exposures to cell phone radiation, and that current safety limits on cellphone radiation are protective.
The Supreme Court on Monday let stand without comment a Maryland mans robbery, assault and theft convictions based on evidence from his cellphone, which police had seized with a controversial search warrant.
About two years ago, ODOC directed its K-9 unit to develop a cellphone detection canine capability.
Under the scheme, cellphone users in the country need to register their devices with the country's telecommunications user database.
Police said they believe cellphone use by the victim just before the crash might be to blame.
ISLAMABAD -- Living near cellphone towers that produce radio-frequency electromagnetic fields can amplify pain in amputees, suggest new research.