The first motorola flip phone

The iconic Motorola StarTac flip phone debuted on January 3, 1996.

It was the first cell phone small enough to fit in your pocket or wear on your belt.  In fact, the StarTac was actually marketed as the first “wearable cellular telephone.”

The StarTac was like nothing anyone had seen at the time.  The clamshell design made it sleek and stylish and with its tiny dimensions, just 3 oz and 4 inches tall, it was the worlds lightest and most compact cell phone. 

It was also the first cell phone to offer a vibrate mode for the ringer. 

A 1996 review in Popular Communications magazine called the StarTac a “bad boy” that “gadget freaks” would love for its wearable holster, two removable batteries, four hours of talk time, vibration mode to announce incoming calls and “an incredible 47 hours of standby service.” Its killer feature? A “smart” button to help use the phone one-handed

The StarTac soon became the ultimate 90s status symbol, showing up in movies and in photos of celebrities. 


The cost of early models was a whopping $1000 (an estimated $1600 in today’s money) despite issues with short battery life and antennas breaking off.  Later models went down in price, and the battery issue was resolved….but antennas were always a problem.

An estimated 60 million StarTAC phones sold around the world and inspired generations of phones, including today’s Motorola Razr and Galaxy Z Flip foldables.

Lore has it that Motorola engineer Martin Cooper, who designed the StarTac was inspired by the communicator used by Captain Kirk on Star Trek. 


For more stories from the 90s, check out my podcast “History of the 90s.” It is available on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at

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