10 interesting facts about Motorola

by: Edgar CervantesFebruary 18, 2016

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Let’s start by giving you one fact: Motorola was founded in 1928. It’s not easy to stay alive in this industry for that long. Needless to say Motorola is a historic tech company by now, as well as one of the most important mobile pioneers and a very praised Android manufacturer.

There are plenty of factors that have helped it stay alive in this competitive market, and it’s not only their awesome handsets like the Moto X, Moto G and others. There’s a long history of victories behind them, and today we aim to highlight some of the most interesting facts revolving Motorola. Let’s jump right in!

motorola lenovo logoSee also: Motorola monitor: what’s going on behind the scenes?12

They invented car radios

You think Motorola is just following the crowd? Think again, because they don’t only make great phones, they are one of the most important companies in mobile communications. Motorola invented the very first car radio in 1930, a device that was initially only meant for the police (in the USA), and later evolved into two-way communication systems.


… and walkie-talkies

Fast-forward 10 years and two-way radios no longer had to be attached to a vehicle in order to operate. Mobile communications became untethered with the introduction of the SCR-300, the first walkie-talkie.

You have seen those huge backpacks soldiers from World War II were carrying, right? Yep, that’s it. By today’s standard, that is not really a mobile device. It is a huge, heavy backpack, but imagine the impact that had in the battlefield.


Oh, and pagers too

Continuing its mobile innovation roll, Motorola was also the first to release a pager, in 1956. They called it the Handie-Talkie radio pager, and it was mostly used in hospitals to send messages within a range of 40 km.

Cellphones? They invented that, as well!

Nokia may have the best-selling phone, while companies like Samsung and Apple currently rule the market, but when we think of innovation it is Motorola we should keep in mind. The company invented the very first cellphone. It was called the DynaTAC 8000x and was launched in 1983.

Ten years before, the first cellphone call was made. There’s actually a bit of a curious story to this. This call was made by Motorola employee Martin Cooper, in New York. He contacted AT&T’s Joel Engel. You know, just to let him know that the first cellphone call was being made, and it wasn’t by them.


How the name came to be

As we mentioned in the first interesting fact listed here, Motorola’s business began with car radios. This is actually where the name came from. Motor obviously stands for its vehicular links, while ola was simply a popular ending for names during the time. Before this, Motorola was known as the Galin Manufacturing Corporation.

First radio company to land on the moon

You have all heard Neil Armstrong’s famous words, right? When he became the first human being to step foot on the moon he said: “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. Well, Motorola was there to provide the radio transponder that was used to send those words to planet earth.


They produced one of the best-selling phones of all times

Motorola falls behind manufacturers like Nokia and Samsung when it comes to top-selling handsets, but it sure beats Apple’s popular iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The Motorola RAZR was king of the US market and continues to be the best-selling clamshell handset, with over 130 million units sold. In comparison, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus only managed to hit 100 million, altogether.


Thank Motorola for mobile web browsing

The Motorola iDEN i1000 Plus was the first smartphone to incorporate mobile browsing, as well as email and alphanumeric characters. Of course, it could also make calls, send messages, send faxes, act as a radio and more.

Motorola StarTAC

You remember this phone, right? I do. My mom had it, and it was all the craze back when it launched, in 1996. It was the lightest phone to hit the market at only 88 grams, and it also happens to be the very first clamshell cellphone to come to market. I still kind of like it, to be honest.


Motorola is now owned by Lenovo

Well, at least the mobile division is. You are more likely to know this one, but just in case you have been living under a rock – Motorola Mobility was the product of a separation from Motorola Inc. Motorola Mobility was then acquired by Google for $12.5 billion, only to be resold to Lenovo in 2014.

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Wrapping up

I must accept that before writing this post I didn’t have the appreciation I now have for Motorola. They have done a lot for this industry, and that is something we must give them props for. Companies rise and fall all the time, and Motorola has been a constant in the market.

Hit the comment and let us know what you think of these interesting facts. Do you know any others?

  • Mickey Jones

    … and now they’re the poster-child for the continued destruction, disassembly and exportation of American innovation and manufacturing.

    • charlie Jason

      At least Apple will keep America competitive for a while.

  • v1_rotate

    I’ve always been a fan of Motorola. They’ve been in the wireless communication far, far longer than Cupertino Fruit, or anyone else for that matter, but gets far less credit for innovation in the industry.

  • cns2007

    I read a great article a little over a year ago written by Chicago Magazine (Sept 2014), about Motorola’s history. Really interesting info, like Steve Jobs and Motorola almost teaming up to put iTunes on a handset Pre-iPhone.

    Google it, because my comment was deleted when I added a link to it.

    • Joundie

      Huh? They DID put itunes to Motorola phones. Google Moto Rokr E1.

      • jay flores

        iTunes was on the SLVR

      • cns2007


    • Brady Joe

      iRead that! And yeah, they actually did team up to do that. Moto sure knows how to get there they want to go.

  • Dusan

    I remember having a clamshell Motorola phone back when I was a teenager. That was a loooong time ago (hey I’m just too good looking to age), it was quite expensive and one hell of a phone back then!
    Sure brings back good memories, as well as Nokia. They are legends.

  • Randy N. Gaston

    Alas poor Motorola, we knew you well.

  • Rajesh Singh

    This post almost made me cry..

    • kld2009

      WebOS all over again. :(

  • Ann Droid

    Other facts:
    1) Motorola was the #1 set top box and cable modem manufacturer until Google sold that division to Arris, which ditched the Motorola brand in terms of the “SurfBoard” product brand, which was the name of the Motorola modem products. However, Motorola is now allowed to release cable modems again and just released three new modems, one of them is already #9 on Amazon’s best selling modems.

    2) The highest phone call, on the top of Mount Everest was made in 2008 by a Motorola Z8 phone.

    3) Motorola used to make TVs in the 50s, 60s and they released the first flat screen TV.

    4) Motorola was the first to show many HDTV, WiMax and LTE formats to public.

    • Prime

      Sadly, those Motorola modems aren’t made by Motorola. The are Zoom Telephonics products who just licensed the Motorola name from Lenovo.

      • Ann Droid

        Motorola has licensed its name since the early 00s. It’s not a Lenovo thing.

        Motorola is a leader in selling corded and cordless phones and guess what, a licensee makes them, the same licensee since 2008.

        The same goes with bluetooth accesories since the early days.

        Even the new Verve.Life accesories family is “made by Motorola” through a licensee, the same licensee that makes pet accesories, cordless phones, the turbo chargers, and baby monitors.

        (Even the low end Android phones from them in 2010-2012 were from licensees).

        In the end, they carry the name and design language of Motorola products and people buy them because it says Motorola. Quality is not that bad either. Most bluetooth accesories are top notch, their thin cordless phone is amazing, I got two of them and I’m looking forward to buyibg the cable modem :)

        • Ann Droid

          Zoom Telephonics will make Motorola modems until 2020. I don’t think it’s bad.
          I’m happy that the brand will be visible outside mobile devices.
          And it’s nice to have products that say “Motorola”. I’m not falling for that “moto” strategy and as a huge fan I am it is heart breaking. So for me seeing the brand appear in monitors, pet accesories, bluetooth, cordless phones and modems makes me really happy.

  • Xaume

    Ah, good ol’ Moto. We had good times and bad times and very long hours to work. We saw the end coming years before the end came. The King is dead, long live the King.


    Motorola was using the lowercase “i” (iDEN) before Apple did. XD

  • charlie Jason

    Motorola is nothing short of legendary, and I feel like they should let more people know about their contributions to humankind.

  • Raj Desarda


  • Ronald Sims

    Let’s all just hope that lenovo don’t do the the Moto line what Microsoft did to Nokia lumina. Talk about a big f-you to Nokia.

  • Владислав Алексиев

    It must be indicated Moto Assisten App.

  • ConCal

    I understand why they didn’t, but I just wish Google made Moto their hardware company and started making pixle phones.

  • Dan Quixoté

    Thanks for the kind words; it’s encouraging to those of us who have been here for decades. I personally miss the days when Motorola *was* the Google AND the Samsung of the day. We had brothers and sisters (yes, we consider each other family, and we work hard to put food on each others’ dinner tables) who made diodes and transistors, crystals and filters, radios, TV’s, processors, displays, PCB’s, base stations, computers, engine controllers… wow I have to stop – the list gets too long. You wouldn’t believe it if I listed all of it. Even things like OnStar for GM for a number of years, and the super-encrypted phones for the Executive Branch. Whatever tech content any private or public entity needed, we made, and did so gladly, often under brand names that weren’t even our own. It’s been a wild ride.

    To the more recent adoption of the spun-out Motorola Mobility into Lenovo – that has been a very good fit so far. Not only does Lenovo look to expand, like the old Motorola, rather than contract, the culture of “can-do” and of treating people like family there is very much like it was at Motorola during its heyday, which makes for good products and a good “work life”.

    • Ian Hendry

      Glad to hear it! One has to respect the innovators from the past. They helped get us here. Kudos.

  • Eddie Hicks

    I remember the StarTAC. It was the envy of cell phone owners. I wanted one badly but back then it was way out of my budget. Many of the supervisors on my job had them and flaunted them. If you had a StarTAC you were the $hit.

  • willibda1

    it was Galvin Manufacturing Corporation not Galin Manufacturing Corporation. after the Galvin son left the CEO after to the company straight to the toilet. with little to no innovation thinking after the RAZR. I know because i was there. it is sad to see how a great company fall.

  • Prime

    I was once an exclusive IBM customer. I switched to Dell when IBM was sold to Lenovo.

    I am now a former exclusive Motorola buyer. I’ll be switching to Google’s Nexus line if they ever start building there own phones since they will be building on Moto’s patents.

    I’m not buying Lenovo, not now, not ever.

  • meghesh sharma

    Motorola will never die in fact over the time it will improve because “HISTORY ALWAYS REPEATS IT SELF “, Motorola you made us what we are today, you are knocking a strong punch with continuous innovation into the nose of your pseudo competitors (Apple,Samsung, Lenovo too)

  • Lisa Solak

    It was Galvin Manufacturing Corporation. The DynaTAC was the first PORTABLE cellular phone.

  • Chaq Wahab

    I work at motorola penang almost 10years…now Sanmina SCI take over the whole production site in penang malaysia..what a bad news for us…

  • Chris Verhulst

    this posting makes my proud too have a Motorola phone.

  • Alex Wang

    Motorola made a Lifetime adoption of two panda (Longlong and Jingjing) in Chengdu Panda Base 1997. Even for now, you can visit Chengdu Panda Base for free by showing the Badge of Motorola. And even for 7 years ago, you can hold one of the pandas for picture for free if you are Motorolan with Motorola Badge.

  • 2donengel

    First, I’d like to point out a typo, which may have already been brought up in a previous comment, but I haven’t read them all. Motorola Solutions, Inc. (Motorola) was originally known as Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, not Galin. That being said, although not a complete list, below are many more firsts held by Motorola.

    • Motorola’s DVP Digital Voice Protection system, introduced in 1977, was the first digital encryption technology to provide two-way radio users with a very high degree of voice communications privacy.

    • In September 1983, Motorola introduced the VSP Vehicular Speaker Phone, the first hands-free cellular phone product for a car.

    • In 1984, Motorola introduced the MC68020, the world’s first true 32-bit microprocessor. The MC68020 microprocessor contained 200,000 transistors on a three-eighths-inch square chip.

    • In 1991, Motorola demonstrated the world’s first GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) working-prototype cellular system and phones in Hanover, Germany.

    • Motorola’s ASTRO two-way radio system, introduced in the United States in 1991, was the world’s first narrowband digital public safety radio system.

    • In 1994, Motorola introduced iDEN digital radio, the world’s first commercial digital radio system that combined voice dispatch, cellular, paging and data communications in a single radio network and handset.

    • In 1995, Motorola introduced the world’s first two-way pager, the Tango two-way personal messaging pager. It allowed users to receive text messages and email, and reply with a standard response. It also could be connected to a computer to download long messages.

    • In 2000, Motorola tested the world’s first 700 MHz wideband high-speed data system for public safety users, enabling advanced mission-critical solutions.

    • Motorola demonstrated the world’s first WiMAX 802.16e mobile handoffs in downtown Chicago on Sept. 26, 2007. Users experienced live Web browsing and video streaming sessions on wireless computers while traveling in the city.

    • In 2008 Motorola announced the first deployment of Inter RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI) gateways between live Project 25 public safety networks. The prototype installation in Arizona, demonstrated the ability to provide interoperability among existing communications systems. It was the culmination of months of multi-agency collaboration.

    • On Nov. 3, 2008, Motorola announced it had completed the world’s first over-the-air Long-Term Evolution (LTE) data session in the 700 MHz band. The test was achieved in Motorola labs and outdoors in Illinois, using prototype equipment. A week later, Motorola demonstrated the first public safety wireless broadband applications over a live 700 MHz LTE connection during the IACP trade show in San Diego. A vehicle equipped with 700 MHz OFDM being driven in the city of San Diego transmitted video and dispatch data back to the convention center.

    • In 2012, Motorola Solutions introduced the LEX 700 mission critical handheld, the world’s first handheld public safety LTE device. The device combined rugged hardware and powerful software with the ability to connect with public safety LTE, cellular, IP and P25 networks.

  • walber

    Great Company indeed. Not only on products development and also on key industry process.. .six sigma programs etc. Bluetooth technology is also something to highlight.

  • aman Nigam

    Hats off. To motorola for being here after. Those ups and downs. In the industry they never fall to an end . they will always be best