When Phones Were Fun: Motorola StarTAC (1996)

When Phones Were Fun: Motorola StarTAC (1996)

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To understand why the Motorola StarTAC became one of the most popular cellphones of all time, it helps to remember that before it came along … “mobile” phones? Well, they were basically bricks with sticks attached. And not too long before that, they were literally the size of a suitcase!

So when the Motorola StarTAC hit the scene in 1996 (twenty-five years ago!), sporting a footprint smaller than an audio cassette and a design straight outta Star Trek? Well, to say it upended the entire industry would be a massive understatement. From clip-on accessories to unauthorized sequels to lawsuit-spawning knockoffs to branded companion products to bizarre revivals as late as the mid-oughts … it’s no exaggeration to say, 60 million sales later, that the Motorola StarTAC launched the era of fun phones.




This is the fourteenth in a series of MrMobile videos exploring the mobile tech world’s most vibrant period in design and experimentation. In “When Phones Were Fun,” Michael Fisher re-reviews cellphones from the golden age of mobile, the decade-long span from the turn of the century to approximately 2009.

When Phones Were Fun: Episode 14 features several Motorola StarTAC devices: one model 7868W from MrMobile’s family archives (thanks, bro); one apparently authentic Rainbow StarTAC 70; one counterfeit/re-engineered Rainbow StarTAC 130; and a variety of StarTAC-themed accessories purchased by MrMobile / Future plc. Motorola arranged an interview with Glenn Schultz, Product Development Leader, as a courtesy, but did not pay a fee or otherwise offer compensation in exchange for this coverage (nor did it preview or approve this content before publication). The lone sponsor of this video is Surfshark.


Mobile Phone Museum:

Vintage Mobile Phones on Reddit:

Remember when we wore cell phones on belts? This Motorola phone started the trend [CNet]:

Motorola says Q copies StarTAC [RCR Wireless News]:

Qualcomm Wins Judgment in Motorola Design Patent Case And Files New Claims for Infringement Against Motorola [Qualcomm]:

Motorola Flare [Mobilecollectors.net]:

Retro Tech: DynaTAC [MKBHD – YouTube]:

Palm Ad: Holiday [Mashby – YouTube]:

Lot 354 Star Trek: Enterprise (TV 2001-2005) – Communicator [thepropstore – YouTube]:

Star Trek Prop Enthusiasts [Facebook]:





This post may contain affiliate links, which afford MrMobile / Future plc a commission if you make a purchase.

Additional information concerning MrMobile’s ethics policy can be found here: https://mrmobile.tech/ethics

#startac #motorola #whenphoneswerefun #retro #throwback #retrotech #retroreview #moto #mrmobile #dynatac #oldphones #nostalgia


  1. MaziesButt on July 28, 2022 at 12:32 am

    I haven’t yet seen you do a video on the Motorola Dynasty bag phone. I still have mine. Its locked but powers up fine. Loved the 3 Watts of power it had and NiCad camcorder battery.

  2. ed stringer on July 28, 2022 at 12:32 am

    Man I loved that phone

  3. martin swift on July 28, 2022 at 12:33 am

    Lol my step father had a StarTac when I was a kid, I remember thinking it was the coolest thing as it was the first cellular phone I had ever really seen….he carried it in one of those leather hip pouches lol

  4. girlstorm09 on July 28, 2022 at 12:36 am

    the rainbow ones threw me off guard for a moment i was thinking "i didnt know there was kids who got their own phones even back then!!"🤣the colors remind me of a 90s v-tech children’s toy or something!

  5. FIXTREME on July 28, 2022 at 12:37 am

    "to old to be legally activated"

    What, is CDMA illegal now?

  6. Rida Lahrichi on July 28, 2022 at 12:38 am

    Motorola startac clipon organizer

  7. T Jackson on July 28, 2022 at 12:41 am

    I had this phone it was my first flip phone so basic lol unfortunately I had the green light not the colorful one

  8. Berto Escoffery on July 28, 2022 at 12:44 am

    StarTac and Razr, two best phones I have ever had. Would go back to them if they were updated as is for 5G capability.

  9. chapo the blue huleer on July 28, 2022 at 12:45 am

    First phone I had then the.Nextel was next

  10. tjw8t1 on July 28, 2022 at 12:45 am

    Me being a old watercooled VW fan, without even seeing the Harequin Golf/Polo reference, that’s what it totally reminded me of when you first showed them in the video.

  11. Justice Forall on July 28, 2022 at 12:45 am

    I had a StarTac phone. I think Verizon was called… 👉🏾AirTouch (I think 🤔) 🤷🏾‍♂️☝🏾🧔🏾‍♂️🤷🏾‍♂️

  12. NullPointer on July 28, 2022 at 12:47 am

    The first version had an alphanumeric dot matrix display, it wasn’t until they introduced the digital version that featured a backlit lcd display. Even after the launch of the first model some time later they launched an "economical" version with a numerical display of segments.

  13. Lexus DRU on July 28, 2022 at 12:47 am

    I still use a StarTAC today. GSM versions still work here in the UK. I have every GSM model and a few others. My main one is a 130 with the guts of a M6088 as they get better reception. Managed to track down an original brand new housing for it, network unlocked it and re-celled a few batteries so it’s like knew. I actually know StarTACpassion I was speaking with him earlier. I’ve bought two Lekki editions from him.

    And you can still use the StarTAC in the US, just not the Verizon/Sprint models. The 7000g and 8000g can still be used on T-Mobile (until they turn off 2G). They’re essentially the 75 and 85 respectivly but run on GSM1900 instead of GSM900. Those models are rare and expensive as Motorola sold them direct to consumer only and not through providers; that’s why most models in the US are CDMA/TDMA varients.

    And before anybody asks, the other GSM models will not work in the US as they’re mostly GSM900, with a couple being GSM1800 and no provider in the US has those bands.

  14. stevenson nwokenkwo on July 28, 2022 at 12:48 am

    Motorola deserves an award for this, the best phone of all time. I enjoyed every bit of the StarTAC and even upgraded to the TimePort, another great phone. I had the accessories as well. I love have they carried over the features from their pagers. Simplistic Fun fun!

  15. Queen Mary NovelWriter on July 28, 2022 at 12:50 am

    I remember selling those when I worked for At&T wireless back in the day.

  16. Game Interest on July 28, 2022 at 12:51 am

    But what is the Blaikster up to now?

  17. Noor A. on July 28, 2022 at 12:52 am

    I’m glad you’re making those videos. My very first phone was Motorola and my latest phone is Motorola razr. And I’m not changing

  18. Deen Square on July 28, 2022 at 12:53 am

    Was this made in 1995 just released in 1996?

  19. CHANCELLOR CORINTHOS on July 28, 2022 at 12:56 am

    That star tac phone and Motorola 2 way pager. Omg, it was a match made in heaven; you had to be there.

  20. Mikal04 on July 28, 2022 at 12:56 am

    the microtac came before startac and was popular too

  21. darrtrubb on July 28, 2022 at 12:59 am

    I’ll never forget all the fools walking around with these things around their necks 😂 Proud to say I recognized how ridiculous they were when they came out.

  22. Miroslav Seda on July 28, 2022 at 1:00 am

    My first phone 👍

  23. P Silva on July 28, 2022 at 1:00 am

    This has to be my favourite phone from back in the day, that click when you hung up a call was so satisfying.

  24. Ciprian David on July 28, 2022 at 1:03 am

    I just heard this replica: I’ll bend you like a startac… and here i am see what is a StarTAC lol

  25. Isaac Roberts on July 28, 2022 at 1:05 am

    you’d think in this current trend of ‘Retrofit" and ‘Restoration" someone would’ve found a way to mod a phone like this to work on something as new networkwise like 4g or even 5g. i also vaguely remembered my grandfather who was a lawyer in 2002 was still using a startac then. and i also just bought two of these for display pieces and photo subjects.

  26. Fabreeze The Fainting Goat on July 28, 2022 at 1:06 am

    The watch has a very cool Cartier thing about it..except for that cheesy fake numberpad

  27. Karl Carrigan on July 28, 2022 at 1:06 am

    I still have a Motorola MicroTac, was this before or after StarTac? I cannot remember….!!

  28. Mikal04 on July 28, 2022 at 1:10 am

    when a video about the microtac

  29. Melvin Fields on July 28, 2022 at 1:11 am

    My homie got one and if you let him tell it nothing was better so I remember this phone

  30. Creator_Playz on July 28, 2022 at 1:12 am

    Motorola should make a 2021 version of the StarTAC, like the Razr 5G.

  31. Javian Johnson on July 28, 2022 at 1:13 am

    Man, the 90s seemed like such an interesting time to be alive

  32. HJ Rings on July 28, 2022 at 1:14 am

    I am very glad living in europe e.g. germany because the gsm network is still alive co existing with 4 and 5 g. Therefore even though the star tac 130 was a single band gsm device every now and then I take it out of the draw and sign it on to the network. Still possible and legal…

  33. Steven Bird on July 28, 2022 at 1:15 am

    Yes I remember the StarTAC and the Harlequin edition, which I saw in lots of magazines and a friend’s Dad had one.

  34. Light Science on July 28, 2022 at 1:16 am

    Had two! Old here! Loved them. Loved flipping them open holding the battery

  35. Dan LaBrecque on July 28, 2022 at 1:18 am

    Idk what happened to my last phone of just a year or two ago. How do people hold on to phones from decades ago lol

  36. Ricky C on July 28, 2022 at 1:19 am

    I loved my StarTac, that and my Razr were 2 of my favorite phones back in the day.

  37. Henry Lau on July 28, 2022 at 1:19 am

    Although I didn’t own the original Star TAC, I did own the MOTOROLA V8088 which is a new smaller version of the original star TAC. it’s got only 3 lines of LCD text, but I was able to use it to send and receive MSN messenger on it and to check my hotmail. I was even able to check the mobile web to check movie showtime. People were impressed by what I could do with it. Then I also owned Motorola A1600, it not only had a 3MP camera, it also had a 2.4-inch touch screen and can be used as a PDA phone. It even came with a stylus.

  38. toon10001two on July 28, 2022 at 1:21 am

    I work at a factory about 10-15 miles away from the Scottish Motorola factory mentioned in the video, and as managers tend to do many of my current managers have employment history at that specific plant. (My current manager’s father was one of the higher ups there). I have heard stories from them about the Harlequin StarTAC’s creation; they really did just want to see if it was possible and, more importantly, if it would even look cool, and in traditional scottish fashion they just made it anyway. It’s funny knowing such important mobile history was that close to home.

  39. Henrique Magalhães on July 28, 2022 at 1:23 am

    Still keep mine from 98, the 130 version. The V series where also very good but not as good as the first star tac models.

    That’s why I still like Motorola nowadays they still try to innovate. And that’s remarkable.

  40. AႦԋιʂԋҽƙ Rαʝρυƚ on July 28, 2022 at 1:23 am

    Can I get any of these fun phones now?

  41. Henry Lau on July 28, 2022 at 1:24 am

    I really like the original star tac. At the time, whoever gets it, sure gets the stare. I wanted one, but couldn’t afford one. I hate the bigger battery version which made it look ugly because the cover of the phone is supposed to be flush with the rest of the design, not a bulge.

  42. Cristobal Reynoso on July 28, 2022 at 1:25 am

    I had one in 96, I was able to email with this 😆 this is why the Iphone is useless.

  43. Damian Betlejewski on July 28, 2022 at 1:25 am

    I just check how much cost used StarTAC in my country and its 250-400$ :O

  44. Robert Bruner on July 28, 2022 at 1:26 am

    My first cell phone was a StarTac. Things are different now, except to a connoisseur, one phone looks exactly like the next, and they are almost all covered in cases. Most importantly, in our rapidly evolving world of technological advancements, an entire generation has grown up with mobile devices and they are simply taken for granted, and for those of us that are older, we’ve had them for twenty years, so the newness has long since worn off. Good memories though. I remember my daughter texting her boyfriend and I thought it was the dumbest thing ever. You can just call him! I was sure texting would never catch on. Of course this is from a guy was sure the internet was a passing fad. After all BBS’s had been around for a while, Procomm (modem software) would let us contact anyone, and the internet just wasn’t necessary…UNTIL I saw it in action. I was writing HTML for companies a few weeks later.

  45. Beritain on July 28, 2022 at 1:27 am

    That year maybe im still few month old or just not pop out yet :V , so cool tech btw

  46. Steve k on July 28, 2022 at 1:27 am

    Ya have to do a review on the truckers bag phone called the Highway Master!

  47. چinSaNe тм on July 28, 2022 at 1:28 am

    Superb! 👌 Memories…

  48. Jeff Welcher Media on July 28, 2022 at 1:31 am

    Would have loved to have seen the Sprint Timeport featured here. It was a silver StarTAC.

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