Fast forward: Mobile phones - From yuppie status symbol to must- have accessory, Martin Skegg and Michael Oliveira-Salac chart the rise and rise of the mobile

As one in five of us now owns a mobile phone, they are no longer an exclusive luxury for business people but have become a tool for everyone, and, in some cases, a necessity. The introduction of pre-payment plans has stimulated the market considerably, as users do not need a contract or have to meet monthly rental charges. New phones are being bought for occasional calls and emergencies, quite a shift from the days of the yuppie doing deals in restaurants.

Some might say that the noise pollution created by people bellowing into their mobile while on the train, bus and soon (if current negotiations are completed) the Underground, make them a nuisance and a menace. But there's no going back. Mobiles have even changed the way we speak. A survey commissioned by Nokia which is about to be released shows that using a mobile influences people's behaviour and use of language: just think how many calls now begin with, "Where are you?"

Since the introduction of mobiles in the mid-Eighties, the technology has changed dramatically. Remember the early phones? If you were lucky (and wealthy) you had a Motorola the size of a brick, or else there were the phones that needed you to carry a heavy box around for them to work. The new generation of phones have not only become smaller, but they are also fitted with a range of extra features and functions. All come with some sort of rudimentary phone book, while other models are a fusion of personal organiser - complete with keyboard and schedule arranger - and communicator for fax, e-mail and the Internet.

Expect this trend to increase, with the further convergence of technologies bringing hybrids that are more computer than phone. In the meantime, look out for the video mobile phone promised later this year which allows you to see who you are talking to. Here, we've chosen four of the most innovative mobile phones currently on offer.

Pictured below from left

Philips Sports Genie Ultra-light (only 99g) and compact, the Genie comes in red, blue and yellow. It's got the unique Voice Dial feature which dials out by simply speaking the name of the person you wish to call (particularly good for in-car use). pounds 300. For stockists call 0500 787828.

Nokia 9110 Communicator Leave the Filofax at home, as this GSM phone comes with a personal organiser and has data capabilities. Flip open the handset to access a keyboard and screen for fax, e-mail and Internet connection. It works hands-free without an additional microphone or earpiece, and has settings which adjust volume and mic sensitivity for situations ranging from meetings to outdoor mode. pounds 450 with connection. For stockists call 0990 003110.

Ericsson PDA D127 Data Accessory An infrared modem that allows your phone to connect with personal organisers, and to send and receive data including e-mail and fax. For use with any Ericsson 600/700/800 series mobile. pounds 150. For stockists call 0990 237237.

Motorola v3688 GSM phone The smallest mobile available, weighing only 83g (yes, even smaller than the StarTac), with the clamshell design. Batteries offer a healthy maximum of 100 hours standby time, but its size means it misses out on some of the more exotic features. It's dual band, so it works in Europe and US. Comes with a hands-free set. Around pounds 300. For stockists call 0500 555555.

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