Motorola StarTAC

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Motorola StarTAC
A StarTAC 8500 (AMPS model)
Compatible networksAMPS, cdmaOne, TDMA, GSM
First releasedJanuary 3, 1996; 24 years ago (1996-01-03)
PredecessorMotorola MicroTAC series
SuccessorMotorola RAZR[1]
Dimensions94 mm × 55 mm × 19 mm (130)
Mass88 g
DisplayDigital: LCD
AMPS (Analogue): Segment LED, Alphanumeric LED

The Motorola StarTAC, first released on 3 January 1996, is the first ever clamshell (flip) mobile phone.[2] The StarTAC is the successor of the MicroTAC, a semi-clamshell design first launched in 1989.[3] Whereas the MicroTAC's flip folded down from below the keypad, the StarTAC folded up from above the display. In 2005, PC World named the StarTAC as the 6th Greatest Gadget of the Past 50 Years (out of a list of fifty).[2] The StarTAC was among the first mobile phones to gain widespread consumer adoption; approximately 60 million StarTACs were sold.

The StarTAC brand was revived in 2004 and 2007 for a series of flip phones exclusive to some Asian markets, and again for a cordless phone model.


Motorola applied for the StarTAC trademark name in September 1995. The StarTAC was unveiled in North America on January 3, 1996.[4] Then the smallest cell phone available, this AMPS phone was an immediate success. Successor TDMA and cdmaOne StarTACs were equally popular. GSM models were available in North America through Powertel, VoiceStream and other early GSM carriers. The StarTAC, which closely resembles Star Trek's Communicator,[5] remained popular until the early 2000s, appearing in many Hollywood movies of the period such as 8mm starring Nicolas Cage. During its initial launch, magazine ads for the phone would include an actual size cardboard facsimile that could be pulled from the page to demonstrate the diminutive nature of the device.

The Motorola StarTAC mobile phone was introduced at the price of $1000.[6]

Key features included:

  • The ability to receive SMS text messages, although only the later digital models had the capability to send messages.
  • A weight of approximately 88 grams[7] (3.1 ounces[4])
  • An optional lithium-ion battery, at a time when most phones were restricted to lower capacity NiMH batteries
  • Vibrate alert (as an alternative to a ringtone)


In October 2010, the now defunct French company Lekki, which refurbished iconic vintage products from the 1990s, released a line of refurbished StarTACs in new colourful bodies for 220 each.[8][9]

Brand name revival[edit]

StarTAC 2004[edit]

The StarTAC name was revived in 2004 for a new model designed for the South Korean market. It had:

  • A 128×160 262,000 TFT Color LCD
  • 64-channel sound
  • A Mobile Banking feature supported by SK Telecom
  • A 2,800-entry contact book

In addition, a version with an 18K gold directional keypad and brightwork was released as StarTAC 2004 SE.

The regular edition was released without the Mobile Banking function as the Motorola V628 in China. The 18K gold edition remained Korea-only.

StarTAC III[edit]

Motorola once again revived the StarTAC brand with the StarTAC III, announced on February 27, 2007.[10]

  • 2-inch QVGA display
  • GPS
  • MP3 support
  • 128 MB built-in memory

Model list[edit]

Analogue phones[edit]

All analogue StarTACs feature LED displays as per Motorola tradition.

StarTAC 3000[edit]

The base model, which lacks the side volume controls, the smart button, and the contacts for an auxiliary battery. Also the only StarTAC model with a segmented LED display, as opposed to dot matrix LED displays found on other models.

  • StarTAC 6000
  • StarTAC 6500

StarTAC 8500[edit]

The original StarTAC model, launched in 1996.

StarTAC 8600[edit]

Released in 1997, it included a built-in answering machine and a voice recorder with a recording capacity of 4 minutes.

GSM phones[edit]

No dual-band GSM 900/1800 StarTACs were ever produced, although there were two such MicroTAC phones released in 1997 and 1998.

StarTAC 70, 75, 75+, 80, 85, 90, Rainbow[edit]

The 70 and 80 series StarTACs are cosmetically identical, though the 80 series models were released with a different operating system and a different display. The StarTac 80 has a dot matrix graphics display. The StarTac 70 series has only a two line text display.

The StarTAC 75 is the only GSM 1800 model of the entire range.[11]

The StarTAC 70 was also sold in a multi-coloured edition, popularly known as the StarTAC Rainbow.[12]

StarTAC 130[edit]

The StarTAC 130, a GSM 900 phone,[13] took mini-SIM cards.

The cosmetically identical StarTAC X (it had a different TAC number) was sold in Asian markets.[14]

  • StarTAC 7000g - GSM 1900
  • StarTAC 8000g - GSM 1900

TDMA/CDMA phones[edit]

  • ST7760 (AMPS/TDMA)
  • ST7762 (AMPS/TDMA)
  • ST7790 (AMPS/TDMA)
  • 80071WNBPA (FCC IHDT5VG1) AMPS/TDMA (832/2412 MHz)
  • ST7797 (Tri Mode/Dual Band 800/1900 MHz. TDMA/800 MHz. AMPS)
  • ST7860 (Dual Mode/Single Band 800 MHz. cdmaOne/AMPS)
  • ST7867w (Dual Mode/Dual Band 1900 MHz. cdmaOne/800 MHz. AMPS)
  • ST7868 (Tri Mode/Dual Band 800/1900 MHz. cdmaOne/800 MHz. AMPS)
  • ST7890 (Tri Mode TDMA?)
  • ST7897 (Dual Band TDMA)


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Matt Hickey (27 February 2007). "StarTAC III: Back on the Streets". TechCrunch. AOL.
  2. ^ a b Tynan, Dan (2005-12-24). "The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years". PC World. p. 2. Retrieved 2006-09-10.
  3. ^ "Motorola introduces ultra lite 5.9 ounce cellular telephone - MicroTac Ultra Lite Telephone" (Press release). Mobile Phone News; PBI Media; Gale Group. 1992-02-10. Retrieved 2006-09-10.
  4. ^ a b "The smallest cell phone". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 1996-01-04. Archived from the original on 2007-03-22. Retrieved 2006-09-10.
  5. ^ Ha, Peter (October 25, 2010). "All-Time 100 Gadgets: Motorola StarTAC". Time Magazine. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
  6. ^ Baguley, Richard (May 31, 2013). "The Gadget We Miss: The Motorola StarTAC". Retrieved August 1, 2016.
  7. ^ "Motorola StarTAC Cellular Phone". Integrated Electronics Engineering Center. August 1996. Retrieved 2006-09-10.
  8. ^ Kat Hannaford. "The Motorola StarTAC is Back, in Yellow". Gizmodo. Gawker Media.
  9. ^ "Lekki - Vintage mobile phones and consoles". Lekki. Archived from the original on 2013-05-27.
  10. ^ Motorola throws back, unveils StarTac III MS900
  11. ^ "Motorola StarTAC 75".
  12. ^ StarTAC Rainbow
  13. ^ "Motorola StarTAC 130".
  14. ^ "Motorola Singapore products". Archived from the original on 1999-10-04. Retrieved 2018-12-01.