Date launched: 1996
Network: GSM 900MHz
Form: Clam shell (flip-phone)
Size (StarTAC 85): 57(w)x98(h)x22(d) mm
Weight (StarTAC 85): 98.5g
Cost new: £1400 / 65.000CZK (1997) !
Can you use it today: Yes
When Motorola launched the StarTAC in 1996, it was the smallest and lightest mobile phone on the planet!
Not only that, it redefined the whole idea of what a mobile phone should look like. Its neat, clam shell design was a taste of things to come. But at the time of its launch the most staggering thing about the StarTAC was its price, an eye watering £1400, making it by far the most expensive mobile phone of its day.
In Britain, Motorola's advertising put the StarTAC next to an American Express Gold Card. Two of the most desirable objects of the era, side by side. It was an old adman's trick to make you think of the two in the same breath, as small as the Gold Card and just as desirable.
The StarTAC, probably like no other phone, had that indefinable feeling of quality that could set it alongside some of the most desirable possessions money can buy.
In such a fast moving world though, the StarTAC's value could not last. Unlike such design classics as the the Mont Blanc Pen or the American Express card, rival products from Sony and Ericsson pushed the price down.
A year later a new slightly cheaper version of the original StarTAC, the StarTAC 70, was selling for a mere £200 and you could get the original, the StarTAC 85, for £300. Although at these prices, it was still one of the most expensive phones of its time.
A year later the StarTAC was available on Orange as the bargain basement MR501 for just £129.99. Cellphone called the MR501 'the ideal phone for posers on a budget'. It looked like the StarTAC, but was lacking in quality and features.
The StarTAC's final fling was the ultimate expression of StarTAC luxury, the StarTAC 130. With gold lettering set against a matt black background, the StarTAC 130 looked every bit as expensive as it was. A specially branded version of this phone was fitted to top of the range Jaguar cars.
In Czech Republic the StarTAC 85 was sold for 65.000CZK and it was definitely most expensive phone on the market in 1997. When you ordered it including an extra battery pack, car installation set, leather case and some additional accessories you spent for that almost 100.000CZK !
The StarTAC's appeal lasted into the new century. It also made it to Time Magazine's list of the 100 greatest gadgets of all time.
- StarTAC 85, the original from 1996
- StarTAC 70, cheaper version from 1997
- StarTAC Lite, even lighter version from 1997
- StarTAC 110, colour version
- StarTAC 130, the ultimate StarTAC
- MR501, cheap version
- MR701, grown up StarTAC