Nokia Cityman (Mobira Cityman)

cityman
Full NameCityman NMT-450, Cityman NMT-900 or Cityman 1320 TACS
ManufacturerNokia-Mobira
Year of release1987
Original Retail Price£1,950 (UK)
Weight1.5 pounds

The Cityman is a mobile phone released in 1987 by Finnish telecommunication manufacturer Nokia.  The Cityman was Nokia’s first hand portable phone. After having been in the car phone business since the 1970s the cityman helped the company conquer the global cell phone market. The Nokia Cityman is often seen as a masterpiece of Scandinavian design being much smaller and lighter than its competitors such as the Motorola DynaTac 8000.

Light and durable

The Nokia-Mobira Cityman only weighted around 1,7 pounds and had a standby of up to 14 hours. A charging time of 4 hours gave users a talk time of merely 50 minutes. The Cityman however was a major advancement in technology compared to its competitors which often weighted up to 10 pounds thus not deserving the term “mobile phone”.

Apart from its compactness the Cityman came with groundbreaking functionalities which were new at the time such as the monochrome display showing the duration of the talks, the ability to set the keyboard and display lighting. Beyond that it also offered a battery and signal strength indicator.

Rowan Atkinson using a Cityman in this 1988 Eagle Star TV spot
Rowan Atkinson using a Cityman in this 1988 Eagle Star TV spot

Different name, same technology

The phone retailed at a price of £1,950 on the UK market and was available in three different models: Cityman NMT-450, Cityman NMT-900 and Cityman 1320 TACS. While the first two models only worked in the 450 MHz and 900 MHz networks, the 1320 TACS was mainly marketed in the UK which used the TACS system at the time. The Cityman came in a functional box in dark matt grey which had a handle attached so that one was able to carry the phone and its accessories.

The Nokia Cityman was also sold as the Mobira Cityman. Both phones were identical except the badge. The Cityman line continued until the early 90s with Nokia releasing the Nokia Cityman 100 and 190.

President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev calling his minister of communications during a press conference in October 1987 in Helsinki
President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev calling his minister of communications during a press conference in October 1987 in Helsinki

The “Gorba-phone”

In Finland the phone obtained the nickname “Gorba” as the president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev used a Nokia Cityman 900 to make a call to Moscow to his minister of communications during a press conference in October 1987 in Helsinki.

The phone also appeared in a TV ad by American financial service provider Eagle Star investment. The ad from 1988 features British actor Rowan Atkinson who takes on the role of a pirate calling his eagle star financial advisor via a Cityman.

In 2009 Nokia released the Cityman 450 anti-theft device, a cityman casing which fits the Nokia N97. Nokia even provided an app which allows the N97 to display the original keypad.

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