Motorola Bag Phone

Motorola Bag Phone

The Motorola Bag Phone was a transportable cellular telephone manufactured by Motorola, inc. from 1992 to 2000.



Motorola introduced their line of powerful, rugged cell phones in 1992. These phones put out 3 watts of power (as opposed to 0.6 watts that today's cell phones output) which made them popular for truckers, boaters, and people in rural areas. Because of their durability, many of these phones are still in working order today.

The Bag Phones are a derivative of the Motorola 4500X, 4800X, and 5000X that proved popular in Europe, as well the American version, the Motorola "Tough Talker". These phones featured the handset attached to an extremely large and heavy, but durable metal case containing the transceiver and battery pack. By reducing the size and weight of the transceiver and battery pack, and introducing more fashionable leather bags in which to contain them, Motorola was able to make them more marketable to the average cellular phone consumer, and hence the Bag Phone.

The phones consist of a handset with a black & white LCD display with InUse (indicating that a call is in progress), NoSvc (cannot receive a cellular signal and is unable to make or receive calls), and Roam (accessing a cellular system other than your home system) indicators, a numeric keypad with other buttons for different functions (depending on the model), and a separate speaker for the ringer and hands-free use. This plugs into the transceiver (the heart of the phone), which plugged into that is a "rubber duck" antenna, and the power supply connector which plugs into a 12 volt automotive outlet. (A 12 volt lead-acid battery that connects to the power supply, providing approximately 2 hours of talk time and 48 hours of standby time, was also available.) All of these parts are conveniently put together in a leather case specially designed for Motorola Bag Phones by Caseworks, inc. of Chicago. These phones can also be permanently installed in a car.

End of Service Life and Legacy

The majority of Bag Phone models operated on the AMPS network. During the late 90s, though, Motorola produced a few Special Edition digital Bag Phones. They were dual mode AMPS/TDMA phones marketed as the "Digital Concert Series." Because both the AMPS and TDMA networks are extinct as of mid 2009 [1], the service life of all Motorola Bag Phones have come to end, and they now serve only as a collector's item.

The original Motorola Bag Phone has been succeeded by Motorola's M-Series, which adds support for today's cellular networks, and adds the basic features of todays cell phones.

Styles and model list

Although they are technically all similar, Motorola produced many different handset styles of the bag phone. These can usually be determined by the model number on the underside of the handset (SCN**** on most handsets). Each type of handset also had its own transceiver (usually SUN****). Random handsets can be used with random transceivers, but some mismatches may result in unusable functions. For example, plugging a 4500 handset into a 3 Button transceiver will result in the Up/Down, one-touch, VOL and STO buttons to be either unusable or perform a totally different function. The handset types are as follows:

  • 3-Button (SCN2453A, SCN237A) - One of the first models of the Bag Phone, and the most basic. Numeric display. Named so because of the three buttons on the lower part of the handset, the only buttons besides the numeric keys that are mandatory for making calls: PWR, END/CLR, and SND. Very common. Besides the mainstream SCN2453A 3 Button, there was also a less-common SCN237A model, which had some slight cosmetic changes.
  • America Series (SCN2476A, SCN2394A) - Also known as the 4 Button. Similar to 3 Button. Comes in Grey plastic housing (instead of the usual black). Adds VOL/CTL button for adjusting earpiece/ringer volume, and accessing functions such as the feature menu and checking the remaining battery life. Common.
  • Soft-PAK (SCN2497B, SCN2498B, SCN2744A, SCN2745A, SCN2533A) - Also known as the 6 Button, this is one of the first and most common model of Bag Phone. Similar to 3 button. Adds RCL button for recalling stored phone numbers and other information, and FCN button to replace the CTL button, making the VOL button by itself. Very common. Besides the three mainstream models, there was also a less-common SCN2533A model, which had a white handset and grey bag.
  • Series III (SCN2395A) - Similar to 6 button. Bigger buttons, replaces VOL button with STO button, for storing phone numbers, and confirming feature selections. This handset is one of two used on the Bag Phone's American predecessor, the Tough Talker. Common.
  • Series III 6 Button (SCN2607B, SCN2396A) - Similar to series III. Smaller buttons, STO button merges into RCL button, with CLR merging out of the END button and taking STO's place, leaving the END button by itself. This handset was one of two used on the Bag Phone's American predecessor, the Tough Talker. Common.
  • 480 (SCN2532A, SCN2705A, SCN2449A, SCN2555A, and SCN2552A) - There were 5 different variations of the Motorola 480, the only differences between the five being cosmetic and button placement. Adds MSG button for checking missed calls, up–down buttons for scrolling through stored phone numbers and menu items, and an alphanumeric display to replace the standard numeric display. This Allows name tags to be entered with stored phone numbers, and easier reading of messages the phone displays. Common. Some 480 bag phones have a color LCD display in place of the black and white LCD.
  • 2800 (SCN4057AB, SCN2742A) – Similar to 480. Common.
  • 2800DLD (SCN2766A) – Exactly like 2800, except it has a dual-line Color LCD display. Uncommon.
  • 4500 (SCN2801AB, SCN2772A) – Motorola's last bag phone model was produced from 1994–2000. Adds three one-touch dial keys. MSG key is gone. For easier use, all keys have the function fully spelled out instead of abbreviated. Alphanumeric display. VOL button replaced with Up–Down buttons which can also be used to scroll through menu items. Can be used with 2900 transceiver. Very common.
  • 4500S - Similar to 480. Common.
  • 2900 (SCN2462A, SCN2520A, SCN2500A) – Motorola's low-cost (and therefore feature-deprived) version of the 4500. The only cosmetic difference between the 2900 and 4500 is red one-touch dial keys instead of black on the 4500. Alphanumeric display. Can be used with the 4500's transceiver. While the SCN2462A model has a round FCN key and triangular arrow keys, the SCN2520A and SCN2500A models have a rectangular FCN key and round arrow keys. Also, the 2462A and 2520A have the black and white display while the 2500A has the color display.
  • 2900 Gold Series - Exactly like 2900, except the Black/Red theme is replaced by a Grey/Yellow theme, and one-touch dial key #2 becomes a MSG key, with one-touch dial key #3 becoming #2. Comes in a special bag noticeably labeled "Gold Series". Color LCD display. Uncommon.
  • 2950 – Similar to 4500. Common.
  • 2950 Special Edition - The rarest of all Bag Phones, and the most sought after by collectors. Similar to 2900, except it has the same dual-line color LCD display as used by the 2800DLD. Extremely uncommon.
  • Dynasty (SCN2390A) – A more feature-packed, fashionable version of the 4 button. Black/Green theme. Eight-character numeric display is replaced with a 10-character one. Comes in a special bag noticeably labeled "Motorola Dynasty". Uncommon. (The Dynasty name was also used on a model of the Motorola DynaTAC.)
  • Meteor (SCN2394A, 52183, 52328) – Similar to Dynasty. Keeps eight-character numeric display. Comes in a special bag noticeably labeled "Motorola Meteor". Brown/black or blue/grey/black theme. Uncommon.
  • Digital Concert Series - Similar to 480, except it is dual-mode AMPS/TDMA digital. A few Digital Concert Phones had a color LCD display. Very uncommon.

Color Display

Some Motorola 480's and Digital Concert phones, as well as all Motorola SCN2500A 2900, 2900 Gold Series, 2950 Special Edition, and 2800DLD phones were made with a special color LCD alphanumeric display. The color LCD display is back-lit using a small incandescent light bulb instead of the usual green LED lights for the b/w screens. This bulb uses more power than the LEDs, which is a negative for battery users. The incandescent bulb is also prone to burning out, or breaking in heavy use. The incandescent bulb also heats up the display after a few minutes of use, causing the usually black display background to turn an orange color. Nevertheless, it provides a brighter, easier to read display than the front-lit b/w screens. The downside to the color screen is when the back-light goes out after a few seconds for battery users, the 4 indicators at the bottom of the screen are almost completely invisible.

The color display indicators show up as follows:

Numbers/letters-orange (red on the Digital Concert)

Power (Indicated by a dot on all phones with color displays)-green




Carry Case (Bag) Styles

All models of Bag Phones were available with three different styles of bag in which to be contained. The most common bag was a small, flimsy, low-profile bag, with a compartment to the right of the handset in which to contain the transceiver and battery, and a flap that folded over the entire top of the bag and fastened closed with Velcro when not in use. A less common, more upright bag was more sturdy, and featured the handset above the compartment containing the transceiver and battery, with a flap that folded over the top and fastened with Velcro. The highest end bag was known by Motorola's documentation as the "Attaché Carry Case"[2], and it was in fact more like a case than a bag, featuring internal cardboard, making it very sturdy. Opening like a suitcase, it featured on the left side of the case the handset, with the transceiver/battery compartment to the right of it (the same configuration as the "flimsy" bag). On the right side of the case was a pocket to hold the user manuals (and any other papers) plus a smaller pocket below it, and a tiny pocket above it. In the center of the case was an elastic loop in which the antenna or a pen could be stored. To close, the Attaché case was folded, then zippered. Although it featured the Motorola logo on the side, carriers of Bag Phones with the Attaché case such as Sprint Cellular often had their own logo sewn on top.

The 2900 was available only with the Attaché Carry Case, and the Meteor was available only with the upright bag.


International Series

Besides the mainstream Bag Phones that were targeted for the North American market, Motorola also produced Bag Phones that run on the GSM 900 network under the International Series brand name. These phones, targeted mostly for the European market, are largely the same as their AMPS/TDMA counterparts, except the handset is slightly different in form and uses a black and white dot-matrix LCD display. These phones have not quite reached the end of their service life, as the GSM 900 network is still active in many parts of the world, most notably Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Oceania, and most of Asia.


  1. ^ "Analog cell phone networks are going, going,...gone". 
  2. ^ Motorola, inc.; Motorola [2900] User Manual; 1994; P.48

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