The Nortel 922 was a fully-featured GSM handset with 2 watts of power, a successor to the Nortel N911
. It was the first handset to offer integrated speakerphone, voice dialling and caller ID, along with popular features such as last number redial, a microSIM card, a 99-entry personal directory, dial-by-name, and a programmable hot key.
For the launch of the Nortel 922, the company flew 150 journalists from all over Europe to the Matra Communications Cellular Terminals factory in Toulouse, France which manufactured the Nortel handsets. The contingent from the UK was flown by private jet from Farnborough.
As the journalists were leaving the event, a van full of Nortel 922 mobile phones pulled up, and all the attendees were given a trial unit – including the phone which is in the Mobile Phone Museum collection.
The phone’s design incorporated a flat base which allowed it to stand up on its own. There was also a green button located at the top of the handset which activated the unique loudspeaker mode. In addition, there was an infrared (IR) sensor on the front face of the phone just to the left of the Nortel branding which automatically detected whether the phone was close to the user’s head or being held at arm’s length.
This was known as the "exclusive PAC system" (Personal Acoustic Control) which Nortel described as "a revolutionary speech processing technology allowing the integration of a handsfree function and a high audio quality." The tiny front-facing loudspeaker was part of a patented design
that incorporated tuned acoustic vents on the top and back of the handset to deliver superior audio performance in both on-ear and speakerphone modes. Likewise, a directional microphone helped to reduce the impact of background noise that might be present when the handset was used in speakerphone mode.
Nortel anticipated that cellphone users would come to expect easy-to-use speakerphone functionality when mobile, just as they did when using featured desktop telephones in their homes or offices. They also predicted, correctly, that simultaneous voice and data scenarios would proliferate — for example reading a text message on screen while conversing over the speakerphone.
The decision to implement a way of automatic disabling the speakerphone when the phone was raised to the user's head was based on extensive research done at Bell-Northern Research (BNR) into end-user behaviours. It was also an important safety feature to reduce the likelihood of auditory damage if a loudspeaker at full volume was placed against the ear.
The 922 handset incorporated speech recognition technology, which enabled voice-activated dialling. Up to 20 of the 99 directory entries could be configured with a ‘voice tag’. Each entry could then be dialled by voice command.
When the main battery is detached, there is a button battery located just below the microSIM card contacts. This was to provide continuity in the time and date display, and protect contents of the volatile memory to prevent data loss.
The same technology platform in the Nortel 922 (which was a GSM-900 device) was also found in 1800 MHz variants for DCS operators (such as the Nortel 2000 and Nevada
products). Nortel also deployed 1900 MHz versions for the North American PCS market (the PCS 1920 & PCS 1930
Much of the technology developed for the Nortel 922 went on to feature in the revolutionary Nortel One (Orbitor)
Java-based smartphone, a device that was hugely ahead of its time.