The History of Smartphones

old phones

In 1878 Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call and Nikola Tesla once said, “When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do he will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket.”

Both men are excellent opening topics for discussing the history of the smartphone. We spend so much time using our smartphones, it seems unbearable to have to go through the day without access to one. But, how often do we think about the history of the smartphone? Decades of research went into putting that smart little device you depend on, in your pocket.

1980s – Motorola

Let’s rewind to the 1980s when Motorola introduced a version of the first cell phone to the public. These weren’t like the cell phones we know and love today, they were bulky and very expensive, some costing up to $4,000.

1990s – IBM, Palm, Nokia

The term “smartphone” wasn’t even coined until 1995 even though the first smartphone hit the markets in 1992. This phone was called Simon Personal Communicator and was released by IBM. It was the first of its kind that featured both telephone and PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) capabilities. Surprisingly the idea didn’t impress the masses like a new smartphone release does today. Simon was only on the market for approximately six months and sold around 50,000 units.

In the later 90’s the idea of the cell phone/PDA caught on and the Palm Pilot by Palm became the accessory to have. Offering email and messaging, the Palm Pilot and the Apple Newton bridged the gap in communicating. The qwerty keyboard made its debut with the Nokia 9000 which also included navigation capabilities and other smart features like web browsing and word processing.

2000s – Ericsson, Kyocera, Blackberry

With the arrival of the new century came the arrival of Ericsson R380 and the Kyocera 6035; both lighter, smaller and smarter than their counterparts. With touchscreens and flip out keypads. The Kyocera was the first smartphone to be paired with a data plan. RIM’s Blackberry devices found their niche in the business world creating a business platform to deliver and receive emails through a secure server. Momentum was growing, and it seemed there was something new and innovative around every corner.

The Past Decade – Apple

In 2007 Apple unveiled the revolutionary new computer-based phones with an iOS operating system for a wide range of intuitive commands and growing capability to download third-party applications. This set a new standard of what a smartphone could be, and now a smartphone can be found in many brands, using various servicing providers and in almost every pocket or purse regardless of background, technical knowledge, abilities, or age.

The smartphone, once just a grand idea for some inventors, is now one of the most commonly used devices in everyday life. With the inventions and ideas of thinkers and doers like Alexander Graham Bell and Nikola Tesla, and many others like them along the way, technology and smartphones have come a long way. Will future generations view our smartphones with the same archaic disbelief and humor that we have when we see the phones we carried only 10 years ago?

Posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2018