Who created the first smartphone?

20 years ago, most of us didn’t have cell phones. 15 years ago, it was rare to carry a smartphone. With the proliferation of today’s smartphone technology, we take it for granted that we can make and change appointments, access the world’s information, map our locations, and much more in the palm of our hands.

What happened to transform phones from static devices—and the occasional car-mounted monstrosity—into the sleek supercomputer-in-your-pocket that we have today? Smartphone history deserves a bit of introspection, as it represents a seismic shift in our society.

The First Smartphone: 1992

Fast-forward nearly 10 years later, and IBM debuted the “Simon” personal communicator, a device that featured an early touchscreen, and the ability to send and receive emails and faxes, act as a pager, and perform other smartphone-like functions. It was available in mid-1994, at a price of $1099 without a contract. Interestingly, this is the same as the list price of a base model iPhone 13 Pro Max as of this writing, though the Simon would be closer to $2000 in 2021 dollars.

While the Simon didn’t change the world on its own, selling only 50,000 units in its sub-one-year lifespan, it was an important demonstration of what was possible. What happened in the subsequent years was a sort of mishmash of technology, where personal digital assistants (PDAs) of the time morphed into a collection of ad hoc smartphone-like devices. 

The HP OmniGo 700LX, available in 1996, is perhaps a perfect illustration of the era, which featured a dock for a Nokia 2110 mobile phone that could be piggybacked on like a cellular modem. 

Other companies and OSes would try to compete in the space, but just after the turn of the millennium, RIM emerged as the dominant player in the smartphone space. A built-in mic first appeared in a RIM device in 2003 with the introduction of the BlackBerry 7230, after making devices more akin to advanced pagers. Several generations later, in 2007, RIM premiered the Curve 8300, which might be considered the pinnacle of physical keyboard-based smartphones. 

2007 would also see a paradigm shift in the world of smartphones, with the introduction of the iPhone.

Citation- Smartphone History: Impact of Mobile Devices Through Time | Arrow.com | Arrow.com

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