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Who Invented Smart Phones?

By Kimberly WatsonJuly 19, 2022

Despite the fact that most of us feel we cannot live without our mobile phones, it hasn't really been that long since they were invented. In reality, mobile phones as they are known today have only existed for the past 20 years.

The mobile phone, in particular the smartphone, has become an essential part of our everyday lives today, although it is still a relatively new invention. How did the smartphone come to be invented?

IBM-Simon Personal Communicator

As far as smartphones go, the first one looked like a remarkably sophisticated (according to its time) brick phone. Remember those bulky but pretty exclusive status symbols portrayed in movies of the 1980s, such as "Wall Street?"

In 1994, IBM released the Simon Personal Communicator, a slimmer, more upgraded, and luxurious brick with a retail price of $1,100. There are a lot of smartphones available today for about the same price; however, $1,100 back in the 1990s was a lot of money.

It was IBM that initially conceptualized the concept of a computer-style phone back in the 1970s. Still, it was not until 1992 that the company unveiled the first version during the COMDEX computer and tech trade show in Las Vegas.

In addition to making and receiving calls, Simon prototypes could send facsimiles, email, and cellular messages. You could even dial numbers using its touchscreen. Additional features included calendars, address books, calculators, schedulers, and notepads. As part of the demonstration, IBM showed that the phone was capable of showing maps, economic data, news, as well as other third-party apps, modified to some extent.

Sadly, Simon was too far ahead of its time and ended up in the heap of outdated technology. In spite of all its striking features, it was prohibitively expensive for most consumers and only useful for a small group of people. In later years, BellSouth Cellular would lower the price of the phone to $599 under a two-year contract. In spite of that, approximately 50,000 units were sold. The company pulled it from the market six months after the product was launched.

The Modern Smartphone.

It is important to point out that the smartphone did not originate with Apple. However, Steve Jobs and the company deserve a lot of credit for creating a model that makes the technology practically universal across the board. As a matter of fact, there were phones that could send data, as well as feature applications like email, even before popular devices like the Blackberry became popular.

The smartphone's definition has evolved into something quite subjective in the last few years. Are smartphones still smart if they don't have touchscreens, for instance? Back in the day, the Sidekick, which was offered by T-Mobile, was considered a revolutionary device. The phone had a rotating full-qwerty keyboard that made it possible to send rapid-fire text messages, a stereo speaker, and an LCD screen.

The modern world would find it difficult to accept a phone that does not support third-party apps. Adding to the confusion is the concept of the “feature phone,” a device with many of the same features as a smartphone. The question is, is it smart enough?

The Oxford dictionary provides one of the best textbook definitions, defining a smartphone as a mobile phone that can perform similar tasks to a computer, with touchscreen functionality, access to the internet, and an operating system that can run downloaded applications.

Would you like to know the difference between a cellphone and a smartphone? Read our blog to learn.

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