When Was The First Smartphone Made?

by | Aug 19, 2022

Smartphones keep getting smarter, and they have become a central part of our lives. However, we are most familiar with the recent models and makes of smartphones, neglecting where the development of smartphones began. We should be curious and ask questions like, “what was the first smartphone?”  “When was the first smartphone made?”

The first smartphone, made by IBM, was the Simon Personal Communicator – SPC, and it has features that include a touchscreen, an appointment scheduler, and a calendar, making it pass as a smartphone for the age and time of its production.

This article will answer your question about when the first smartphone was made. You’ll also know the features of the smartphone, and how today’s smartphones have evolved from it.

What Was The First Smartphone?

Have you ever wondered what the first smartphone was, what it looked like? Who took the first step to creating the groundbreaking combination of mobile phones and personal computer capabilities?

The first smartphone was called Simon Personal Communicator, Simon for short, and it was created by IBM. It became available to the public in 1994, even though it was produced in 1992. 

As expected, it wasn’t as sleek as the recent smartphone designs, but its capabilities were ahead of any other mobile phone at the time, earning it the status of a smartphone.

Owning a Simon during those years was a luxury statement rather than trying to explore its functions. It was weighty, and could only be held; it was too heavy for the pockets. It was usable for only thirty minutes as its battery life was poor.

Meet Simon The Communicator – What You Should Know

The IBM Simon was a smartphone that operated on Datalight ROM-DOS and Stacker’s file compression. Its interface was user-friendly, thanks to the Navigator, which eliminated the need to use DOS prompts in operating the world’s first smartphone.

It had a dimension of 8 by 2.5 by 1.5 (inches) and weighed more than 500g. Its appearance was similar to the brick mobile phones that existed during that time. L

It had an internal memory of 1 MB PSRAM and an extra 32 KB SRAM, capable of holding applications downloaded to the smartphone. You could also add external storage, a PCMCIA Flash RAM card, to it for other applications.

Its monochrome backlit LCD screen measured 4.5 by 1.4 (inches) and had 160 by 290 pixels of screen resolution. 

It used a 7.5V NiCad battery to power itself, and it could last up to 30 minutes. It also had a large charging base similar to a mini-telephone’s that helps to recharge the battery. Its 16 MHz NEC V30HL processor on the Vadem VG230 chip made up part of its processing unit.

From August 1994, when it was released to the market till February 1995, when it was discontinued, IBM Simon sold 50,000 units.

Features Of The SPC Compared To Recent Smartphones

As it was the most advanced mobile phone during its time, and considering it was the first, one wouldn’t expect much from Simon. However, it had some really important features that earned it smartphone status in retrospect.

Some of the IBM Simon’s features include:

Touchscreen

As you’d expect with any smartphone today, the IBM Simon had a touchscreen that allowed its users to operate it using a stylus. It made the appointment scheduler, and electric notepad usable for many users. It also made the first handwritten annotation on phones possible.

Although the name, “smartphone” didn’t exist when Simon was made, this particular feature ensured it got its due as the first smartphone.

Battery

Batteries are an important consideration with smartphones. Although smartphones have now been fitted with massive battery power, they used to have a challenge with it, even till the 2010s.

The IBM Simon also has a 7.5V nickel-cadmium battery that powered it. Due to the low power the battery could store, it lasted under an hour and needed a recharge through a block that came with it.

The battery added considerable weight to the total 510 g of the device. However, it probably had a worse life than the mobile phones of the same era.

Keyboard

Pop-up and qwerty keyboards didn’t start with high-tech smartphones. The IBM Simon had a standard predictive input screen smartphone keyboard with which you could send emails, messages, and faxes.

With a stylus pen, you could select keyboard characters and operate the smartphone without hassle. You also had the option of scribbling on the electronic notepad instead of using the keyboard.

Internet

The functionalities of a modern smartphone revolve around the internet, the same was the case with the IBM Simon, although you could receive and make calls without it as well.

The email and fax functionality became popular as Simon could connect to the internet through suitable modems.

The Hayes modem was the compatible one for Simon, and it offered a data transfer speed of 2400 bits per second. You could receive and send faxes through a 33-pin connector that transfers data at 9600 bits per second.

Removable Storage

As storage has always been an issue with smartphones, and cloud storage didn’t exist then, extra storage for more files became necessary. IBM foresaw that and provided the provision of optional removable storage for Simon.

The PCMCIA Flash or Pager card was an accessory that provided extra and removable storage for IBM Simon. Third-party applications that are compatible with Simon, such as DispatchIt, are available in PCMCIA Flash cards. Otherwise, applications could be downloaded to the smartphone’s internal memory.

Final Thought

The first smartphone, made by IBM, was called Simon Personal Communicator, SPC, in 1992. However, it was available in the market from 1994 till 1995, selling 50,000 units.

It was capable of sending and receiving emails and faxes, other than making and receiving calls. It was also useful for appointment scheduling and note recording, with the aid of its stylus predictive keyboard.

Also read: When Was The First Text Message Sent?

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