In the last two decades, mobile phones have gone from being a gaudy luxury of prominent businessmen to a basic necessity to remain integrated in society. Although they are, more often than not, still regarded as a status symbol, really just having any smartphone can make a world of difference, from being accessible to colleagues and friends, to finding your way around, reading the latest news, or even reporting it.
As we all know, mobiles really became popular in the late 90s as they grew smaller and more affordable than the then-cool-now-laughable phones such as that of Zack Morris, pictured on the right next to a deservedly smug expression of superiority and disdain. And although smartphones really only took over after the release of the iPhone, that doesn’t mean they weren’t around long before.
First Smartphone Ever
First unveiled in 1992 and put on sale in 1994, 13 years before the first iPhone, IBM’s Simon really was the first smartphone ever, and the features it came with couldn’t possibly be more 90s.
The first thing you will notice is that it has quite a large screen. Yes, it was a touchscreen, but it wouldn’t work anywhere near as well with your fingers as it would with the built-in stylus. The screen was capable of displaying not only black and white, but also several shades of gray, while the phone itself featured a variety of monophonic sounds.
Simon was 8 inches tall, 2.5 inches wide, and 1.5 inches thick. Appwise, it was certainly a product of its time. Unlike the other phones available at the time, Simon functioned as an address book, a calendar, a calculator, and an alarm clock, all rolled into one. It also featured both a notepad and a to-do list, and even a sketch pad. But, as impressive as that all was, it went so much further.
To simply call Simon a phone would be an insult, because it was so much more than just a phone. It was capable of several different types of communication. While it couldn’t browse the internet, it was able to send emails, faxes, and even worked as a pager as well! So if you were to own a Simon back in the day, there was really no reason you couldn’t be in constant contact with everyone you knew.
Understandably, mobile coverage back then was pretty poor, but IBM had taken this into account when creating Simon. Users could plug it into the average phone cord in order to get that landline quality from their portable Behemoth.
Unfortunately, only about 50,000 Simons were sold in the 6 months it spent on the market, mainly because it cost $1,100 and the battery life was a paltry 1 hour, hardly enough to be of any real use as a mobile phone.
While it may have been the first smartphone ever, Simon is probably not something that IBM brags about very often. You never know though. It could become the next hipster fad at any moment.