Simon – the world’s first smartphone

Posted on 19/08/2014 by Chadanuch Pomankul

First Smartphone

Technological progress and innovation have been happening at such a pace, it’s sometimes hard to look back and find out where it all started.

Take one of our most favourite toys nowadays – the smartphone. No matter whether it’s an iPhone, Android, a Windows phone or a Blackberry, smartphones have become affordable, ubiquitous items that have improved our lives. But what was the first “smartphone”?

Apple came out with the “Newton” PDA in the 1993. But while it was an exciting piece of technology, it wasn’t a phone.

Similarly, Palm, well-known for PDAs in the 1990s and 2000s, only released it’s Treo smartphone line after 2000.

You might remember the Nokia communicator – a close contender. The first version was released in 1996.

However, the first real smartphone, that is a device that can be used as a phone and a PDA, was IBM’s smartphone called “Simon”.

First available on the market in 1994, the product was massive compared to today’s smartphones (510 gram, a height of 23 centimeter) but tiny when it comes to the display (160×293 pixels).

The battery technology 20 years ago was also in its infancy. The device was just able to achieve one hour of talk time. No wonder it came with two spare batteries.

For the tech-persons among you: The device featured an amazingly fast 16Mhz processor, 1MB of memory (yes, that’s one MB, not one GB) and one MB of hard disk.

The hard disk was used to install – guess what – apps! The app store was a bit limited though (just one application) and installing required you to physically connect the device to your computer via a PCMCIA card to your computer. (If you have no idea what a PCMCIA card is: A card like that was used back then for data transfer. Now that’s all done via USB).

What else was included? Well, the device had a touch screen, a stylus and you could even connect it to a landline plug. Why? Back in 1994, mobile coverage wasn’t available everywhere. And where it was, it was really expensive. So you could save a fair bit of money but just connecting it to a phone socket.

IBM sold 50,000 devices during six months, afterwards it was discontinued. To put that into perspective: Apple sold 51 million iPhones in the first three months of 2014.

You can find more details about the IBM Simon (and other old technology) on this website.


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