IBM Simon. The First Smartphone.
You know it’s funny I enjoy talking about phones, and everything they can do. But, I have never discussed what the first ever smartphone was.
This seems like a big oversite. So, with that said. Buckle up, and let’s talk about the first ever smartphone.
Sidenote. There will be sources at the bottom of this post linking to where I learned everything.
The Year Was 1992
IBM the, the computer company, changed the world when it unveiled the very first smartphone ever in 1992. The IBM Simon. That means I was two years old when the first smartphone was unveiled.
At this point cellphones in general had been around since the Back in 1984 the OG, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, was released.
This big boy was a cellphone through and through allowing for on the go communication. But weighing in at 3 pounds, you definitely got a nice workout in trying to use it.
When it launched it cost an eye watering $4000! Okay I rounded up right there. It actually cost $3995. Precision is key.
And then in 1992 as I said IBM unveiled the first ever smartphone. The IBM Simon.
Going on sell in 1994
While IBM did in fact design the Simon, Mitsubishi Electric was the company that manufactured the device. And believe it or not, this dinosaur had a frickin touchscreen. Not gonna lie, that is super impressive.
Now between August 16 1994 and February 1995, IBM sold 50,000 IBM Simons. That may not sound like a lot. Especially when compared to the numbers Samsung and Apple move.
But, at the time this device cost at the time $1099. That was the outright price the Simon was going for. See, even all the way back in 1994 top of the line smartphones cost $1000+. It seems history is indeed cyclical.
Now you could get a discount if you opted for a two year contract. Remember those? For tethering yourself to BellSouth Cellular for two years you could get the Simon for $899. Still pretty steep.
The device initially was only available in 15 states. So, maybe that’s why BellSouth charged so much for it. Of course, if potential buyers opted to wait awhile before buying it they could get it for $599. With a two year contract of course. So what did you get for all of that money?
A decent feature set
So the Simon could do a decent amount. It could make and receive calls obviously. That would defeat the point of it if it couldn’t.
So this device could also send and receive faxes. Faxes. I haven’t sent a fax in years. It could also send and receive emails. Which is par for the course with smartphones.
You also get cellular pages. Basically it was a beeper as well. You also had some built in applications. These include an address book, calendar, appointment scheduler, calculator, world clock, electronic notepad, handwritten annotations.
Yep this thing from the early 90s had handwriting capabilities. And, it had a standard predictive stylus. And here we are in 2022 waiting for a stylus for the iPhone Pros. Well, at least I am.
And on top of all of this you could even download third party applications by downloading it to the device or inserting a PCMCIA card. This thing was well ahead of its time.
The IBM Simon paved the way for the iPhones, Galaxies, Pixels and others. The IBM Simon had many features which are standard on any modern smartphone.
Have any of you out there ever used an IBM Simon? If so I would love to hear what you think about it.
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