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A Quick and Dirty History of the Smartphone

When Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call in 1878, he made the world a little bit smaller for all of us. What would Mr. Bell think of smartphones? Of Email, Twitter and Facebook? What would he think of the fact that what we now call ‘phones’ are actually a device that connects us to every piece of information that we could ever want? Would he even recognise the descendants of the phones of his time?

history of cell phones

The early years

Smartphones have come a long way in a very short time. The first touch screen phone with access to the internet was released in 1994; just over twenty years ago now. Simon was the result of a joint venture between IBM and Bellsouth. To pick up a Simon on release day in 1994 cost $1100. The phone boasted a monochrome screen and a whopping two apps: Fax and Email. The touch screen required a stylus; a finger could be used instead, but not well. Simon had an average battery life of around sixty minutes. That’s not a typo: After sixty minutes, you would have to put it back onto its big bulky charging station.

The rise of the smartphone went unnoticed by most of us. Brands like blackberry and palm pilot offered high priced smartphones aimed exclusively at business people looking to be connected to their jobs twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Apps and games were few and far between, and demand for them even scarcer. Most of us were content with regular old dumb phones. That is, until 2007 when Apple changed everything.

The Apple years

Apple had been finding huge success with their ipods, which were fast outgrowing their ‘mp3 player’ origins. The only thing that they were lacking was a way to get online. Apple found a solution to this problem by combining the ipod with the cell phone, taking advantage of the data access available on cellular networks.

Apple were on to a winner, and since 2007 we haven’t looked back. Nowadays it’s rare to find a cell phone that isn’t a smart phone. We can now only wonder what phones will look like in the future.