It took smartphones more than two decades to become a highly sophisticated and essential piece of our daily life.
Mobile phones started large and bulky with very little functionality. They were a luxury that only a few could afford. Today we have more than 70% of the global population using affordable smartphones that also have processing power thousands of times more than what the first generation could provide. Today’s smartphones are millions of times faster than the computer that took humans to the moon.
Mobile phones were a luxury that could only make calls and send text messages. There existed another category of devices called personal organizers or personal digital assistant (PDA), used for business purposes these had a digital calendar, you could take notes and write emails.
Mobile phones then could merely be used for calling and did not serve any other function due to lack of processing power.
1992: The First Smartphone
IBM the biggest computer company in the 90s and wanted to expand its business in its quest for new tech that could fit into the company’s portfolio they decided to take a computer and shrink it down so it fits in your pocket. This idea started the project which later would be termed as the first true modern-day smartphone.
IBM revealed the device that can be called the first smartphone in 1992, a revolutionary device that was way beyond its time. It had a touch screen, and various apps such as an address book, a calendar, an appointment scheduler, a calculator, a world time clock, an electronic notepad, handwritten annotations, etc. This revolutionary device IBM was called Simons Personal Communicator.
The term smartphone didn’t exist then, but the IBM Simons is the first mobile device advanced enough to be called the first modern age smartphone.
1999: The age of Blackberry
Blackberry launched its first hardware device the Blackberry 850 in the year 1999. The BlackBerry 850 did fall in the category of two-way pager. The Blackberry was the largest smartphone manufacturer of the time. The company’s mobile phones provided features that no other manufacturer could provide, email on the go with great wireless network connectivity. Blackberry also had an instant messenger called the BBM a long before Whatsapp and others were even an idea. The Blackberrys also had super secure connectivity and messaging protocols making it a great choice for those who were worried about their confidential data being stolen from their devices. These features took Blackberry in hands of almost every Business customer across the globe.
2001: Mobile and the Internet
It took almost a decade to get a proper 3G connection to smartphones, in 2001 a mobile protocol was built to allow mobile devices to connect with the internet wirelessly. This allowed various new applications and features but these were again not for everyone. The price of the devices had been down but the cost of data was wasn’t worth it for most. Later as the prices of data started going down more and more people started using mobile internet.
2007: Apple & Steve Jobs Changed the World
In the year 2007, Steve Jobs unveiled one of the most influential smartphones in history, A device that defined what the future should look like, a device that reinvented mobile phones, the Apple iPhone. The iPhone was the sleekest touchscreen device ever made, it featured a large glass screen and a single button in the front.
When Apple revealed the iPhone, it received criticism from other mobile phone manufacturers calling the iPhone a gimmick and a waste of money. The press referred to it as a gamble. Five months later when the device hit stores, people lined up outside Apple Stores to get their hands on the future.
“Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything, Apple’s been very fortunate. It’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world. Well, today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class. The first one is a wide-screen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough internet communications device. An iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator. An iPod, a phone … are you getting it? These are not three separate devices: This is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.” said Steve Jobs during the legendary keynote that gave the world the most influential piece of technology it ever had.
While the sales started to fall after most enthusiasts had bought the first iPhone, Apple realized that with so much screen real estate what apps could do was just limited by the imagination of the human brain. Apple launched the AppStore in 2008 one year after the iPhone launch giving users a way to install apps and go beyond what Apple provided. This new addition was one of the major reasons behind the iPhone being a massive hit in times to come.
Google follows with Android
While every major mobile phone company at the time was mocking Apple for the iPhone and its new touch screen keyboard and completely new user interface there was one company that knew Apple had made the future. Google was about to launch its first Android phone just a few months after the announcement of the Apple iPhone but seeing Apple unveil the iPhone on stage google knew it had to completely rebuild Android.
The device that almost made it to market was canceled and Google engineers got back to the drawing board, rethinking every aspect of its Operating System.
The HTC Dream released in 2008 became the first Android smartphone. The first Android gained criticism due to lacking features when compared to iOS and Blackberry but it was set to become one of the most famous operating systems in the world due to its open nature.
2021: Entire world just a click away
Today 14 years and 27 iPhones later, we can do almost everything with just a few clicks on the touchscreen. Today we do everything from reading news, chatting with friends and family, playing highly sophisticated games and listen to any song in the world, sending emails, and doing all sorts of business stuff.
The smartphone also gave rise to a new industry of apps that is now bigger than Hollywood. Smartphone along with cheaper mobile internet is now changing how everything works. It is changing entire industries and also building new industries such as ed-tech and video and music streaming.