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Smartphone History 101: When Were Smartphones Invented?

Sep 22, 2020

Many of us can’t begin to imagine life without our smartphones. They’re ubiquitous – more than 80% of Americans rely on smartphones to talk, text, browse the web and even conduct business.

Yet the smartphone as we know it is a relatively new invention. Smartphones couldn’t always recognize our faces, video chat with friends worldwide, provide personal assistant services, take high-res photos and effortlessly browse the internet.

So how did we get here? When were smartphones invented? In this blog, we’ll walk you through the fascinating evolution of smartphones.

1984: The First Portable Mobile Device

Nearly 40 years ago, Motorola debuted the DynaTAC 8000X – the first portable mobile device. With a price tag of $4,000, this one was never destined to become a must-have for the general population. It was clunky, weighing in at a whopping 1.5 pounds, earning its nickname “The Brick.” Its battery life? 30 minutes.

In short, the DynaTAC 8000X was mostly a status symbol, but still represents a big step in the evolution of the smartphone.

1992: The First Smartphone

IBM announced the first smartphone in 1992, which wouldn’t be available for purchase for two more years. Called the Simon Personal Communicator (SPC), it included many features familiar to modern smartphone users, such a touch screen – that required a stylus. Proper touch screens were still more than a few years into the future.

With a small monochrome LCD screen and a one-hour battery life, however, the SPC was still relatively primitive compared to today’s smartphones.

1994: The Earliest Form of Smartphone Apps

IBM’s SPC finally hit the market in 1994. With a price tag of $1,100, it was significantly cheaper than its predecessor, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, but still only sold about 50,000 in its first six months. Its use was pretty limited – it only worked in 15 U.S. states. And while it wasn’t as bulky as earlier phones, the SPC was still big and boxy.  

One of the more revolutionary aspects of the SPC was that each phone came with an address book, calculator, calendar, email, notepad and other features. Mobile applications had arrived. 

1997: The Start of Mobile Gaming

Do you love Candy Crush? Or is Words With Friends more your style? In 1997, your options for mobile gaming were much more limited.

Starting that year, Nokia 6110 users could play Snake, a game developed by Finnish software engineer Taneli Armanto. It was a simple game, but addicting. Plus, it was family-friendly, so people quickly became hooked. Snake was the start of what is now a more than $100 billion mobile gaming industry.

2000: The First Camera Phone

At the start of the new millennium, Sharp introduced the world to the wonders of the camera phone. Although the J-SH04 was limited to Japan, it represented the start of a long love affair between phone users and photography. And with a weight of four ounces, the J-SHO4 was one step closer to the sleek and slim phones of today.

Not surprisingly, the photo quality was nowhere near what modern smartphone users have come to expect: Its camera was only 110,000 pixels. For comparison, the iPhone 11 has a 12-megapixel camera. The J-SH04’s camera was also back-facing – the era of the selfie was still to come.

2001: Cellphones Access the Internet

Finally, smartphones and the internet meet. For the first time in 2001, smartphones could connect wirelessly with a 3G network. This opened up a whole new world to smartphone users, who could now send email attachments and video conference with their mobile devices.

This evolution didn’t come cheap, however. Although mobile devices were now around $300-$700, the cost of data proved inaccessible to most users.

2007: Apple Joins the Game

This year was a game-changer for smartphones. In January 2007 at the Macworld convention, Steve Jobs announced the world’s first iPhone. The first iteration included a touchscreen, iPod, camera, full internet capabilities (a first!) and a wide LCD screen designed for video. It was sleek, lightweight and available in 4GB ($499) and 8GB ($599) models.

Another groundbreaking aspect of the iPhone was its software capabilities. Soon, users could download millions of third-party applications, limiting the iPhone’s capabilities only to the imagination of software developers.

Jobs wasn’t wrong when he described the iPhone as a “revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone.” It was far and away the most advanced smartphone the world had seen. In its first year on the market, upwards of 1.4 million iPhones were sold. By 2008, that number would reach a truly impressive 11.6 million. Since then, the world has never looked back.

2020: The Modern Smartphone

The iPhone’s debut revolutionized smartphones and triggered a domino effect of rapidly advancing features and capabilities. It was a true turning point in smartphone history.

Since 2007, Apple has launched 21 new iPhones and Google brought the Android to market, quickly followed by many of its own iterations. Countless apps have become available and monetized.

We’ve seen incredible advancements in almost every aspect of the smartphone. Modern cellphones have more memory, speed and power than previously imaginable. 

Smartphone cameras take professional-quality pictures and effortlessly stream music, videos and games. And consumers can pay for many products and services via smartphone, and we expect our devices to recognize our voices.

Smartphone History Revolutionized How We Communicate – Is Your Business Behind the Times?

Texting hasn’t just revolutionized communication between consumers. The modern smartphone has also changed the way businesses and their customers communicate. Texting has become the preferred communication method for everything from marketing products delivering stellar customer service.

If your business is stuck in the pre-smartphone era, it’s time to explore how you can benefit from using text messaging to provide customer support, promote services and earn new business. 

Interested in learning more? Give Textedly a try. We’re a leading SMS marketing platform that provides simple SMS and MMS solutions for businesses of any size and industry. Sign up for a free Textedly trial now

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