The Comprehensive Smartphone History from 1984 to 2021

smartphone history

Just ask someone to forgo their phone for a week and see how much different their life becomes. From simple things like making calls and sending text messages to complex functions like game streaming and social media, smartphones have become more than just a fad. They are staples of modern life, and they seem poised to continue their run of relevance.

However, how did these devices get developed? How did this trend start? In this guide, we’ll take a comprehensive look at the smartphone history and what led us to this day.

1984: Motorola’s Breakthrough 

In 1984, the world got its first iteration of a mobile phone of any kind. At the time, Motorola, a Chicago-based tech company, launched the DynaTAC 8000X. The device cost $4,000 at the time, and it was indeed a sign of the period. With a bulky build and a hefty frame, it had trouble gaining traction and appealing to the everyday user.  

While the DynaTAC 8000X was primarily unsuccessful, it was a significant indicator for what was to come. It might not be much of a substantial part of smartphone history, but the DynaTAC 8000X has a place nonetheless.

1992: The First Smartphone 

In 1992, IBM, another American tech company, created what many believe to have been the first smartphone. The device was known as the Simon Personal Communicator (SPC), and it was released to the public two years later.

Like the Motorola device, the SPC wasn’t overly sleek. It still had a pretty clunky frame, which many had grown to hate. Still, this device marked an improvement on several fronts.

For one, the SPC actually came with a touchscreen feature. The device could also send faxes and Emails. It came equipped with an address book, a functional calendar, and a native appointment scheduler.  With such features, the SPC easily gets the tag of the world’s first smartphone.

It’s also worth noting that the device cost $1,100 at the time. This price tag made the device a status symbol—something which many smartphones tend to be these days.

1996-1999: Others Join the Scene 

In 1996, Nokia launched the Nokia 9000 Communicator. The device ran on the GEOS 3.0 platform, and it featured some impressive applications. Along with everything that the SCP could do, the Communicator also had a graphical web browser. The device also sported the iconic QWERTY keyboard that became a staple in the tech space over the years.

Then, in 1999, Ericsson made significant headway with the Ericsson R380. This was the first mobile device to be marketed as a “smartphone,” and it was also the first to run on the Symbian OS, which would dominate the market.

2000: Say Cheese

When it comes to smartphones, one of the most prominent features is the camera. However, the first device to come with the feature came in 2000, when SHARP introduced the J-SH04.

While the device was primarily sold to Japanese consumers, it soon found its way to a broader market. This phone was the pioneer “camera phone.” The device had a 110,000-pixel quality, which is horrendous by today’s standards. Still, it was a sign of progress.

It also made headway in terms of sleekness. Weighing just four ounces, it brought the world closer to the slim phones we have today.

2001: Internet Connectivity Comes to Smartphones

All this while, smartphones were primarily for communication. In 2001, however, smartphones could finally connect to 3G networks. The first mobile phone with this feature was the NTT DoCoMo—a Japanese product. The device was manufactured in 1998, but it was only available for sale in May 2001.

While this was a milestone, many consumers found that the cost of internet connectivity was just too great, so it wasn’t worth the price for most. Again, internet connectivity was a status symbol.

2007: The iPhone Revolution

It would be impossible to go through smartphone history without talking about the iPhone. Steve Jobs’ brainchild first burst onto the scene in 2007, and it changed the world as we know it.

Apart from featuring a sleek design and a simple touchscreen build, the iPhone also brought the internet to consumers. The first iPhone allowed users to browse the web just as they would with a regular computer. It was that revolutionary.

The iPhone also came in different capabilities, primarily in 4GB and 8GB. Its battery life and talk time were also impressive. While the device wasn’t perfect, it was a revolutionary piece.

Today

Right now, the smartphone market is incredibly diverse. Names like the iPhone and Samsung are the most dominant, but several others have made their mark on the scene.

So, it is a question of who will be the next to mark their name in the smartphone history books.