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Smartphone history and evolution

Follow along as we explore how smartphone technology has evolved over the last 20 years, and how it has impacted the way we do business.

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You might not know it, but the sleek, modern phones we use every day took a lot of different forms before we picked them off the shelf. 

Let’s time travel all the way back to 1992.

A lot of things happened that year:

  • The Olympic games were held in Barcelona
  • Bill Clinton was elected POTUS
  • The Cold War was declared over

But in the middle of all that social and political change, 1992 was also the year that IBM unveiled the very first smartphone. 

Fast forward two years, and the device officially hit the market for a cool $1,100. After only six months, it had sold over 50,000 units.

While personal cell phones have been around since the 1970s, the creation of the smartphone caught American consumers’ attention in an entirely new way.

After all, the three decades between the first mobile phone and the first smartphone saw the birth of the modern Internet. That invention sparked the beginning of the digital telecommunication phenomenon we see today.

So, how far have we come since that historic day in 1992, and how has the invention of the smartphone gone on to influence our world?


A history of the modern smartphone

If you’re among the people Googling, “When did the first smartphone come out?” you’re not alone. 

Let’s take a walk through time and see when each revolutionary step in the evolution of the smartphone came about.

1983—The first mobile phone ever made

Motorola gave us the first-ever portable mobile device with the DynaTAC 8000X almost 40 years ago.

We’ve come a long way in making technology attainable for the general public since 1983, given that Motorola’s first mobile phone cost nearly $4,000 and weighed over a pound–not something you could slip into your pocket.

In fact, the DynaTAC 8000X was commonly called “The Brick” and came with a battery life of only 30 minutes. This phone was more of a status symbol than a functional tool, but the Brick walked so our modern smartphones could run.

1992—The first smartphone came out

In 1992, IBM announced the very first smartphone. It released the Simon Personal Communicator (SPC) for purchase in 1994.

The SPC was the first touchscreen phone. Additionally, it had the ability to send and receive both emails and faxes. It also had a calendar, address book, and a native appointment scheduler, and even featured standard and predictive stylus-compatible screen keyboards.

These features were unique and advanced enough to earn the SPC the title “World’s First Smartphone.”

The world's first smartphone, the IBM SPC
Photo Credit: Gadgets 360

1997—The beginning of mobile gaming

Can you imagine a world without Gardenscapes, Candy Crush, or Merge Mansion? Prior to 1997, that was the reality.

Back then, the game Snake by Finnish engineer Taneli Armanto became available for Nokia 6110 phones–and the mobile gaming craze began. Snake was the perfect formula. It was simple, challenging, and accessible for all ages.

Fast forward to the present day, and mobile gaming is now a $100 billion industry.

2001—First phone with internet

It wasn’t until the year 2000 that the smartphone was connected to an actual 3G network. In other words, a mobile communications standard was built to allow portable electronic devices wireless access to the Internet.

This upped the ante for smartphones, making things like video conferencing and sending large email attachments possible. 

However, accessing the internet from your phone came with a price tag. While the price of the device had decreased to the $300 – $700 range, the cost of data wasn’t worth it for most people.

Where have we come since the first smartphone: 2001 internet-enabled device.
Photo Credit: Web Designer Depot

2007—Apple debuts the first iPhone

2007 was one of the most influential years for smartphone evolution. It was the year Steve Jobs and the team at Macworld revealed the very first iPhone. 

Not only was this the sleekest touchscreen device to hit the market to date, but it was also the first device that offered a full, un-watered-down version of the Internet. The very first iPhone gave consumers the ability to browse the web just as they would on a desktop computer.

The device was offered at a 4GB ($499) and 8GB ($599) storage level. The first iPhone boasted a battery life with 8 hours of talk time, rivaling the 1992 smartphone’s measly 1 hour of juice, as well as 250 hours of standby time. 

And while there were bumps in the road (we all remember how much easier it was to type on a Blackberry vs. the original one-finger-at-a-time iPhone), it still made a mark on the industry that lasts to this day.

Where have we come since the first smartphone: Apple releases iPhone.
Photo Credit:

2022—The world at our fingertips

And just like that, we’ve reached the modern day. Since the launch of the iPhone twelve years ago, we’ve seen:

  • 21 new iPhones
  • The birth of Android— Google’s answer to the iPhone
    • Hundreds of hardware iterations of Android smartphones
  • The rise of apps (and their monetization)
  • Phones that can stream hours of video, accommodate dozens of apps, and connect users to social media
  • Professional mobile photographers
  • Texting and messaging taking place over wireless connections

It’s safe to say that smartphones have changed the way we live our lives. Of the estimated 5 billion cell phone owners around the world, it’s estimated that at least 2.5 billion of them own a smartphone. And that number is only predicted to rise.

How have smartphones changed how we run a business?

Now that we’ve seen how smartphones have changed the way we communicate over the last 20+ years, let’s evaluate some of the big ways smartphones have impacted the way we do business.

  1. Creation of the “right now” culture. Smartphones give us access to the world’s database of information within seconds. This has raised consumers’ expectations when it comes to immediate gratification. 

    Not only do people expect prompt responses to communications (this is why many brands now use a business texting platform to message their customers), but they also want to access the purchasing process for any good or service easily and instantaneously.
  1. Farewell to office space. Well, not entirely. But thanks to smartphones, telecommuting is a realistic way of operating for many. Thanks to tools like Zoom, Slack, FaceTime, Skype, you can access a virtual desk on your smartphone from anywhere in the world.
  2. More room for advertisers. Smartphones (and the apps that are on them) opened up a completely new space for advertisers to serve content. The revenue generated from mobile ads is substantial and becoming the bread and butter for many businesses.
  1. Social butterflies. Nearly 80% of all time spent on social media is on mobile devices. This radical change has resulted in millions of businesses flocking to social media and pouring their time and energy into interacting with customers through that space.

Smartphone history FAQs

1. Was the first smartphone Apple or Android?

The first smartphone ever was IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator (SPC), which was released in 1994.

But on the topic of whether iOS or Android came first, there’s some debate about this, so let’s look at the numbers. We mentioned that the first iPhone came out in 2007. Android, on the other hand, released the HTC Dream phone in 2008.

However, Danger, Inc. (the company that would become Android) released the Danger HipTop in 2002, leaving some room to argue on either side.

2. What was the first touchscreen phone?

The first touchscreen phone was the IBM Simon Personal Communicator, released for purchase in 1994. 

3. When did we start using smartphones?

Technically, we started using smartphones when the IBM SPC became available for purchase in 1994.

The wrap on smartphone history

These changes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to smartphones and business. With change happening so rapidly across the mobile landscape, there’s at least one thing we know for sure.

From the very first mobile device to the first smartphone, all the way to today, one thing has stayed the same. Texting is and always will be a part of the mobile narrative. That’s the side of history we want to be on.

Meghan Tocci
Meghan Tocci

Meghan Tocci is a content strategist at SimpleTexting. When she’s not writing about SaaS, she’s trying to teach her puppy Lou how to code. So far, not so good.

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