World’s First Smartphone – Gadget of the Week

International Business Machines Corp (IBM) engineered the world’s first smartphone, Simon, 21 years back. In fact, IBM released a working prototype of this device on November 23, 1992. The device was a crossover between a handheld touchscreen cellular phone and personal digital assistant (PDA), paving the way for many smartphones.

Approximately 50,000 units of Simon were sold in 15 states for $899 with a two-year service contract or US$1099 without a contract. Moreover, the IBM Simon became one of the star attractions at an exhibition at the Science Museum in London last year.

Specifications of the World’s First Smartphone

As far as the specifications are concerned, the world’s first smartphone had a narrow 4.7inch monochrome backlit LCD display with a resolution of 293x160p. The dimensions of the smartphone are 200x64x38mm (8×2.5×1.8in) and it weighed 510g (18oz). The device was powered by a 16MHz 16-bit, x86 compatible CPU, 1MB of RAM, up to 1.8MB of PCMCIA memory card storage and backed up by a NiCad battery.

Communication Device, Simon, 1993

It also had support for a modem connector with fax support, an RJ11 analog telephone port and an optional PCMCIA cards included for connection with a PC to transfer files and a Motorola pager. This spec-sheet may look like child’s play now, especially after the launch of the Snapdragon 820, but this created history.

A Unique Operating System

IBM had put in a lot of hard work to perfectly design this relic. They created a unique UI for Simon, called the Navigator, which allowed the world’s first smartphone to run third-party applications, either by inserting a PCMCIA card or by downloading. .

This smartphone also featured an aftermarket third-party application “Dispatchit”. It surely is surprising to the see the term “unique” before OS and this would be the reason this device made it to Gadget of the week section.

Best in Its Time

Though reading about the world’s first smartphone may feel bizarre right now, you will be surprised to know that this brick-like structure was the best at that time. Apart from making and receiving calls, Simon packed in more features like contacts list, calendar with scheduling, world time clock, calculator, note-taking and both onscreen keyboard and predictive stylus input apps. It was also sold with a sturdy, custom-fit leather case. Durability of the device is something noteworthy. These features made the critics coin the term “smartphone”.

World's first smartphone 2

Over the last two decades, we have seen a lot of phones like the iPhone and Nokia N72, featuring different operating systems and varying innovations. But it was only after the good start provided by IBM, Nokia and Apple gave a new meaning to the ‘smartphone revolution’.