Think about it — how many times have you upgraded your cellphone over the years? No matter how many models you’ve purchased or long-term contracts you’ve signed, you’ve never been able to truly get ahead. In truth, you’ve probably spent years paying for more than what you need; while still being one step behind the next generation.
Interestingly, consumers are catching on and no longer jumping at every new device that hits the market. Instead of running out to get the latest updated device right away, consumers are waiting until their phone completely stops working — then upgrading to the best device at the time. In fact, the majority of U.S. smartphone users are now waiting more than two years to upgrade their devices, with 42% now waiting three years or more.
This change in market has a lot to do with carriers transitioning from two-year contracts to monthly payment plans. We don’t think signing constricting long-term contracts makes sense for your business anymore either, which is why we offer a month-to-month contract as well. But, we digress… This blog is meant to simply celebrate the history of the smartphone, because it really is crazy to consider how quickly technology has changed in the past 20+ years!
Back in the ‘90s
The IBM Simon Personal Communicator was a handheld, touchscreen mobile phone and PDA. The term “smartphone” was not actually coined until 1995, but because of the Simon’s features (email, calendar, calculator, address book, world time clock, notepad, on-screen keyboard, faxes), it could be considered the world’s first smartphone. The Simon was actually released in 1994.
The Nokia Communicator series of mobile phone was designed for business, featuring a clamshell design, QWERTY keyboard and internal 4.5” LCD screen. The original Nokia 9000 Communicator was released in 1996, with the Nokia 9110 and 9210 being released in 1998 and 2001.
The first Palm handheld device came out in 1996. The PalmPilot could “HotSync” with computers through a serial cable, and used the Graffiti handwriting alphabet and a stylus for its touchscreen. In 1998, the third version of the Palm was released: the Palm III. The Palm III inspired an entire generation of Palm handhelds, including the first Palm with a color screen in 2000.
The Turn of the Century
In 2000, the Ericsson R380 was the first device marketed as an actual “smartphone”. It was a groundbreaking device, since it was as small and light as a normal phone and used Symbian OS.
PalmOS hit the smartphone market with the Handspring Treo. For mobile browsing, the Treo 180 was best (though websites were still designed for PCs, so access was sometimes quite difficult).
The first BlackBerry (or “CrackBerry”) device was introduced in 1999, with the “Quark” family of smartphones being the first to offer integrated voice calling in 2003. Before the Quark series, you had to attach a headset to make calls.
Samsung was building Palm-powered smartphones for Sprint, entering the scene in 2001 with their SPH-I300 touchscreen device. Then, at the height of the CrackBerry era, Samsung scored a hit with its BlackJack line of Windows-powered, BlackBerry-style phones.
In 2007, Apple released its first iPhone. This device was the most groundbreaking yet, as it was aimed at the everyday user and didn’t need a stylus to operate the touchscreen. The HTC Dream (also known as the G1) was the first Android phone, was released soon after in 2008. The Dream featured a sliding keyboard, limited touchscreen functionalities, but impressive integration with Google.
Fast Forward to Now
In 2011, Samsung’s Galaxy SII began giving Apple a run for its money. One of the slimmest smartphones of the time, the Galaxy SII had a 1.2 GHz dual-core system processes, 1GB of RAM, a WVGA Super AMOLED Plus screen display and an 8-megapixel camera with flash and 1080p recording. The replaceable battery gave the device up to ten hours of heavy usage, and up to 9 hours of talktime on 3G.
As of today, the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8 are the most popular devices on a global scale. Samsung was the world’s top smartphone maker in Q1 2017 with 78.7 million units shipped worldwide, while Apple shipped 51.6 million units. Samsung and Apple own the most percentage of market share, with roughly 24% and 15% respectively. Android continues to be the dominant mobile operating system, with 86.1% market share across all devices.