Here’s how far smartphones have come in 20 years


It’s been 20 years since the IBM Simon, left, was released. (Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)

Saturday marked 20 years since IBM released the Simon, which flopped but is notable as the first smartphone. A Bloomberg article from 1993 described it as a “lightweight PC” and “the first in a series of personal communicators” IBM was developing. (The word smartphone didn’t exist at the time.) Simon was the first phone to include PDA features such as a calendar, calculator and notepad. Its makers had the right idea, but the technology wasn’t ready yet. Here’s a comparison of its specs with a current iPhone:

IBM Simon price:  $900  | iPhone: $600

Weight: 1.1 pounds  |  3.95 ounces

Sales: 50,000 | $500 million+

Network coverage in United States: 15 states | 50 states

Battery life: 60 minutes  |  eight hours talktime; eight to 10 hours Internet use

Screen resolution (pixels):  293 by 160  |  1136 by 640

Memory: 1MB  |  16 GB

Connectivity: 2,400bps modem |  4G LTE

Stylus: Yes | No

Any guesses on what a smartphone will look like in 2034?

Matt McFarland is the editor of Innovations. He's always looking for the next big thing. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Matt McFarland · August 15