The Smartphone Turns 20

Many Americans have been using smartphones for the last decade, but these phones have actually been on the market for 20 years. This month, the IBM Simon celebrated its 20th birthday, and it will now be on display at the Science Museum in London.

The device cost nearly $900 when it was introduced and it weighed over 1 pound. It could not connect to mobile Internet, and it had a battery that only lasted an hour. Nevertheless, this phone was the grandfather of modern day iPhones and Androids, and its development has truly changed the way we communicate and search for data.

When Simon was developed, there was no web browser in existence. This phone was completely ahead of its time, even if it would be considered worthless by today’s standards.

“The Simon wasn’t called a smartphone back then. But it had a lot of the features we see today,” Museum curator Charlotte Connelly told The Independent. “It had a calendar; it could take notes and send emails and messages and combined all of this with a cell phone.”

Connelly said that Simon had a lot of elements that can be seen in today’s phones, just in a primitive form. The device included “a slot in the bottom to insert different applications, such as mapping ones, spreadsheets and games.”

“It really was a forerunner to the iPhone,” she said.

Happy birthday Simon. Your ingenuity led to billions of hours of mobile entertainment from people in all corners of the world.

About John Oldshue

John Oldshue is the creator of He worked for over 15 years in television and won an Emmy award for his reporting. He covers long distance and cell phone topics for SaveOnPhone.