First 'smart' phone turns 20: retailer

26 Nov 2012

UK retailer Asda is making the bold claim that the first smartphone was unveiled 20 years ago.

The firm credits IBM’s Simon device as being the first truly ‘smart’ phone, but notes the device is often overlooked as a trailblazer because the term smartphone wasn’t coined until 1997. The unit was unveiled at the COMDEX trade show in Las Vegas, weighed 510 grams, came with 1-MB of memory, and featured a touch screen operated by stylus.

Asda notes a more modern HTC Salsa smartphone tips the scales at 120 grams, features 32-GB of memory and 512-MB of RAM, and can access at least half a million applications. Simon had a build in fax machine.

“In twenty years the power of these devices has increased exponentially,” notes David Fletcher, mobile phone expert at the retailer, adding. “Not only that, the cost has plummeted in real terms.”

IBM’s device would today cost £1,104 ($1,769) compared to the £79 price tag of the HTC unit listed. The original device was sold by US operator BellSouth Cellular for $899 on a two year contract. The operator sold some 50,000 units over the six months Simon was on sale.

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