First ever ‘smartphone’ turns 20-years old

The London Science Museum (LSM) is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the world’s first ever ‘smartphone’ by putting it on display in its new Information Age gallery.

The IBM Simon Personal Communicator may resemble a child’s walkie-talkie these days, but upon its release in August 1994 the gadget was far ahead of its time. In fact, the term ‘smartphone’ was not even coined until three years later, according to

The chunky device has a touch screen and was the first mobile phone to come with apps and fax connectivity. Other features included a calendar, a notepad and the ability to send emails and messages – all things which are now considered the bare essentials.

Unlike today’s smartphones, users would not have been able to casually swan around with the IBM Simon device in their pockets. It weighs 1.1lb – the equivalent to a 500g bag of sugar. Some 50,000 models were sold upon its release, predominantly to US businessmen requiring a transportable device to keep in touch on the move.

“It looks like a grey block but it’s not as big as you’d imagine,” LSM curator Charlotte Connelly told “It has a stylus and a green LCD screen, which is similar in size to the iPhone 4. In fact, it’s not a bad looking thing.”

However, the IBM Simon Personal Communicator was not without its flaws, and it eventually disappeared from the market two years later.

“It only had an hour’s battery, it was $899 and there was no mobile internet at the time,” said Ms Connelly. “So it wasn’t very successful.”

The IBM Simon and more than 800 other objects will be on display at the LSM’s Information Age exhibition in October.

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