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TMCNet:  20 years ago today: IBM unveils the first smartphone

[November 23, 2012]

20 years ago today: IBM unveils the first smartphone

Nov 23, 2012 (M2 PRESSWIRE via COMTEX) -- The very first smartphone was unveiled 20 years ago today at the COMDEX trade show in Las Vegas.

Fast forward to today and a smartphone from Asda will cost you GBP79, or 7 percent in real terms of the original asking price of the IBM Simon.

The original device was shaped like a brick, weighed more than 1lb (510g), had 1MB of memory, featured a built-in fax and a touch screen with stylus.

By comparison, the HTC Salsa from Asda weighs 120g (25% of the original), has memory capability of up to 32GB (32,000 times the original), runs the Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system which offers well over half a million apps, has 3G data capabilities,, 512 MB of RAM as well as a camera.

In real terms, the Simon would cost GBP1,104 today, whereas the Salsa is GBP79, or 7 percent of the cost of the original phone.

"In twenty years the power of these devices has increased exponentially", said David Fletcher, Asda's mobile phone expert. "Not only that, but the cost has plummeted in real terms. Smartphones are the Swiss Army Knives of the 21st century. At this price and with this level of utility, they're pretty much indispensible." The original Angler prototype, as it was called, combined a cell phone and PDA into one device, allowing a user to make and receive telephone calls, facsimiles, emails and cellular pages, among other functions. COMDEX show attendees and the press showed notable interest in the device. The day after Angler's debut, USA Today featured a photo on the front page of the Money section showing Frank Canova, Angler's architect, holding the prototype.

BellSouth Cellular initially offered the Simon throughout its 15 state service area for US$899 with a two-year service contract or US$1099 without a contract. Later in the product's life, BellSouth Cellular reduced the price to US$599 with a two-year contract.

BellSouth Cellular sold approximately 50,000 units during the product's six months on the market.

Although the term "smartphone" was not coined until 1997, because of Simon's features and capabilities, it can be referred to as the first smartphone.

The HTC Salsa, plus the rest of Asda's extensive mobile range can be found online at or in larger Asda stores.

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