Simon Personal Communicator
The First Smartphone: Simon Personal Communicator

4 Facts about Simon Personal Communicator

  • Simon Personal Communicator was expensive and big.
  • The smartphone had a touchscreen and predictive typing features.
  • It was first announced at a trade show in late 1992.
  • The smartphone was initially codenamed Angler.

The History of Simon Personal Communicator: What to Know

Touted as the world’s first smartphone, the Simon Personal Communicator was originally announced on November 23, 1992, at the COMDEX trade show in Las Vegas, with the code name, Angler. Although the term “smartphone” wasn’t existing during its launch, the device included capabilities and features of a typical smartphone: handheld, personal digital assistant (PDA), touchscreen cellular phone, etc.

The device also allowed users to make and receive telephone calls and integrates well with emails, cellular pages, facsimiles, etc. It also included 11 built-in programs: to-do list, calendar, calculator, appointment scheduler, electronic sketch pad, world time clock, input screen keyboards, handwritten annotations, address book, and address book.

Quick Facts

Release Date
16/08/1994
Original price
$899 with a two-year service contract and $1099 without a two-year service contract.
Discontinued
22/02/1995
Units Sold
50000

The advance in Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistor (MOSFET) technology enabled the proliferation of wireless mobile networks and integrated circuit chips. Frank Canova, an IBM engineer, discovered that the chip-and-wireless technology could be used in handheld devices, which led to a prototype device debuted by IBM named “Sweetspot.”

The Sweetspot prototype combined a personal digital assistant (PDA) and a mobile phone into one device. After the prototype’s debut, USA Today, an American Daily newspaper, featured the photo of Frank holding the prototype on the front page of their Money section.

The prototype was developed into a commercial product codenamed Angler, manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric. Mitsubishi Electric integrated its wireless PDA and cellular radio technologies features into the device. From history, Motorola had earlier rejected IBM’s proposal to manufacture the product, biased that IBM may become a potential rival.

The name, Simon Personal Communicator, was given by BellSouth executives before its debut to the general public in November 1993, a year after its prototype was announced. Debuting at the Wireless World Conference, BellSouth was originally scheduled to go on sales in May 1994. However, the smartphone wasn’t available to consumers until August 1994 due to issues with the device’s software.

Despite the setback in release date, BellSouth Cellular sold about 50,000 units even though the product was available in the market for public sales for only six months. Simon Personal Communicator was originally sold at $899 and $1099 with and without a two-year service contract, respectively. However, with time, the smartphone’s price was reduced to $599 with a two-year contract. Although the Simon Personal Communicator had no app store, it was preloaded with a few applications, including Fax, address book, and a notepad. Check out Simon’s User Manual for the device’s full functionality.

The Public Response

Simon Personal Communicator wasn’t long-lived due to its vulnerability. Nonetheless, it was the “real deal” at that time. Built by Mitsubishi Electric and commercially distributed by BellSouth Cellular, the device operated within a 15-state network, with approximately 50,000 units of Simon Personal Communicator sold over 6 months – between August 1994 and February 1995.

Simon Personal Communicator: A Complete Guide FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What was the Simon Personal Communicator? 

The Simon Personal Communicator is a touchscreen, handheld personal digital assistant (PDA), retrospectively regarded as the world’s first smartphone due to the similarities of its features and capabilities with the present-day smartphone.

When did Simon Personal Communicator Come out? 

Although it debuted in November 1993, a year after its prototype was announced, Simon Personal Communicator was available for public sales on August 15, 1994. It was available for sales for 6 months.

What Could the Simon Personal Communicator Do?

The smartphone could perform many functions, including making and receiving phone calls, sending and receiving faxes, etc. It also included preloaded applications, including appointment scheduler, address book, calendar, time clock, input screen keyboards, etc.

Who Made the Simon Personal Communicator?

Simon Personal Communicator smartphone was designed by IBM, manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric, and commercially distributed by BellSouth Cellular. Frank Canova, an IBM engineer, originally designed the device’s prototype.

How Much Would the Simon Personal Communicator Cost Today?

The device was initially sold at $899 and $1099. $899 included a two-year service contract, while $1099 doesn’t. Later, the price was reduced to $599 with a two-year service contract. If Simon Personal Communicator had been released today, it would have cost $1,435 in today’s dollars.

Why Did the Simon Phone Fail?

Simon Personal Communicator was the first personal digital assistant that could make telephone calls. Its battery wasn’t long-lasting – it lasted approximately an hour.

Did the Simon Personal Communicator have Internet?

Simon Personal Communicator had no web browser. Even computers only had decent browsers at that time. Nonetheless, it could send and receive emails, which was its major selling point. The device could also send and receive faxes.

  • Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_Simon
  • Available here: https://time.com/3137005/first-smartphone-ibm-simon/
  • Available here: https://www.businessinsider.com/worlds-first-smartphone-simon-launched-before-iphone-2015-6?r=US&IR=T