Smartphones: What They Are, How They Work, and Their Impact


Smartphones have revolutionized the way we communicate and connect with the world. Originally introduced by IBM in 1994, smartphones like the iconic iPhone have come a long way since. These handheld electronic devices not only connect us to cellular networks but also offer internet access, gaming, and a lot more. This article explores the history of smartphones and their impact on the telecommunications sector.

What is a smartphone?

Smartphones have become an integral part of modern life. They are handheld electronic devices that provide a connection to a cellular network and the internet. The term “smartphone” was first introduced to the world by IBM in 1994, with their creation known as Simon1. Initially designed for phone calls and email, today’s smartphones offer a wide range of capabilities, from internet access to gaming and messaging.

The evolution of smartphones

The world’s first smartphone, Simon, introduced innovative features such as a touchscreen, email functionality, and built-in apps like a calculator and sketch pad. Since then, cellular phone technology has continuously evolved, with significant advancements post-2000. In 2007, Apple made a groundbreaking contribution to the smartphone industry with the release of the iPhone2. In 2008, the iPhone 3G further expanded the reach of smartphones as there were over 3.6 billion mobile connections worldwide34.

Impact on telecommunications

Before smartphones offered internet browsing, network operators had relied on traditional fee structures. Phone calls and text messages followed a flat-rate pricing model. The introduction of smartphones marked a significant turning point in the telecommunications sector. While mobile phones had already disrupted the landline industry, smartphones went a step further, leading to a decline in the popularity of traditional cell phones.

Once consumers realized the potential of smartphone-based applications, such as messaging apps and games, the demand for basic cell phones dwindled, particularly in developed economies. Smartphones became the new standard for communication and entertainment, further solidifying their place in our daily lives.

Changes in the cost of smartphones

Smartphones have become more affordable over the years due to advancements in mobile technology and Moore’s Law. The first handheld cellphone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, cost a staggering $11,000 in today’s currency. Fortunately, smartphone prices have significantly decreased since then.

For example, the average cost of a smartphone was around $471 in 2014 and dropped to $402 in 2016. While smartphones are cheaper, they are far from being considered inexpensive. Companies like Apple maintain premium prices due to their brand reputation.

Apple’s iPhone played a pivotal role in revitalizing the company, as its computer sales and revenue lagged before the device’s launch. Other companies often use white labels to expand their technology offerings.

Changes in smartphone prices are often linked to the demand for specific brands and advancements in technology, as these devices now offer more storage and memory than many computers.

Impact on social media

The popularity of smartphones has extended beyond device development and operating systems into a multibillion-dollar app industry. Smartphone users can download apps from dedicated stores, with many available for free, while some come with a price or advertisements.

Social networks, like Meta (formerly Facebook), have significantly benefited from the smartphone boom. The ability to access social networks through smartphones has increased user engagement and network revenues. The changing behavior of smartphone users has reshaped social media, as more people now use their smartphones to access these platforms rather than personal computers.

However, the rise of smartphones has had negative consequences for certain industries, particularly digital camera manufacturers. Most smartphones boast high-quality camera capabilities, challenging traditional digital cameras. Additionally, smartphones provide features once limited to personal computers, such as calculators, web browsers, alarm clocks, documents, and notepads.


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Connectivity to the internet and cellular networks
  • Access to a wide range of applications
  • Convenient communication via calls, texts, and emails
  • Entertainment options like gaming and multimedia
  • Potential for addiction and overuse
  • Privacy and security concerns
  • Distraction in daily life and social situations

Frequently asked questions

Who invented the first smartphone?

The first smartphone, known as Simon, was invented by IBM in 1994.

What differentiates a smartphone from a regular mobile phone?

Smartphones offer features beyond traditional mobile phones, including internet access, app availability, and multimedia capabilities.

How have smartphones impacted society?

Smartphones have transformed how we communicate, access information, and entertain ourselves. They’ve also had economic and societal impacts, creating new business opportunities.

 Are smartphones secure for online banking and transactions?

Smartphones employ advanced security measures like biometrics and encryption to protect sensitive data. While they are generally secure for online banking and transactions, users should stay vigilant and update their security settings regularly.

How have smartphones impacted business and work?

Smartphones have enabled flexible work arrangements and increased productivity. They’ve also given rise to the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) trend, allowing employees to use their smartphones for work purposes.

Can smartphones replace traditional computers?

While smartphones have become more powerful, they may not entirely replace traditional computers. The choice often depends on the nature of the task. For complex tasks or content creation, computers are still preferred.

What’s the environmental impact of smartphone production?

Smartphone production involves resource-intensive processes, which can have environmental consequences. Companies are working on sustainable practices, and recycling programs have been introduced to reduce e-waste.

How have smartphones affected social interaction?

Smartphones have changed how people interact socially. They facilitate communication but can also lead to digital addiction and affect face-to-face interactions. Finding a balance is essential for healthy relationships.

What’s the future of smartphones?

The future of smartphones is likely to involve even more advanced technologies such as 5G connectivity, augmented reality, and enhanced AI capabilities. They will continue to play a significant role in various aspects of our lives.

Key takeaways

  • Smartphones are handheld devices that connect to cellular networks and the internet, offering a wide range of functionalities.
  • The first smartphone, Simon, was introduced by IBM in 1994 and included groundbreaking features.
  • Smartphones have revolutionized the telecommunications industry and led to the decline of traditional cell phones.
  • They come with pros, such as connectivity and convenience, but also cons like addiction and privacy concerns.
  • Smartphones have had a profound impact on modern society, changing the way we communicate and engage with technology.
View Article Sources
  1. The Use and Effect of Smartphone in Students Learning – University of Nebraska
  2. Smartphones, social media use and youth mental health – National Center for Biotechnology Information
  3. Awareness and Usage of Smartphone – University of Nebraska
  4. Planning To Buy A New Cell Phone? Here’s How To Get The Best Price. – SuperMoney
  5. Tesla Phone Model Pi: Release Date, Price, & Specs – SuperMoney