In these days of Android and iOS dominance and BlackBerry (RIM) and Symbian (Nokia) decline, it's hard to remember that even half a decade ago, RIM, Nokia, Microsoft (Windows Mobile OS), and Palm shared the market much more evenly. Yes, it's true--before there was the iPhone, there was the iPaq.
It's no surprise that the old guard of smartphones was comparatively bulkier, slower, and leaner on features, since each generation of hardware improves upon the next. Even more than speed and specs, what differentiated them from today's dual core, 4G mini computers was their purpose and audience. Companies issued expensive, bricklike smartphones to business professionals, or tech-savvy early adopters flashed them from shiny new hip holsters. They were e-mail-centric, calendar-heavy PDAs that also just happened to make phone calls. When apps emerged, there was little in the way of centralization to find them.
Apple changed all that. The iPhone, released in June 2007, didn't just disrupt the smartphone scene; it revolutionized what smartphones should do (everything) and who they should be for (everyone). The design was clean and sleek; it was dead simple to use. Games and apps were abundant, and mostly free or cheap. Android emerged soon after, and surged into a threat; meanwhile, the original crew struggled to catch up.
Revisiting the first wave of smartphones is entertaining to be sure, but also an instructive look at how far we've come in just a decade, and how much the former front runners have had to adapt in the wake of the iPhone.
Note: All release dates U.S.