Today, Android and iOS users can download from a selection of literally millions of apps. But long before we were swapping faces on SnapChat, designers were paving the way for us to use our mobile devices to play games, do business and, yes, even change the world.
1984: The Psion Organiser
The Psion Organiser, thought to be the world’s first PDA, is the granddaddy of your favorite mobile “smart” device. Advertised as “the world’s first practical pocket computer,” the Psion Organizer was 14 by 9 centimeters, making it a pocket computer only for the most liberal definitions of “pocket.” By modern definitions of “computer,” it was also quite modest, with a mere two kilobytes of RAM and four kilobytes of ROM. However, for the time, it was an incredibly forward thinking device, and its six-month battery life is still enviable by contemporary standards.
1996: Birth of the Palm Pilot
the release of the Palm Pilot PDA. With a choice of either 128 or 512 kilobytes of built-in memory (you could add up to 2 megabytes of RAM via the memory slot, but it would cost you), and with a 160×160 pixel monochrome screen, the Pilot was hugely influential both in its time and even today. Many of the features we now associate with modern smartphones, including touchscreens and data synchronization, were introduced in the 90s as features of the Palm Pilot.
1997: Snake on the Nokia 6110
While not a smartphone, the Nokia 6110 made a major innovation when it came to mobile app design: it shipped with three games, the most famous being Snake.
2007: The iPhone Changes Mobile App Design Forever
Millennials and mobile app design geeks may recall the 2007 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference with the same mix of wonder and nostalgia with which baby boomers remember Apollo 11. That’s when Steve Jobs introduced us to the iPhone for the first time and permanently changed the game for mobile app designers and developers.
2017: iPhone still leading in app design.