I started out with Personal Digital Assistants on a Sharp Wizard sometime in the 1990s. This connected to my PC and synced its paltry memory with the computer back and forth. I used it more effectively than anyone I personally knew at the time. Then I got an awesome deal on the 2nd Gen of the Sharp Wizard in about 1997 which was promptly stolen :( so I replaced it with my old one and carried on.
Then I got my first true smartphone, at least for me. The Kyocera 6035. I think I got it early in 2001 but I'm not sure. It was definitely as soon as it came to Sprint though.
This device was very similar to todays design, subtract pinch zoom, media player and such but it did surf the web, and do some really neat things. Way ahead of it's time. I am the only one I personally know who even had one. I saw several on the streets but no one I know owned one. Notice it had handwriting recognition through a stylus and even had voice command dialing.
Now, to me this device looks very similar to todays smartphone including the iPhone. Sure they've refined them by now and the improvements in display, memory and processor along with size was simply not available back then, but this thing is pretty darn close. If you can imagine the flip down dialpad gone, the phone part would still work through an app on the palm. I think it's a pretty big leap to say it was absolutely nothing like the shape or function of an iPhone, or Android phone, technology advancements aside.
This did two awesome things for me at this point. My PDA and Phone were finally united so I had only one device to keep track of and by this time, I was always checking my pocket for my phone and PDA , so it was a no brainer. But it also allowed me to write something onto the phone in my notes, calendar and contacts and synch them with Outlook. OR I could do those things on my desktop and sync back to the phone. I could even work all day taking notes and altering contacts, then get home and add more information, edit or delete some and sync and then both my desktop and 'smartphone' were accurate. High Five!
This went on for several years til I ponied up and got my Treo 650 (I think that was the first one I owned, so many brain cells ago) in about 2004. Now this was no longer paired with Kyocera as far as I'm aware and came with some awesome improvements including... Faster internet (14.4k weeeee). A huge (1-8gb) SD card slot, color touch screen, Media player that believe it or not could stream movies at terrible quality. I had some videos stored on it that were better quality, and finally a Camera that shot both still and video to the SD card or camera memory.
Now I had my mp3 player, Digital camera and more in my pocket in a single device.
Now you may say that there was no excitement or market behind this but at the time, when I mentioned smartphone to anyone, they looked at me like I had 5 heads. BUT several celebrity's had it, even though Paris Hilton had it too, I thought mine was pretty cool.
I recognize the form factor change, and the keyboard addition but still the shape was similar. Not nearly as thin, but again, the technology wasn't really there yet, but might it not have been anyones game to change? Especially when you consider that this wasn't a high end device. Sure it was pricier than a 'just a cell phone' but it was aimed at the masses, not the high end, high priced device. I saw one in a catalog that was jewel encrusted so I tend to think that the tech wasn't quite Android/iPhone available or else that would have been the $10,000 smartphone. I have to imagine that small screen technology along with touch screen was probably in development stages at around 2004.
So now we get to July 2006 when Apple introduced iPhone and work on Android was well under way. By now I'm a smartphone enthusiast and am not so impressed by the device. I mean I see some neatness like the thin design, a slightly better touch capability, and the gorgeous screen (not quite AMOLED but nice). Then came the Jail issue. I'd have to jump ship to join a crappier network (AT&T at the time) and even then there were things it wouldn't do, not because it couldn't but the man in the ivory tower said no. THIS is my main reason for not liking Apple in the first place. I'm very open oriented. I FAR prefer the public domain and open standards to Intellectual Property Monopoly's and lawsuit trollbooths.
I hear a lot of people credit Steve Jobs with creating the smartphone, and I just don't think that's accurate. I'm not Apple bashing, but I think history and facts should speak louder than peoples opinions. I also hear about Android 'stealing' features from Apple, and Apple 'stealing features from Android. The reality is they both evolved from previous forms deriving today's smartphone. If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants. This surely includes Apple, Android and every human being.