Surprisingly little is available online about the history of smartphone applications, or at least it is quite hard to dig out. Yet it is quite interesting and, if you go back enough, even endearing.
In fact, we at Melon Mobile know quite a lot about the history of apps. WebGate, which is how Melon Mobile was formerly known, is among the pioneers in mobile development, established in 1997. We publish our first app in 2003, just one year after the first smartphone to support third-party applications is released.
In fact, Melon Mobile is one of the first two developers to create a call management application, almost ten years ago. That was the famed Advanced Call Manager for Symbian. Quite amazingly for such a lightning-fast industry, this app is still around doing a great job, and not just available on the former goliath Symbian but also on the current number-one platform, Android.
Let’s take a short-but-sweet tour at some of the most interesting moments in the history of mobile apps. I recommend you take a look at your smartphone first, just to enjoy the immense progress that has happened in the relatively short span of 15 years.
1998 – It all starts with the iconic Snake, when Nokia decides to put the squirming video game onto their first mobile phones, starting with the Nokia 6110 in full monochrome. You can tell that the first mobile ‘apps’ were not familiar with the concept of productivity.
Around that time, the need for a true mobile operating system becomes evident
1998 – Symbian is established as a private independent company owned by Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola and Psion. From this point, what is previously known as EPOC OS is called Symbian OS.
1999 – BlackBerry (formerly Research in Motion, or RIM) release the first BlackBerry devices, delivering instant e-mail delight to the business world
The Millennium – Time to get smart
Early in the 2000s our colleague Antony Stoyanov (Tony) acquires two cellphone numbers which at first seem quite cool. One has six identical numbers after the operator code, and the other turns out to have belonged to a Bulgarian celebrity who is quite popular with women. As you could imagine, both his phones start overflowing with unwanted text messages and calls, some of them saucy, some of them weird, all of them annoying. We’ll take a little pause from Tony’s story to introduce the new decade:
2000 – The touchscreen Ericsson R380 Smartphone is the first device to be marketed as a ‘smartphone,’ combining a PDA with a mobile phone.
April 2000 – Pocket PC 2000 is released and is based on Windows CE 3.0. This is considered the debut of what later became the Windows Mobile operating system.
2002 – Nokia release their first smartphone with the Symbian OS (version 6.1), which is also coincidentally the first Nokia with a built-in camera
With the opportunity for developers to create third-party applications for the newly intelligent phones, Tony sees an escape from his popular phone number curse and comes up with the idea for Advanced Call Manager. Then, the tech-savvy fellow that he is, he creates the app that rescues him, and, consequently, millions of other spammed Symbian users.
Feb 2004 – The first Advanced Call Manager (ACM) app for UIQ is released at the formerly greatest app store Handango
Mar 2004 – Symbian takes the lead of the smartphone market
Later in 2004 – We release ACM for the Symbian S60 1st Edition (Nokia 7650 & 3650) and S60 2nd Edition (Nokia 6600 & 6620)
2005 – After an exciting three-year experience with the Symbian OS, Melon Mobile (then WebGate) is granted the highest partnership levels with Symbian and Sony Ericsson membership programs – Symbian Platinum Technology Partner and Sony Ericsson Premier Partner
Later in 2005 – In April, ACM becomes available for Motorola А1000 (UIQ2), and in December, for Symbian Series 80
2005 – ACM for Nokia S60 becomes a finalist in the Best Application for Life category of the Handango Awards, then again in 2006)
2006 – Advanced Call Manager for Series 60 3rd Edition is released and quickly becomes the preferred call blocker for Symbian users. Which is why in:
2007 – Nokia signs a contract with us to pre-install ACM on their Nokia E90. This means our app comes directly on all phones of this kind as part of the starting software package, available for free to all users. How great is that!
Nov 2007 – Android OS is unveiled by the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium including Google and other tech industry giants such as HTC, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile and Qualcomm
2008 – We are on a roll – Nokia decides to pre-install ACM on their Nokia E-Series devices worldwide
July 2008 – Apple change the game introducing what is currently the world’s biggest smartphone application store! The iPhone has been on sale for a full year by then, but the catch-up is quick – starting with just about 500 apps, iPhone users download 10 million applications in the first weekend!
Feb 2009 – We release Advanced Call Manager for BlackBerry, which gets excellent reception and is selected as a featured app on the BlackBerry App World
Oct 2008 – HTC Dream (a.k.a. G1), the first Android-operated phone is released
Tectonic slates are shifting
Feb 2010 – Microsoft introduce the Windows Phone 7 platform in cooperation with Nokia
Sept 2010 – We release Advanced Call Manager for Android, bringing its valued functionality to the world’s soon-to-be-largest smartphone platform
2011 – Android takes over the smartphone OS leadership, becoming the world’s most popular platform by market share
Which is how we gradually reach present day and the story does not end here! For the past six months we have been perfecting Advanced Call Manager for Android and will very soon release a major update of this great app. No more spoilers, you will get to see how a classic app springs back to greatness for yourself.
Stay tuned, it could be as soon as this week!
* Edited on April 16, 2013 – Added Android OS & first Android device to the timeline