When Philippe Kahn and his wife were expecting their first child, his plan was to photograph the event using his smartphone so he could share the event with friends and family. The only problem was that it was 1997 and smartphones hadn’t been invented yet. So, Kahn did what any mathematician / technological envelope-pusher would do: he shoehorned a miniature camera into a Motorola cell phone and—voilà!—on June 11, 1997, Kahn could share pictures of his newborn baby girl, Sophie, with about 2,000 friends and family members. You know where the story goes from here.
Though it’s difficult to imagine a world without “picture phones,” they began making cameo appearances in futuristic science-fiction films long before smartphones began decimating the bottom lines of camera manufacturers.
The very first wireless picturephone prototype, which was also known as the “Intellect,” was developed by Daniel Henderson, in 1993, but because the Internet was still in its infancy, there wasn’t much he could do with it—in comparison to the gymnastics modern smartphones can perform.
Apple’s Videophone made the rounds at trade shows, in 1995, along with other experimental devices from Kodak, Olympus, and Canon, but we had to wait until the year 2000 before we could step up to the counter and purchase one of our own.
Depending on whom you ask and how you define a “true” camera phone, the first commercially available camera-enabled phone was either the Samsung SCH-V200, which was introduced in June, 2000, or Sharp Electronics J-SH04 J-Phone, which was introduced 5 months later, in November of 2000.