Before the iPhone spurred the smartphone market with its 2007 debut, most people's cell phones were mainly used as phones, of all things. They slowly began to do things like hold music and run rudimentary apps, but for the most part, if you wanted to take digital notes or access a calendar or the like in the early 2000s, you needed another dedicated productivity device — the personal digital assistant (PDA). These were the predecessors to smartphones and included Palm Pilots, Windows Pocket PCs and Blackberries. Some required writing or navigating in a special touchpad area of the device with a stylus, and others had built-in keyboards. They ran apps like today's smartphones, but there weren't that many to choose from and you couldn't just download them on the fly. The earliest PDAs didn't even have wireless connectivity. To get data uploaded or downloaded, they had to be connected to a computer via a serial cable.
They were useful, but a far cry from today's wirelessly connected, app-loaded smartphones, which allow users to do many things that used to necessitate carrying multiple devices. Today's children have never known a world without the Internet, and the youngest have grown up surrounded by easily portable devices that can connect to the 'net to send and receive all their data. You could even say that our smartphones, and non-phone devices like tablets and the iPhone Touch, are next-gen PDAs.