It was the first device marketed as a 'smartphone'. In December 1999 the magazine Popular Science appointed the Ericsson R380 Smartphone to one of the most important advances in science and technology. It was a groundbreaking device since it was as small and light as a normal mobile phone. It was the first device to use the Symbian OS that had previously only been used in Psion personal organisers.
The display was a black and white touchscreen, partially covered by a flip. For that reason it can be considered the clear forerunner of the popular P800/P900 series of smartphones. It predates the UIQ user interface which runs on those later phones, but again, the heritage is clear.
Despite the sophisticated user interface, users could not install their own software on the device.
The phone and the software was developed at Ericsson's lab in Kista, Sweden. The UI was developed at Ericsson's Software Applications Laboratory in Warrington, UK. The UI was built using an in-house developed library called the Ericsson Control Kit (ECK).
The device was delivered in three variants. The most common being the R380s (dual 900/1800 GSM bands) and the (rarer) R380 World (dual 900/1900 GSM bands). The final variant with minor software and cosmetic upgrades was designated the R380e.
The R380s pricing was around $700 USD (compared to the T28s at $500 USD) at introduction, and the device was never network locked.