I’m awake, bored, and thanks to this post, thinking about old cellphones, so please join me in reviewing my cell phones...
1999: Nokia 252
I liked this one. Felt incredibly sleek compared to some other things out there, and had a bunch of interchangeable faceplates that I never used. Of course plans were still pretty expensive, so I still made most of my calls via landline. Also cellphones were banned at school, though the smaller size meant I wasn’t quite showing Zack Morris level contempt for the rules. I do think I broke the battery clip playing with it at some point, it definitely looks weak:
2000: Audiovox CDM-135
College meant a new provider (before we had national networks!) and a new phone (also a new number, this was also before we had porting). I liked this one too. Even smaller than the Nokia, while working perfectly well as a phone. By 2000 I was able to get a plan I could actually afford to make calls on.
I don’t remember why I got rid of this. Might have had something to do with the switch away from analog networks, or e-911, or maybe my contract was just up.
2001: Audiovox CDM-4000
Physically this was quite similar to the previous one, but with a less appealing design. I had felt like going from Nokia to Audiovox was a bit of a downgrade. This one looked and felt cheap to me (it probably was cheap). Pretty sure I broke it, but don’t remember how.
2003: Samsung SGH-A800
My first flip phone! While fairly small (remember, we were pursuing ever-smaller phones back then), it was still not as compact as the several year old Startac, to say nothing of some other modern flip phones. Still a much more premium feel than the Audiovox. Then as now Samsung’s software was bad. Among other things, Samsung had given it some terrible unchangeable wallpaper on the main screen.
One time I flipped it open, and the screen flipped off. So back to shopping for a new phone.
2005: Motorola E815
Lot of firsts for me here:
- First phone clearly bigger than its predecessor
- First camera-phone (the camera didn’t get much use, it was pretty crappy)
- First color screens (would be pretty sad to take pictures without them)
- First phone that could connect to a computer (didn’t work so well, Verizon had a lot of things locked down so you’d use their services)
- First with Bluetooth. Again locked down pretty heavily, but I was able to pair with my computer, and while I couldn’t tether data, I was able to use it as a modem, and dial into a university modem pool getting (extremely slow) internet from places where I didn’t have it.
Sadly also had to get a new number. We did have porting at this point, but I was buying from some Amazon deal, and it didn’t really seem possible to get Verizon to switch over the number. Today I’d probably try harder, but not being able to port numbers was recent enough that it didn’t seem like a huge deal.
2008: HTC Touch Pro
Entering the smartphone era, just a few months after the iPhone cracked it open for consumers! The Touch looked and felt great, with a form-factor that was smaller than a deck of cards, and nice soft-touch plastics. Unfortunately, Windows Mobile was never great, and the launcher software HTC installed on top of it was just clunky and terrible. The real problem though was the resistive touchscreen, which was mushy and unresponsive, and pretty much useless if you weren’t using the stylus.
I took this phone out of my pocket to find the screen had shattered (The screen itself, well behind the touchscreen, which wasn’t damaged. Still not sure how that happened).
2009: HTC Touch Pro
With the Touch out of commission I ended up buying its physical keyboard-having sibling, the Touch Pro (out of contract, and not that long before the Touch Pro 2 was released). I thought they keyboard would be good, given how awful the Touch’s touch screen was, but it wasn’t actually necessary. The touchscreen while still resistive, was massively more responsive, and had much less travel than the Touch’s. Indeed the real star of the device was the screen, which was 640x480, which doesn’t sound impressive, until you remember that it was a tiny 2.8" display (as compared to the iPhone 3GS’s 3.5" 480x320 screen), making everything super-crisp, and allowing a lot of content to fit. Additionally it produced some really deep blacks, and vibrant colors. It was well ahead of its time. Windows mobile still sucked, but an unofficial mod to 6.5 brought significant improvements and made it a very usable device.
2010: HTC EVO 4G
This was a great phone. I was worried about how huge it was (the 4.3" screen was a big departure at the time), but quickly found it to be well worth carrying a bigger device. WiMAX provided great internet speeds (tailing off towards the end as Sprint shifted from WiMAX to LTE), and Android was finally ready for prime-time after having been clunky in its early versions. The device looked and felt great, though the little kickstand, while fun to fidget with, never really did a did a good job supporting the device.
2013: HTC One
HTC’s crowning achievement, this is probably my favorite phone (despite one huge flaw). The phone looks great (and when it was released, like nothing else), feels great, and sounds great, on account of its excellent speakers (for a phone). Android is snappy, and the touchscreen is sharp and responsive. The car mount was great to use, and makes me hate that no phone today (even the high-volume iPhones) has a custom car mount, instead making us deal with clunky universal ones.
The flaw: The dreaded HTC One purple camera issue. Apparently triggered by exposure to excessive heat (when charging, being left in the sun, or in a hot car, etc.) the main camera becomes damaged in such a way that all pictures it takes are cast in a nearly monochrome purple hue. Turning on HDR helps, but it seems there was never any real solution other than sending it in for repair.
2016: Samsung Galaxy S7
I have serious mixed-feelings about this phone. I really didn’t like it when I first got it, and considered going back to my HTC One, purple camera and all. It has since grown on me some.
- Big, crisp screen
- Qi charging (seemed like a low-value gimmick, but I’ve found it useful)
- Waterproof (though I’ve damaged it enough I wouldn’t trust this now)
- Always on screen (especially since it was updated to show generic notifications)
- MicroSD support (one of the reasons I picked the S7 was that Samsung was offering a free 256GB MicroSD. I’m not super concerned with removable storage, but 32GB is clearly no longer sufficient for my usage)
- Ant+ support (nice to be able to use a cheap heart rate monitor when cycling)
- Fast charging is nice
- Feels cheap, and not at all sturdy.
- Slippery back and awkwardly shaped side means it is a lot easier to drop than the One (not that the One’s aluminum is slip-proof)
- Painted metal side started chipping immediately
- Despite a fast processor, apps are often quite sluggish and stuttery
- Battery life is poor (this may be related to the always on display, in power-saving mode it’s much better)
- Terrible speaker (may be a concession to being waterproof)
- Samsung’s software, while not as bad as some earlier phones, can still be a bit invasive.
So that’s it, nearly 20 years of cellphones. My contract is up in October, so maybe I’ll be adding another new toy then (especially now that I’ve somewhat damaged my S7). Honestly though none of the current crop jumps out at me as being significantly different or better than what I’ve got, so I may end up hanging on to the S7 a while longer.