During a recent bout of ill advised nostalgia I decided to chart my mobile phone purchase history. This is not as easy as it seems. Try it for yourself and I guarantee you miss out at least one.
01. Revolutionary, the Sagem MC820
Ah, the Sagem MC820, the device that took my cellular cherry, how fondly I remember thee. Rubbery buttons, two colour lcd display with two, yes two, lines of text on show at any given time and that sexy aerial on top. You have a message to send? As long as you cn cmprss it 2 140 chrctrs thn ur laughin.
2. Populist, the Nokia 3310
I think it’s possible that every single person in the World ever has had one of these phones at some point in their life. Techie types will tell you it’s due to a quality build and a seemingly eternal battery life. The real reason is much more devious and can be summed up in one word: Snake. A game so addictive that if you looked down an alley at night in the late 1990s then you would probably see some unfortunate soul mumbling to himself and staggering, while his thumbs traced the imaginary spaces between the 1 and the 9 button on the phone he no longer owned. Exactly how many people were lost in the great Snake plague nobody knows, but we remember them all.
3. Misguided, the Sony CMD Z7
In hindsight, this was not my finest moment. Firstly the name. Sony CMD Z7. Sounds like some kind of bastard child brought forth by an unholy union between Mercedes Benz and BMW. Secondly, the looks. Or lack thereof. This is a hideous piece of kit. The flappy panel on the front? With no buttons on the reverse of the panel it just folds over to cover the buttons. You know, the buttons you use to work the phone. Plus it covers half of the screen too. Good call guys. It wasn’t long after this that Sony joined forces with Ericsson, and you can see why. If left to their own devices then Sony would be making phones with all the buttons inside the casing and the screen mounted inside the box the phone came packed in. In conclusion, it was awkward, ugly and overly fiddly. I loved it.
4. Brinkmanship, the Siemens S55
Around the time I got this handset, the Nokia 3310 had been upgraded to the 3330 (with WAP capability!) and everybody was raving on about amazing Scandinavian tech. Obviously my reaction to this was to find something similar but better. This was the result. German built, so stereotypically robust, the S55 looked a bit like the Nokia, only with added sheen, worked in a similar way, but crucially it had a colour screen. Shazam! Colours! 256 of ‘em! In your face, one-nil to me. Other than that it was a pretty standard handset. It did however have a clip on camera, which attached to the base of the phone and took the most glorious 640×480 pictures.
Oh and it did, like, MMS and java games and WAP and all that too.
5. Experimental, the Motorola V80
Lookit! It’s on a jaunty angle. The screen rotates between landscape and portrait. And that’s it. Nothing special about it. Standard camera, normal WAP. Screen colours up to 65k by this point though. Yippee. Not going to write much about this phone. Style over substance. Mostly forgettable. Problem was I got this just as everyone else was getting that RAZR thing. Story of my life, almost there but ultimately not.
6. Walkmania, the Sony Ericsson W800
Branded like a Walkman and therefore great for anybody who is “serious about music”. Really just a regular mobile with a decent spec. 2m camera, external storage (memory stick duo if i recall properly), 3.5mm jack support, Internet blah, blah, blah… What is pretty cool is that there’s a cheapo rip off of this handset out there. The bargain basement version of this (admittedly popular) handset is the Music Mobile w800c. It’s just great and I wish I’d got it instead of its pricier inspiration.
7. Cameronesque, the Sony Ericsson K800i
Think about James Cameron. More precisely think about his attitude to sequels. Alien 2: bigger bangs, more aliens, louder noise. Terminator 2: Bigger bangs, better bad guy, louder noise. Titanic 2… oh, sorry. You get the idea. You can’t knock those box office takings though, so clearly Cameronomics was at the fore in my mind when I went for this phone. Same as the last one just beefed up a bit. More megapixies in the camera and a flash. More memory. Bigger screen. Bit bulky though.
8. Flexible, the Motorola Z8
You’d have thought that my experience with the rotomoto so many years earlier would have hardened me to the perils of gimmicky phones. You’d have thought wrong. Look at this! It bends! Around your face when you open it! Cool! But it has a hideous green stripe!? Don’t care. But it only has a 2m camera!? So what. Plus you can’t press the buttons properly because of the stupid bend in the phone and the hotkeys on the frontage are so close together that ET would struggle with them!? I work round it. And so I did. For a full 12 months. Tussling with a barely more than functional Symbian OS, lamenting the ability of the free bluetooth headphones (which only worked if the phone was within about three inches of the headset)* and generally waiting to pick up something better. It did turn heads, though mostly because that was the only way to use it.
* Motorola were aware of the limitations of the headset methinks. Why else would you include a regular, wired headset on top of the fancy bluetooth one?
9. Flatterist, the Samsung Tocco F480
Okay, so by the time I got this handset some new startup called Apple had just released something called an iPhone. Samsung were never pioneers in terms of design (high school yearbook entry: “Most likely to rip off everyone else for commercial gain” – See also The Charlatans and anything made in Hollywood after about 1980). Anyhoo, this was Samsung’s foray into the touchscreen market. And mostly successful too I would say. I have a rose-tinted memory of this phone because it was the first one I unbranded to make SIM free and it has saved the bacon of more than one person a number of times in it’s more recent role as a backup phone. What is unfortunate is how this phone has aged. It was released just before the smartphone revolution we are currently seeing. The touchscreen system now seems counter intuitive. There is no multiple pressing or swiping going on here (for that be witchcraft?) and the menus scroll the wrong way. WiFi? You’re ‘avin’ a radox mate. There are no apps really to speak of, because it still runs java. Y’know .jar and all that. No? Nevermind. Good phone. Good enough to inspire a bit of brand loyalty…
10. whatdontdothatshitnowhy~’@*…., the Samsung Vodafone 360 H1
I still don’t know why I agreed to this phone. It sucked then and it still sucks now. Problem 1: Vodafone 360. Seeing as I enjoyed my debranded Tocco so much, why did I buy a phone that effectively tied me back into one network again? Plus, the 360 system (bringing together social media accounts and email accounts etc into one handset) DID NOT WORK. Ever waited 3 days for an Email? That seems fast when you’ve owned one of these phones. Problem 2: LiMo, the Linux mobile OS. Which, like the 360 service, DID NOT WORK. Ever waited 15 minutes for you phone to power on? I have. 5 minutes for a java game to open? Par for the course with this baby. No WiFi, shit browser, at most I would say 10 apps, all crap. Unintuitive, slow, over-complicated, ugly, cheaply made piece of junk. Won’t even make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs. Samsung, I am disgusted in you. How can you live with yourselves? But mostly I blame Vodafone so I’m gonna give you one last chance and it best be the most amazing phone the World has ever seen or I’m going to jump ship and get one of them Apple things or an HTC or something. Then I’m going to march on your offices and get all Terminator on your asses.
11. Redemption, the Samsung Galaxy S2
You got lucky Samsung. Google pulled you out of the shit on this one. Good work.
Soon I will have a new phone and I can add to this. Though I’ll probably forget.