About 5 years ago I put together a sort of retrospective of all of the mobile phones I’d ever owned along with my thoughts on each, and judging by the web stats it’s a topic that lots and lots and lots of people are interested in reading about.
The main gamechanger in phones has been the development of the touchscreen, and where the race used to be towards the smallest phone possible now the idea is to get the largest yet most robust screen around whilst still being sensible enough to hold alongside your head.
The last phone I listed there was my at-the-time pristinely new iPhone 3G, and it occurred to me the other day as I was struggling to cram podcasts onto its miniscule 16gb of storage that there have been a few phones pass by since the arrival of the iPhone, and that it would be silly not to capitalise on the opportunity to get a blog post out of it at the *very* least.
So, picking up where we left off…
- Work Phone: O2 XDA Atmos – This was a phone very much thrust upon me by my employer at the time. The whole company was kitted out with them, and being a Microsoft Gold Partner we very much bought into the whole Microsoft corporate solution bit. The phone ran a version of Microsoft Office for productivity on its Windows Mobile 6 operating system, which I’d already sworn I’d never use again. As luck would have it this was a self-solving problem insofar as the frequency of program crashes made it nigh on impossible to transfer a document onto the phone, and once it was there there was a vanishingly small possibility you’d ever be able to successfully open the thing.
The presence of a hardware keyboard seemed an initial boon, however it didn’t take long to realise that every single button contact in that keyboard was a potential new point of failure. In this case, the catalyst to that failure was the interface between the phone and the contents of a bottle of Evian… but it was never really right to begin with.The other thing I hated about that phone was that as with most new hires in a corporate, your number is recycled from a previous employee, and this led to me getting some incredibly disturbing text-based banter from the previous guy’s contacts. I tried to let them know that this was no longer his number, but that’s not always possible when none of the keys in your hardware keyboard are working because some berk’s spilled water all over it.
- HTC Desire: It’s really difficult to overemphasise how much I liked my iPhone. However after a few years of having it (including the ongoing battle about filling the memory up to the brim with allsorts, spending ages and ages re-encoding video to watch on it, and the steady creep of applications out of the scope of an older model’s capability) it occurred to me that I was still paying full tote odds on my monthly plan for the thing even though it had gone out of contract some time ago (at least 12 months). Android phones were the big new thing on the horizon, and I liked the sound of the openness of the platform. So it was sort of out of a kind of enraged spite that I ditched that phone provider (who outright refused to “come to the party” on a new contract, despite my having been a customer of theirs for 7 or 8 years) and signed up for a shiny new HTC Desire Android phone.Such an impressive bit of kit! With so many possibilities! And DESKTOP WIDGETS! Why stop what you’re doing and start up another app if all you want to do is look at a piece of information?! Unfortunately the versatility of this new frontier was also its own Achilles’ Heel, as the designers elected to only fit the thing with 576mb of memory – so you’ve the promise of all manner of software to improve your life and that of those around you, but only room to install 3 things on the thing at once. Provided you don’t need to upgrade too many things. The ONLY way to get around the memory limitation was to install apps to the SD Card rather than the internal memory, but under the provided operating system this wasn’t possible – so I had to install the Cyanogen custom ROM on it, which I think made a difference, but ultimately it was like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
- HTC Desire (work phone): the day I took delivery of the HTC the IT Dept in my office were busy researching what phones to get to replace the O2 XDA, and the arrival of this smooth, sleek pebble of a thing was of much interest among them. They borrowed it for a couple of hours for a quick testdrive, and 2 weeks later a box of 120 of the things turned up at work. By then I hadn’t quite gotten sick of mine, but quasi-amusingly I now had 2 of the damn things. Latterly this became useful in that I was able to install apps to my phone and do any web browsing on the work one – a quirk of having barely any memory to work in was that once your browser cache filled up the phone more or less ground to a halt, so at least keeping the work phone reasonably clear meant that I could browse 5 or 6 web pages before having to manually clear the cache rather than doing it on an almost page by page basis. Happily I never went over my monthly data use cap on my personal phone – typically because the thing just could NOT figure out how to jostle things around in memory in order to connect. Simple.
- HTC Desire S: resorting once again to eBay I picked up the slightly beefier cousin of the Desire, the Desire S. Not a huge difference between them other than the removal of a weird “optical nipple” on the front, general ensleekening, and a memory bump. Oh, and the key thing was that the operating system now natively supported installing (“some”) apps onto the SD card rather than the internal memory. When it first arrived it was like having a ball&chain removed, and once again I could DO STUFF with my personal phone. Same processor though, same camera with same craptastic design which meant the glass lens protector was almost permanently smeared with skin oils so that all photos took on a dirty, bland soft focus effect.I think at one point I installed a custom ROM set on my personal one of these, too.
- HTC Desire S (work): As night follows day, so too the IT Department at work went with my next phone selection as well. Not as much use this time as web browsing seemed to work ok after the spec bump. Both phones’ cameras were still greasy & crappy though.
- Google Nexus 4: Following a tipoff from a family member about the cheap availability of the Google Nexus 4 and unable to continue with the farcical performance of the Desire S by this stage, in June 2013 I continued along the Android route with the massive-screen-presenting Nexus. Loads of memory (although no SD card, irritatingly), and for the first time I can ever recall an ACTIVELY GOOD CAMERA! Now of course my phone photo gallery is more or less an endless parade of whisky bottles from tastings we’ve held, interspersed with borderline-amusing signs and typos, and things which in the heat of the moment I thought I might blog about and then never got around to. Quite frankly, if this phone had a battery life longer than about 40 minutes it would be the perfect bit of kit for me.
It works well as a wifi to 3G hotspot (provided it’s plugged in to a power source), it appears to make phonecalls sensibly most of the time, the web browsing works, the email functionality works… and after a year of use it seems to perform as well as ever, and the screen still seems large & clear enough not to start coveting other phones.
So there we are – that was riveting, wasn’t it?
What’s the next thing? Inevitably it’s got to be 4G – although plan prices for the much faster connection are still a bit ouchy. Looking at current offers the Samsung Galaxy range seem to be the heroes although it’s not immediately apparent how one of these would benefit me over the current arrangement. Prices for new ones are in the £500-600 range, and there’s something galling about paying as much for a telephone as you would for a laptop.
Especially comparing that against my $20 Nokia 2010.
The Nokia Lumia range looks innovative-ish with their rather robustly specced camera features, although it’s a Windows mobile and though I know the OS has completely been reinvented since the HTC Tytn days, I still don’t trust it.
The only conclusion I can draw really is that you – dear reader – don’t need to be put through another phone-related retrospective now until 2020. Hooray!