5 more years of black mirrors

In 2009 I thought it would be gripping and insightful to write about all the mobile phones I’d ever owned. And then in 2014 it seemed appropriate to update the list with what had come next. So, another 5 years on in 2020 it seemed only fair to thrill and regale you further with stories about phones. Strap in.

It’s kinda interesting that the first 8 or 9 years of mobile phone ownership saw a many & varied procession of different shapes, colours, manufacturers and capabilities, and saw me go through 13 phones between about 1999 and 2009. 2009-2014 saw a further 6 phones – with phones 13 and 15 (iPhone 3G and HTC Desire) being of the now-ubiquitous “fondleslab” form factor. And since then, that’s where we’ve (all) stayed! In a similar way to the trajectory of neon signs in Las Vegas, individuality and design has been usurped by multi-functional software & specs.

20. Samsung Galaxy S6: my final observation in the previous phone post was about “where to go next”, and I remarked that the Samsung Galaxy looked good, but at around £500 it seemed silly to spend what you would on a laptop on a new phone. And yet, that’s exactly what I did.

I think partially I was lured by the promise of a Kickstarter campaign – The Superbook – a laptop “shell” comprising keyboard, screen, touchpad and battery, which would extend your phone’s Android OS as a desktop, and effectively treat the phone as a laptop – taking advantage of the increased specs in the inevitable upgrade cycle.

Of course, the inevitable “Kickstarter effect” took place and despite the Feb 2017 delivery promise, it disappeared in a flurry of excuses and lost money. A promising successor project – The PhoneBook – is currently only 6 months overdue, so we’ll see if lightning strikes twice. Although this time they’ve got COVID-19 to blame as well, so, fair play.

I haven’t actually said anything about the Galaxy I realise. Errm. It was pretty good? Android… good camera… good screen… yeah?

21. Samsung Galaxy S8: Liz managed to bag some deal via her business so I unexpectedly upgraded to the Galaxy S8, which was – I’ve got to say – an incredible bonus. Tangibly it felt like more of the same, and if either of those Kickstarter projects had manifested I daresay I’d have been a Very Happy Camper.

The only tangibles I can recall (other than the phone seeming exponentially sexier than its predecessor) were a more awkwardly placed fingerprint sensor next to the lens (resulting in Many Soft Focus Photos), and it being the first phone I’d managed to drop & smash the back of within days of it arriving.

Quite why the market’s driven phones to be made almost entirely of glass is a mystery to me given the relationship they seem to have with gravity, and equally galling was the fact that I’d been keeping it in a case for exactly that reason and only slipped it out on this day because the headphone plug wouldn’t fit through the case. And in that moment – possibly due to the shiny glass – leapt out of my pocket towards its fate on the brickwork of Anchor Road. £120 to fix, apparently.

This phone was also the first one I’d ever had stolen from me – pickpocketed in the Paris Metro – which if anything REALLY illustrated how dependant we become on these multi-functional devices, as I had to cancel so many accounts and change passwords, and so on owing to all of the apps, etc. that were on there with my personal data. Hell of a far cry from the days of the Nokia 2010.

22. OnePlus 7: So on to my current phone – the Chinese-manufactured OnePlus 7. And I’ve got to say: I’m *immensely* pleased with this phone. Its on-screen fingerprint reader is a plus, and it seems to have limitless memory & processing power. The camera’s great. I opted for the 7 over the 7 Pro because the 7 Pro has the motorised pop-up camera, which I surmised I’d probably snap off within days of receiving it. Great battery life. Just all around a magnificent phone. And, should this PhoneBook ever arrive, probably a formidable “laptop replacement” for emails & browsing.

Of course, it’s probably reporting everything I do back to Beijing. Which makes a change to just Zuckerberg getting it, I suppose.

So that’s the list.

No idea what’s next. Presumably 5G will make inroads, but then as we all look to be working from home for the forseeable future maybe we won’t need mobiles after all and they’ll just end up being pocketable tablets.

Speaking of tablets – it’s worth noting that round these parts that’s a form factor that’s totally gone the way of the Netbook. I had an iPad 2, which is rotting in a drawer somewhere through a combination of no longer being OS upgradeable, and a bump on the case making it near-impossible to seat the charging cable… and a Kindle Fire which I optimistically bought thinking it would prompt me to read more, but the lack of any public transport in my life these days means that reading time’s a bit of a non-thing.

And then I put a bucket on my head.

(Is anyone still reading this?)