With tribal marketing and fan cultures such as OnePlus communities, Xiaomi Mi fans, and Apple’s cheerleaders, smartphone brands have become like sports teams. And every fan has its legendary players, who have made history and captured the imagination of supporters. As tech journalists and reviewers, we at AndroidPIT often force ourselves out of the stands and into other ultra-tech corners.
But since we’re technophiles first and foremost, we’ve inevitably had our darlings, phones that have left a lasting impression on us, that have aroused a passion for this or that manufacturer, or that we simply look back on with a great deal of nostalgia.
Julia: the Palm Pre was a real game-changer for me
I bought my first smartphone about ten years ago. It must have been in 2009 or 2010 and it was my treasure after I traded it in for a Sony Ericsson W595 in hot pink. The Palm Pre could be charged wirelessly by induction (Touchstone was the name of the accessory) and I remember the small illuminated joystick under the screen and the touchpad next to it.
The Palm Pre offered a QWERTY keyboard, which already reminded me of a Blackberry. The keyboard came out by pushing the sliding screen up. Then the handy little piece turned into a smartphone with ergonomic keys and a back where you could see your reflection.
I still wonder today how we managed to type on such small smartphones and not complain. But it was a very good touch-tone phone that I would like to see again, it’s a shame that Blackberry finally gave up.
I really liked the brand new Linux-based webOS on the Palm Pre – unfortunately, it didn’t have the success I expected – and I used the button smartphone for about a year and then exchanged it for a brand new iPhone 4. If I hadn’t been passionate about Apple’s smartphone since the launch of the first iPhone, the Palm Pre would certainly have been a faithful companion for much longer.
– Julia Froolyks, AndroidPIT German
Stefan: The Nokia 7650 made me enthusiastic about apps
In 2002, Internet Connection Sharing on Windows XP was a much-ignored feature. Just like Bluetooth, it was still a niche technology. Both together, nevertheless, provided me with my first big smartphone aha-experience. With the help of a Bluetooth dongle, which cost €60 at the time, it was possible to chat from my Nokia 7650 even in my parents’ garden – not via SMS, but via IRC client! Who else remembers IRC?
While QuakeNet was THE platform for gamers among the IRC servers at that time, much of EFNet revolved around “Warez”. There were even several dedicated channels just for Symbian S60 – the operating system on the Nokia 7650. With my youthful moral attitude to piracy, it almost felt a bit like the first App Store when you scooped Java apps (some more useful than others) directly from the DCC bots to your Nokia phone via the lousy Bluetooth connection.
What were the app highlights? A universal remote control to switch off all TVs via the IR blaster, a VNC client working on both sides (with terrible usability), an app to use the Nokia 7650 camera as a Bluetooth webcam, various Java games – and of course the IRC mentioned before. There was even a Symbian S60 port of Doom back then. However, at 3MB it was ridiculously large, as the available memory in the 7650 was only 3.6MB.
Honorable mention: the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 retired my reflex
Last October, when I picked up my trekking backpack from the Berlin-Tegel luggage carousel, the usual feeling of “I forgot something” I had before the holidays came back to me. My dual purpose Reflex was still on my desk! I don’t remember ever leaving my Reflex at home, even on a short weekend break – so imagine the shock I felt before a backpacking trip through Indonesia.
So my only camera for the next two and a half weeks would be the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. And honestly, I can count on one hand the times when I missed the clutter of my SLR. And those moments were also due to the fact that the camera software wasn’t yet fully developed when the Mi Note 10 was launched – and some of the photos were spoiled by nasty artifacts.
With the shift to large image sensors in smartphones and extremely flexible sensor networks, the difference with “real cameras” will be made up in 2020 – at least for private use. Our DSLRs in the photo studio doesn’t have to worry about that right now. Privately, I haven’t taken a single picture with my SLR camera since last November’s trip.
– Stefan Möllenhoff, AndroidPIT German
David: the Nokia 8210 taught me phones were fashion accessories
Back in 1999, the Nokia 8210 was the desirable phone as a fashion accessory. I remember drooling over it for hours on the Nokia website at my dad’s PC, hooked up to a 56k modem. I’d stare at the product images until my mother kicked me off the internet because she needed to use the phone. I even tried to print the manual once, but I’d used up all my dad’s printer ink on The Slim Shady LP covers for CD-RW bootlegs.
By mid-2000, the fawning over the dinky little Nokia has gotten so bad that I just had to get my hands on one. I’d seen an 8210 in real life for the first time – a mate’s much older brother was flashing one – and it was a turning point for me. I just had to have it
I was 14 at the time. I’d saved up £80 from various evening and weekend jobs I had at the time, but the eBay auction I got into escalated and I eventually won my first 8210 for £118. I had to beg, steal, and borrow the rest to pay up. It was totally worth it.
The Nokia 8210, for me, represents the first time phones stepped into the world of fashion and must-have trends. The 8210 was the same as the 3210 I already owned in so many ways, and yet so catastrophically different in every other. There was just something so attractive, so cool, so unlike everything else that it blew my mind. It’s no wonder that in 2015, Vice magazine claimed that drug dealers in the UK were swapping crack for Nokia 8210s. Even more than a decade after its release, it was still a phone for scenesters, albeit the needs of the user and the ‘scene’ had somewhat changed
I eventually parted with the 8210 for a Motorola Razr some years later. A move that continued the trend, let’s face it. But I miss those days when phones were all about how cool they looked. Nobody argued about the operating system or the features or the battery life back then. Those things were so trivial. Nokia has already brought some classic handsets from the past back to life on KaiOS, such as the 3310 and the 8110G, but give me an 8210 with WhatsApp and Google Maps and I’d probably ditch my Galaxy S20 in a heartbeat.
– David McCourt, AndroidPIT English
Antoine: the OnePlus 5 made me tech-woke
After the fascinating columns of my colleagues, I really feel like a “normie” or a tech noob. Before writing this article, I’ve been racking my brain to find an original phone, maybe an old forgotten model, to give a cool and retro touch to my anecdote.
Anyway, I didn’t want to look like a rookie who just discovered tech. I first thought of the Sony Ericsson T610, released in 2003, I was 10 years old at the time. Of course, I knew nothing about this model or the tech at that time, so I have to admit that I found the name of the phone by typing “old Sony Ericsson half grey half black” into Google.
But this is the first phone my father gave me. It was so that I could call him once I arrived at the airport in Paris, after flying alone with my sister from Germany, where I lived with my mother, to visit him every summer vacation.
But let’s change the subject. I prefer to use an example much, much more recent than my colleagues. So if I had to name the phone that had the most influence on me, I would choose OnePlus 5. Yes, it’s a modern smartphone released in 2017, I know.
But it’s really the model that made me aware of the importance and interest of a smartphone’s technical specifications. It made me more “woke,” or “tech-woke.” It’s the first Android smartphone I paid for out of my own pocket while I was still in journalism school.
Before that, I was just using the iPhone 3G and 5 and 6 Plus like everyone else, without really thinking about the price-to-performance ratio, like a spoiled child. The OnePlus 5, the smartphone of the year for many specialized sites at the time, somehow reinforced my interest in tech, and smartphones in particular.
It is by using it and reading the various tests to compare it to the iPhone 7, which I found too expensive, that I really got interested in the hardware issue, Chinese smartphones that innovate and shake up the European market. In fact, I refined the way I approached this segment of tech (smartphones), while most of my knowledge and interests still revolved around video games, consoles, and PCs.
Basically, it’s the trigger that turned me into a real smartphone nerd, that got me out of what I would clumsily compare to technical illiteracy. He made me less stupid… technically anyway.
– Antoine Engels, AndroidPIT French
Share your own anecdotes in the comments below the line.