Monday, June 01, 2009

The ghosts of smartphones past....

I've never owned my own mobile 'phone - it seems that my bosses have placed more value on being able to contact me than I've placed on owning my own handset. I suppose that there can't be many people who were in a positions where having your own 'phone was too expensive but mobiles were common enough for it to be a valid business tool. Engineers five years younger than me would have not thought twice about getting a cell 'phone.
Anyhow - we just switched over to iPhones at work and so I thought I list the last ten years of smartphones I've had - I suppose once 'phones could receive email and do data they became smarphones.

The 888 came out in 1999 and was the first handset I had that could do data - it had a built in GSM modem (at a mighty 9600 baud!) and would tether to my PDA (an HP Journada) and allow me to do email on the bus! It was also built like a tank and the battery lasted for days! It didn't have anything like a browser however.

The R380 was unusual in that the keyboard flipped away from the landscape touchscreen to reveal a very wide aspect display that did have a WAP browser and an email client. I used to browse Yahoo's news feeds on the train on the way back from the Big Brother studio in 2001. Like the 888 it was solid (although the flip out keyboard needed replacing once) and had excellent battery life. The keyboard was just mechanical - the buttons pressed on the touchscreen and the 'phone clearly knew where all the buttons were.

The original SPV was the first Windows Mobile (phone edition) handset on the market (I think) - it had GPRS data (2.5G if you will) and could run an IM client as well as browser and email. It struggled to playback MP3s whilst anything else was going on, but I used it for a year in 2003. Battery life was appalling and (like every other Windows powered device I've ever had) it crashed often.

The E200 was a bit better - a touch faster and it had a camera built in (my first handset with that). Build quality wasn't good and I recall most of Root6 having to get replacement handsets. The battery life seemed worse than the original SPV.

The C500 finally hit the sweet-spot of pewerful enough processor (for the OS) and decent battery life. This was the best 'phone-edition version of Windows Mobile I ever had. It was robust and the battery life was tolerable. I used one for a year and a half around 2005.

The M1000 was my first Windows Mobile PDA-format 'phone. I think it came at the end of Windows Mobile 2003 and so was man-enough for the OS. I love 'phones that do lots of stuff - camera, MP3 playback, document viewing etc. The slide-out keyboard was suprisingly usable.

The M5000 was a step backwards AFAIK - it had a cute little laptop form-factor and you could swivel the screen so that it was hidden in use - so you couldn't see who was calling! Terrible battery life along with a new version of the OS meant it struggled to be usable. One nice thing about it was that it had a 640x480 screen which meant video playback was good - I used to drop MPEG2 files straight from off-air recordings and they played back faultlessly.

The HTC Hermes suffered like the M5000 in that it was the first of their handsets to have Windows Mobile v.6 (they'd reverted to numbers rather than years) and so was too underpowered and (like most them!) the battery life only just lasted a day if (like me) you used it for a few calls, some emails and a podcast or two. I wasn't sorry to see this one go!

Until last week the HTC Kaiser was my PDA-phone and I felt that (with the possible exception of the M1000) it was the only Windows Smartphone that really cut the mustard. It was powerful enough to do everything, battery life was tolerable and the included TomTom GPS was excellent. I stopped using my car's GPS in favour of it - kinda ironic that now I have an iPhone (no turn-by-turn GPS) I'll be digging that one out of the bottom of the glove box!


Ben said...

A blast from the past!


martinjbaker said...

My first smartphone was a Palm 600 which I kept for years. Then in a rash moment of stupidity I moved to a HTC Windows Mobile model (can't remember which one) which was just a depressingly awful piece of junk.

I put up with it for just one week then left Orange and moved to a Blackberry Curve on Vodaphone which I liked a lot. Finally went to iPhone earlier this year and I was dubious about losing the physical keyboard but the benefits more than make up for it.