Phoning It In: A Journey

September 29, 2014

This post was first published in September 2014 (one of my very first!) and has been updated to reflect my new purchase.


I seem to have accidentally spent my first three blog posts talking about fashion-related matters. (Ed: this is back at the start when I thought I'd be blogging about a range of random stuff . . . and settled largely on fashion and beauty.)

Surely this isn’t an entirely bad thing, but to avoid typecasting, I’ve gone for a different topic for this particular post, about something very dear to me. 

My phone.
[Image credit]
I’ve always loved the concept of having a mobile phone. From those heady days in the late 90s when my Dad was the first person in the area to have an analogue brick clipped to his belt and we would borrow it just to pretend to talk in it while walking importantly down the street (like as country teenagers we had important business to take care of on the move) to now when I look at reviews of the iPhone 6 and covet it unnecessarily (and, frankly, ridiculously) – I just love the concept, the function, the form of the mobile phone and each new advancement in technology makes me want another newer, better, faster, prettier one. 

I'm an unashamed technoslut. 

I thought I’d take a walk back through my portable phone history with the help of Mobile Softpedia - where I have sourced all images. We begin in 1998, at age 19, with a bright yellow Alcatel One Touch Easy ordered off the back of a magazine through the only telco provider in Australia at the time, Telstra.

At the time, this phone was cutting edge. (Actually, mobile phones themselves were still pretty cutting edge, especially for teenagers). It had a slidey plastic bit (not pictured) that protected the keypad in the days before auto-lock screens, a pull-up antenna, AA battery back-up and a two line dot matrix screen. And it came in COLOURS! Up until then, most phones were uniformly ugly charcoal bricks and I got many comments whipping this bad boy out in a time where they were still quite uncommon, particularly in regional areas like Port Hedland.

I received my first text message on this phone, from my friend Daniel, unbeknownst to me at the time, and when we met up that day, he said “Did you get the message I sent you?”

I looked at the screen and there was a tiny envelope in the corner.  We mucked around a bit in the text menus before finding the inbox and message which read “hey i’ll be there at 7 cheers daniel

I had this phone for about two years and took it to Melbourne with me where it was my only (and expensive) source of communication for some time until I found a flat and got a landline (which spent 90% of the time plugged in to dial-up internet anyway). I was then offered one of the free handset upgrades they used to hand out like lollies back in the day and I, like almost everyone else in the world, chose this popular little number:

The Chuck Norris of the mobile phone world
Yes ma'am, the good old Nokia 5110 – robust, unbreakable and apparently so simple and reliable that people who tire of today’s complicated smart phones are paying up to $1500 for a working one.

What I (and obviously millions of other people) loved about this phone was the customisation. There was an infinite availability of affordable after-market snap-on covers. I had a metallic hot pink one with a button-activated flip cover which was the height of coolness as well as a custom one I blinged myself using sparkly clear nail polish on a black cover. It started up with a welcome message that could say what you liked AND you could have your own logo on the home screen.

It was an excellent phone and deserves the nostalgia it generates. So much so, that when it fell out of my pocket in a taxi one boisterous night and was never recovered, I got another one. No such thing as Find My Phone back in those days.

Now, I can’t be certain because it was some time ago but it’s entirely possible I lost this one too within a short space of time and had to get *yet* another one. Initially, this time I recall getting some kind of wack Motorola, using it for 5 minutes and returning it for another 5110. Pretty sure I curbed my drinking for a while after that, although obtaining these phones didn’t seem to have much of a financial impact and I was not exactly raking in the big bucks as a word processing operator at the time.

Then came the Nokia 3210.

Check out those sick graphics!
I think this was the first one you could program tones in yourself with the ringtone creator instead of using one of the six standard tones. It had interchangeable front AND back covers and I had a nice dusty pink number.

I got this one soaked at the Melbourne Cup in 2001 and it fizzled but came back to life. If I remember rightly, the screen was water damaged, so I was legitimately in the market for a new one.

By this time other operators had entered the market and it was newcomer Vodafone who enticed me over with the blue back light of the Nokia 8250 . Now, I'm not 100% convinced this is the correct model but it's the only one I could find that looks about right and it definitely had the blue back light.

Blue!! OMG, technology
There wasn't the opportunity to port your number over in those days so I was given the option to choose a new one that I incorporated my name into. This is the same one I have today and the name thing still gets novelty value when I remember to mention it. Luckily, my original choice of 04XGO BLUES was unavailable.

I believe this was one of the first ones to come out with downloadable ringtones which was a major deal for me. There were internet sites that would text you free ringtones without scammy subscription fees. I remember getting Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back In Anger” and being amazed at the (perceived) quality of it. There was a screensaver and different profiles (outdoor, meeting etc) and it VIBRATED!! You could set different ringtones for different people which I loved, especially when the “hot boys” ringtone went off.

I also had one of those stickers that you put on the back and it flashed when a call was coming in, as was the style at the time.

Can you still get these, because I secretly still quite enjoy them
Blue was amazing but then in 2003 came the dawn of colour . . . and a CAMERA!

This is the Sharp GX10i. I only know this because I spent a good 15 minutes trawling back through my long-defunct Livejournal to find it.

For your interest, here is the post that heralds its arrival in September 2003 . . .

Ooh la la. Guess what I got at lunchtime . . . a new phone!!! A Sharp GX10i courtesy of Vodafone's very kind offer to have me upgrade my handset for $0 upfront and continue my current plan. Oooh yeah. For those who don't know, it's the flip sort in the Vodafone ads and dead sexy.

I have owned it for a little under an hour and I have already:

  • Taken several pics of myself* with the remarkably good quality inbuilt camera
  • Sent one of said pics as an MMS message to D
  • Received a call
  • Received two text messages
  • Downloaded Blur's "Girls & Boys" polyphonic ringtone, and rang myself to test it 
  • Had a go at Stormy Sight, the inbuilt Java game with its funky soundtrack
  • Put all the people in my phone book into groups
  • Other explorations and customisations

Obviously, having waaaay too much fun to be bothered working! I keep looking at it fondly as it sits in the little shoe phone holder on my desk waiting for me to play with it again. Soon, my pretty. Soon.

* Selfie pioneer right here

Less than a megapixel, this phone's camera was capable of taking a semi-reasonable photo in excellent lighting conditions and, as excitedly mentioned in the post, featured the availability to use actual tinny versions of popular songs as polyphonic ringtones. I had a terrible version of No Doubt’s “Hella Good” that had an out-of-sync back beat. The phone itself wasn’t that great, as I recall, it was kind of ugly with its stubby little antenna and boring grey body.

However, it does feature as the titular character's phone of choice in the movie version of Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason which I was quite pleased about. 

Do Sharp even still make phones??

Next up . . .

The Nokia 6101 flip phone had a colour outside screen and I thought it was just ah-ma-zing. I got it just before flying over to Melbourne for a holiday, back when Jetstar still landed at Avalon. I remember spending the entire hour bus trip from Avalon to Melbourne with my face buried in it. It had a full colour version of Snake 3 which was as addictive as its predecessor. My Sharp was given away to my hosts immediately while I revelled in downloadable themes and MP3 ringtones. 

For some reason, probably because it was new and different and the screen was huge, circa 2006 I moved on to the Nokia 6282 slide.

This phone promised much but delivered little and was annoyingly blocky and ugly, especially compared to the neat curved flip job I had before. 

Towards the end of its term with me, the slide functionality started to fail, so the screen wouldn't register or the software would freeze. Probably the worst phone I’ve had and the last Nokia I would own, illustrating their lack of dominance in the new phone market.

Some time in 2007, I was bemoaning this cruddy phone to a work colleague who had a lovely hot pink shiny metallic Sony-Ericcson Z750 flip phone with a cool dynamic outside display.
All I had to do was go down and switch to the 3 network and I could have one of my own right away. So I totally did. 

This was an amazing phone, one of the best I've owned. Not only did it look fantastic and have a nice colour screen but also an extremely addictive Tetris style game plus good internet connectivity. I could easily access my emails and Facebook on this bad boy as well as store music on it for ringtones that didn’t sound half bad. To this day, whenever I hear Devo’s “Girl U Want”, I instinctively reach for my pocket.

I used it for considerably longer than previous handsets because I was perfectly happy with it and held onto it long after it became defunct because it was so pretty and awesome and I couldn’t bear the thought of throwing it away.

Then I became obsessed with the thought of a touch screen and, after much consideration, went for a Samsung Omnia i900
Just looking at it again makes me agitated

MISTAKE. It was incredibly wack. Why didn’t I go for an iPhone? I’m really not sure. I don't think they were available with 3 at the time or some such nonsense.

The screen was a haptic style touch screen, and came with a stylus that allegedly detected handwriting. After the novelty wore off, I tried to pretend I liked it because, you know, touch screen and early adopter. But really, it wasn’t anywhere as good or nice looking as the Sony-Ericcson. Ironic really, that it put me off Samsungs because my next phone choice was made at the crossroads and would influence my smartphone future for quite a few years henceforth.

Yes, it was over to the dark side with the Apple iPhone 4

I waited a long, long time for this phone, putting up with the stupid Omnia until my contract got to the point towards the end of 2010 where I could upgrade without heavy financial penalty (how times change) and the new model was released. When that box arrived at work, I about lost my mind with excitement, much to the amusement of my colleagues and family.

I believe I received it on a Monday and that Friday, after running to my car after work in the dark and cold rainy night, I realised I was suddenly sans iPhone. Several retraced trips, a scour of all possible locations and a police report turned up nothing. This was absolutely devastating. I rang it off the hook, as did my friends and someone picked it up once but declined to answer or come forth. I hadn’t lost a phone since younger partying days in Melbourne and it was not befitting my current status. Those around me were as sympathetic as if I had lost a family member.

That’s how I ended up paying off two iPhone 4s over the course of a two-year contract, which was not an enjoyable position to be in. Not to mention the fact I had to go back to using the sucky Omnia for a fortnight or so which I had gleefully consigned to the scrapheap until the replacement came in. Soon after, Apple released "Find My iPhone". Indeed.

The iPhone though. It transcended all things. The screen, the retina display, the camera. The almost silky feel of the glass screen (all three of the screens over the course of my ownership). The functionality. The apps. iMessage. FaceTime. The ability to store much music, allowing my iPod Classic to take over home music duty and photos. 

I loved it.

It was put out to pasture briefly at the end of 2013 when I got my next and current phone, spending some time in a Fisher Price phone holder for my baby daughter but has since found new life with my husband. He who had always sworn against them, until his elderly Nokia e900 "dumbphone" finally gave up the ghost.

Which brings me to my next one, the iPhone 5s.

Bringing all the beauty, form and function of the iPhone 4 with a more elegant, longer screen and lovely champagne gold colour, I updated to iOS8 last week and am enjoying the additional functionality, particularly with the camera.

So much so, I haven't really investigated the iPhone 6 and Plus with any intent yet. I do have an iPad so I'm not really in the market for a phablet but who knows, by the time the iPhone 7 comes out around September 2015, I might be ready for a change . . .

Who am I kidding, I'll be champing at the bit for it. Take my money, Apple. Take it now.

Update: Two years later and I had been hanging for an upgrade for months, resentfully eyeing off lovely rose gold iPhone 6s' in blogger photos until I received my 10 year anniversary reward bonus at work which I had earmarked for new phone purposes. At this point, it was only three months to wait until the release of the new iPhone so I started googling release notes and rumours and you know what? For the first time, I was underwhelmed. Severely underwhelmed. I think what did it was the removal of the standard headphone jack. Not only do I have tiny earholes which require a certain brand of ear bud headphone not whatever lighting ported product Apple intend to flog but I also use it with an auxiliary cable for music in the car. I started googling the Samsung Galaxy series. And then . . .

OMG, I love it. LOVE IT. For the first time in years, I can customise the look and feel of my phone screen (you better believe I had a rose gold theme installed within minutes), the camera is amazing, the screen is fantastic, the swipe text thing is genius and all manner of other fun new discovery stuff that comes with moving over to a whole new platform. My initial hesitance based on being reliant on iTunes was quashed as I simply dragged, dropped and instantly converted into the new one. I discovered I had very few paid apps I actually used and we still have Apple products in the house so I can still use them if I want.

The only thing I'm really working through at the moment is notifications. I like the badge app icon count that Apple provide but not all apps support it on Android. I want to be notified of things like Hangouts and Facebook Messenger messages but not with sound or buzzing. I'll get there though!

Have you owned any of these phones? Do you love upgrading as soon as your plan finishes or do you cling to your old bricks?

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