My Thirteen-Year History of Mobile Devices

Nokia 5190

This week Walt Mossberg wrote his final tech column for The Wall Street Journal. He’s been at it since 1991, and in those dark days before the tech blog explosion he held so much sway in the industry that WIRED magazine dubbed him The Kingmaker.

In his parting WSJ missive Walt chronicles a dozen tech highlights of the last two decades. Not to be outdone, I’ve come up with my own list of thirteen notable mobile devices in as many years. And as an added bonus, I’m not retiring! 😉

A quick disclaimer: Most of the links below lead to the site for my free ebook, only because it’s the logical go-to resource for the hardware that I’ve owned over the years.

2001: Nokia 5190

My first GSM phone from Fido, and my first experience with SMS. The customization available via XpressOn covers was icing on the cake.

I wrote about the other Nokias I’ve owned in a previous post.

2002: Handspring Treo 270

It wasn’t my first PDA phone (check my HoFo avatar) but it was my first good one, with a GPRS radio, a web browser and a huge amount of available Palm OS apps. The only thing it didn’t have was a camera.

2003: Mitsubishi mova D251i

I rented this pink for-girls-only DoCoMo phone for a week in Japan. It was my second experience with i-mode and my first with a camera phone. I easily blew through fifty bucks in data charges emailing photos from it, because I could.

2004: Sony Ericsson T610

My first camera phone back home. Also a really nice piece of industrial design. And it had Q-bert!

2005: Fido hiptop

Because unlimited data, that’s why. Also, a fantastic qwerty keyboard and my first experience with an on-board app store.

2006: HTC TyTN

It was somewhat of a tough choice between HTC’s first branded smartphone and Nokia’s E61. In retrospect I probably should have gone with the Nokia, but the TyTN had so much going for it — not the least of which was a UMTS radio which actually worked on Fido.

When I brought it with me on a trip to Seoul, Korea a local complimented me on it. Given the crazy, forward-thinking mobile technology there, that meant a lot to me.

2007: BlackBerry 8700g

In the early days of iPhone BlackBerry was in its stride. The only thing I missed from previous devices was a camera, and the only thing I couldn’t ultimately deal with was the craptacular desktop software for Mac OS at the time.

2008: Nokia E71

While the rest of the world was tasting the future with the iPhone 3G this Nokia fanboy was happily stuck in the present, using his favourite Eseries device of all time. The size and keyboard were perfect, the camera had a macro lens and it had a lanyard loop for a phone charm. Perfect.

2009: Nokia N86

Now this was a camera phone — the camera was so good that I gave up qwerty and made do with an old-school T9 number pad. It wasn’t a PureView, but for it’s day it was very, very good.

2010: Google Nexus One

My first Android and Nexus device got me off the Nokia fanboy train in short order. Even after I moved on to the next model, this first Nexus was still useful as a willing test subject for my early experiments with custom firmware.

2011: Motorola XT300 “Spice”

The BlackBerry Torch, a vertical qwerty slider, is probably my perfect form factor. So imagine my surprise and delight when Mobilicity started selling this $150 Android powered knock-off. It was slow and the camera was garbage, but there was also a lot to like — like the innovative trackpad on the back cover.

2012: Nexus 7

I resisted tablets for the longest time, and only bought the first-generation Nexus 7 as an ebook reader. But it proved itself so useful that at the end of the year it replaced my laptop on a trip to Hong Kong.

2013: Moto G

Wait, what?

It’s true, my device of the year is the humble Moto G. I would expect this year’s Nexus phone to be good; that the G offers so much for so little took me by complete surprise. I don’t currently own one, but have no reservations recommending it to someone on a budget.

… So if you were expecting a “top five list of devices that I trialled for HowardForums this year” there won’t be one, since you already know the winner!