This morning I was reading about keitai culture or Japanese mobile phone culture. It had me going back in time thinking about my first few phones and so I thought, before I forget the memories, I’d share the history of phones that sit far too comfortably in my pockets every waking moment of my life.
Yep, I had one of the famous Nokia 3310s. I was in middle school, probably around 2004. It was the first device to introduce me to the eventual addiction we’ve all acquired (if you’re reading this from your phone, I feel you). I got it around the same time as the Moto Razor came out, which immediately made me uncool at school.
I don’t have too many memories of the phone other than it was easy to text with and it has a snake game. The one good thing about the Nokia was it was small enough to skateboard with and also it took damage like a pro. I know it has a history of being a brick, I can confirm it really was tough as nails.
The only reason I got a cellphone was because my parents were letting me take the bus home alone and if I needed anything between taking the bus and getting home, I had some way to contact them. It didn’t matter that nearly every kid in my entire school had one already.
Blackberry Palm Pearl
I remember when my father first got this phone. He was fiddling around with installing apps and purchasing things like trackball colors, themes, and tiny unless apps. Yet, it was amazing, and I wanted one but my parents weren’t even playing with the idea of buying me such an expensive phone.
When Microsoft announced its entry into the smartphone market, my father was first in line to order one. This meant I was getting a fantastic hammy down and unfortunately for my Dad, it wasn’t worth the upgrade to whatever Windows phone it was. He ended up getting a Palm Pre shortly after and the boys in the house were sporting Blackberrys for life.
This may have been my first introduction to “hardware hacking” and tinkering. I had bought a replacement silver shell off eBay which let me give it a fresh coat of paint. I also installed weird MapleStory games and even an NES emulator on it. I cycled between dozen of themes and could never stick with a single trackball backlight. I loved this phone and I kept it probably from 2007 all the way until my first iPhone in 2012.
The Pearl was good to me. I texted countless girls via T9, and thanks to the camera photos, too! Damn getting a girl to spend texting money to send you a photo was the bomb — you kids got it easy these days.
Oh, and how could I forget texting T9 on this bad boy! This was, no, is the perfect keyboard. The extra two columns of keys gave more flexibility and rapid-fire was so easy. I could text literally blind and write a perfect text, something I’ve never been able to do in the touch screen generation. You don’t know how many times I had this phone in my hoodie, I’d read a text and continue to act like I was listening to my Dad talk while firing away another message — those were the days.
iPhone 5 / iPhone 5S
This is the start of the dark ages of the smartphone for me. I think Apple phones are great, apps are great, programming apps on them has been my career since 2010… it’s all great. But I went from configuring every bit of UI and having access to any 3rd party app I could dream of to being told here’s how you use a phone.
Then being told, touch screens are the future and you’ll never have a keyboard again. As a teenager, I knew the iPhone was the future but I couldn’t afford it and I loved my Blackberry keyboard.
In 2012, after 2 years of programming iOS apps for a living, I joined a company that provided me with a development phone, an iPhone 5. And after using the same Pearl for five years, I was ready for the change but man I hated touch screen typing. I guess starting it at age 20 really hindered my ability to transition to the future. I had owned a phone since 14 years old, yet iPhones made me look like I couldn’t type or spell for shit.
I still to this day hate using touch screen keyboards. I have google voice on my Macbook so I can keyboard text. Anything to not have to type more than two sentences on my phone.
If there’s any good that came out of switching to a modern phone was I was making a lot more short films with my friends. Still, it’s given me a career and I think the iPhone 5 design was the best design Apple ever released. When the iPhone 5S came out the company upgraded my device but that was the last iPhone I ever owned.
Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
In 2017 I had the opportunity to move to China as the company I had started was selected to be part of a hardware accelerator. Naturally, living in a foreign country you start traveling with an American phone and a Chinese phone.
The company provided us with a cheap Xiaomi device that was ok but, when we purchased them, they only had a pink one (champagne gold), which always got on my nerves. This was my first introduction to Android, and to my surprise, I was enjoying it a lot more than my iPhone.
Since the device was Chinese, I had to hack my way around installing the Google Playstore and VPNs — I was back in my Blackberry days. Carrying around two phones became bothersome and instead, I turned the device into my full-time one.
When I first got the device I was like, geez it’s too big but by the end of the first month, I was like damn my perfect iPhone 5 is too small. It was weird going from a 4-inch screen to a 5.5-inch — size, in this case, did matter.
The phone was great but it was one of the cheapest devices in the market at the time. I kept it for nearly 2 years until I cracked the screen. In China, it’s really easy to find cellphone repair shops, so I got it fixed and asked for a new battery but the dude did a jank-ass job, so I ended up buying my next phone, a…
Xiaomi Mix 3
Blame it on the lack of configuration, but after my first Xiaomi device, I fell in love with Android. I like the Xiaomi brand and I was still living in China, so I figured I’d wait until the company announced their next phone. I wanted something top of line, something worth investing into.
When they announced the Mix 3 I knew I had to get it. The screen is edge-to-edge and the front-facing camera is available via a sliding mechanic in between the screen and back. It works great, it feels more secure than having a camera looking at me all the times, and the screen size is massive.
I thought the 5.5-inch screen on the Redmi was the max I’d ever buy but again, I quickly became accustomed to the new 6.4-inch screen and never looked back.
By now it’s probably not a surprise I still have this 2018 phone and it’s going perfectly strong. I have COD Mobile on it and still MVP nearly every game, OSRS runs fantastic and I’ve yet to see any slow-down from firmware updates. This is my perfect phone. There is a 5G version that releases a year back, but I don’t really need it.
What might be a shocker is, the phone doesn’t work with American wireless bands. So I can’t take phone calls from it. I can call using Google Voice, but I can’t receive calls. Which, literally doesn’t change anything because I really don’t call anyone. Fortunately, 4G works great and all my apps do as well. I’ll be using this one for a while longer until it’s too slow or some new VR/AR technology comes along, I’ll be using this one for as long as possible.
So that’s 18 years of cell phone ownership and only six phones to account for it and only one I bought myself! Thinking on it, I’ve literally only bought a single cellphone in my entire life, the Xiaomi Mix 3.
I’m not the latest trends kind of guy and I get really comfortable in a single lane when it comes to technology. I highly doubt I’ll ever own another iPhone again but mainly because my iPad is more than enough for any apps I’m missing. You might wonder, will my next Android phone be a Xiaomi? Probably. I really like their devices, just next time I’ll make sure to get one that works in both countries. I’ve been keeping an eye on Linux Mobile phones, but I don’t think I want to hack around with a device anymore. I’ve found my perfect themes, all the apps I need and life is good. What more can you want from technology?