Back in 2009 I posted the list of the mobile phones I owned from 1998 up to that point. Back then and even today it is interesting to see how technology evolved in those 10 years from voice + sms only to GPRS and first Internet connectivity to 3G and multimedia. So almost another 10 years have passed since then and things have changed even more since then. Time to have a look.
2008 – The Nokia N95
Back in 2009 the Nokia N95 was my main device for more than a year already. To set things into perspective, it came on the market in 2007, the same year as the first iPhone. I loved the N95, it was perfect for its time with a huge color screen (for its time), great camera, great keypad for T9 typing, fast 3G HSPA Internet connectivity, Nokia maps navigation, etc. etc. etc. This advertising video from back then pretty much says it all.
2010 – The Nokia N8
After 2007 touch screens became the new normal thanks to Apple iPhones and gave a lot of people in the industry a run for their money. While Nokia and others were far advanced on everything else in mobile they had a hard time catching up in this area and to me the Nokia N8 was the first worthy successor to my N95 so I bought one at the end of 2010 for €399. The touch screen might still not have been as good as on iPhones but at the time I was not yet ready to move away from the Symbian operating system. Symbian was slowly opening up, open sourcing a lot of things and by 2010 I was firmly going down the open source route so that was a good thing to me. Again, to set things into comparison, the first Android phone, the HTC Dream was launched in September 2008, i.e. almost two years before. It was obviously even more open source than Symbian but Symbian was still the way to go for me.
2012/13 – The Samsung S3-mini and the Nokia 808
But Apple and Google kept innovating at a relentless pace and Nokia was falling further and further back. So at 2012 I finally bought my first Android phone, a Samsung Galaxy S3-mini with an ST-Ericsson NovaThor 2G/3G chipset, no LTE yet! By that time Android had pretty much caught up with the features I had on my Nokia phones so I started to like the experience.
I wasn’t quite ready to completely switch to Android, however, and also used a Nokia 808 PureView. Being the last Symbian based Nokia phone I had to have it because of its stunning camera with optical zoom. Its a bit ironic, I still use the Nokia 808 today in 2017 when I want to quickly digitize documents at home as the camera produces crystal clear results even in far than optimal light conditions.
I kept using the 808 until the end of 2013 but by this time, Android was far ahead of Symbian. Nokia then committed commercial suicide by deciding to switch to the Windows Phone operating system instead of evolving Maemo, their open source Linux based operating. At the time Maemo was seen as Symbian’s successor in Nokia and already used for quite some time for their early Internet tablets such as the Nokia N800, which I also used enthusiastically for some time a few years before. The operating system made it into one Nokia smartphone, the Nokia N900 and the device and its software got raving reviews. But the phone was practically sabotaged by Nokia’s CEO already announcing before its launch that it would be the first and last Nokia smartphone with Maemo. So it was not to be and appalled by the prospect of a combination of Nokia, Microsoft and closed source I moved on with a broken tech heart.
2014 The Fairphone 1
At the beginning of 2013 I became aware of Fairphone, a Dutch company with a mission to produce a smartphone that was as fair as possible to the environment and the people producing it. I ordered one early in 2013 and was very pleased when it was finally delivered almost one year later at the beginning of 2014. It was a great Android based device and I loved it, despite the limitation of the Mediatek chipset which was still only 2G/3G.
2014 The Samsung Galaxy S4
I probably would have stuck with the Fairphone for quite some time but LTE networks had quite matured by 2014 and 3G started to feel a bit slow. So I moved on to a Samsung Galaxy S4 with a Qualcomm chipset in August 2014, my first smartphone with LTE on board. The other main reason I moved to the S4 was that one could install another operating system on it. It didn’t come a minute too soon as I was becoming quite concerned with my Android devices talking to Google all the time. So I installed CyanogenMod Android with as little Google proprietary software on top as possible. In addition I blocked all communication with google.com on the device and the device felt again like I owned and controlled it again.
2015 – 2017 The Samsung Galaxy S5
In September 2015 I wanted to have a backup option in case I dropped the device or if it failed for another reason so bought a second phone. Instead of an S4 I opted to go for a Samsung Galaxy S5 which, by the time, also had good support from CyanogenMod. Also, it supported a number of additional LTE bands which has come in handy in the past two years during my trips to the US and Asia. Having moved from CynanogenMod to LineageOS in 2017 I still use the S5 as my main device today at the end of 2017.
The move to touch, LTE and Android
At the end of 2017, nothing is as it was in 2007 with the Nokia N95. Back then the N95 was still somewhat seen as something for early adopters, geeks and nerds. Today, everyone has a smartphone and networks have evolved beyond anything I would have expected in 2007. Keypads on phones have disappeared, screen size and processing power has increased dramatically, early smartphone operating systems such as Symbian have faded away and the mobile world is ruled by a duopoly of Android and iOS. Fortunately, at least one is open source and allows to explore and innovate on mobile devices like it wasn’t possible before.