A Cross-Decade Comparison: The Nokia N95 vs. the Samsung S9

I’ve been running LineageOS on a Samsung Galaxy S9 for a few weeks now and I have come away very impressed indeed. Actually I have only found three issues since I’ve started using it.

The first and somewhat limiting one is that the Wifi client functionality is broken until a reboot after I’ve used the device for Wifi tethering. The second issue I found is that the S9 grants access to my address book to a remote Bluetooth device such as a car’s entertainment system despite me having disabled address book sharing during the pairing process. Disabling it again later on worked but by then, my address book was already in the car. And finally, the S9 doesn’t react reliably when I want to resume the music player while the display is off. But apart from these things, LineageOS runs absolutely smoothly on the device.

When contemplating a bit on progress in the past 10 years, I noticed that there are only a few use cases I have for the S9 that were not possible 10 years ago.

Price Sensitivity

One thing that bothered me a bit was the high price of the device of over €600 euros. But looking back 10 years, the Nokia N95 I had at the time also cost well over €600 and I didn’t blink twice then, perhaps because it was normal at the time as there wasn’t much between high priced smartphone flagship devices and simple telephony oriented dumb phones. Times have definitely changed as for €150 to €200, one can get very decent Android based smartphones today. Getting LineageOS on those, however, is a bit of another matter, which, however, will hopefully be resolved at some point as well.

Things That Staid the Same

But back to my use cases. Indeed, they have not changed very much since then. Browsing the web and email, I did that 10 years ago with the Opera mobile browser and a closed source email program. Wifi functionality was on board as well so I didn’t have to use the expensive cellular network for Internet access at home or at work. Listening to podcasts and reading RSS feeds, I did that, too, already 10 years ago, there were apps for this (see here and here). Music, obviously as well. Messaging, yes, of course, it was SMS at the time while in the meantime I am using ‘Conversations’ and my own federated server infrastructure. And of course there was ‘social’ media already, I very much liked Jaiku, which I much preferred to Twitter. Today, it’s Mastodon. Also, I used the N95 a lot for connecting my notebook to the Internet over a serial/USB cable. And finally, the N95 was the first smartphone I used for car navigation, it was my first device that had a GPS receiver built in.

New Stuff

Things I didn’t have at the time were calendar and address book synchronization with my PC and other mobile devices and I was already craving for that at the time. Also, I didn’t have an Owncloud/Nextcloud for sharing files across devices and with other people. And Wifi Tethering was also something that only made it into mobiles with Android 2.2 in 2010, even though I and others were already speculating about and hoping for such functionality in 2006. And one major thing I also didn’t have at the time was an open source based operating system and open source applications on my mobile device. So this is definitely THE most important advance that happened over the past 10 years, apart from devices becoming more powerful and having bigger screens with higher resolutions.

That Revolutionary Feeling 10 Years Ago

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely don’t want to go back to my N95 10 years ago. However, this device was such a major leap forward at the time, it really felt special and new. A real revolution and Nokia’s advertisement at the time pretty much reflected what I felt about the device. The S9 is great as well, but that wonderful feeling of having a game changer in my hand is certainly not there. A bit of a pity.