my love affair with GSM hardware

Even more trivial than the last one! Some mobiles I loved.

Samsung ???

This was the first of them all in 2000-2001. A weird reverse-clamshell design that very rapidly developed dodgy contacts in the joint. But eh, I had a real, lasting relationship and I could send her texts from the union!

Siemens c55i

Neat and sort of German. With a big square INTERNET key to remind you that you could look at a small subset of the Web on it, if you wanted to spend an absurd amount of money. I took this one away to Vienna and ran up horrible roaming bills (see above) and went without for six months.

Nokia 3210

First Nokia. Smaller, thinner, more future-y. Lit up like a squid from within.

Nokia 6210

Ah, an enduring design classic. Really great, clicky but soft, good sized keys with lighted markers. Less Star Trek than 2001: A Space Odyssey. Real European design. Series 40 OS. Sound hardware. And when we moved into the new flat, I remembered that Royal Holloway computer centre still had a dialup pool, so we aligned the IR port and dialled in over the circuit voice channel, and we could load the blog. 2003 was a bit late for dialup though.

Nokia 6210i

Same as the 6210 but with a 1.3 megapixel cam. Operators had finally repented of trying to make everyone use MMS and therefore squeeze photos into the size mandated by the 3GPP standards group. Sadly, they also made the keys silvery and destroyed its austerity of design. This was the only one I ever lost, from a boozy working lunch at MCI.

Qtek 8100/HTC Amadeus

Working at MCI made that a nonproblem. Very soon we got one of these as a gimme. Technically this was the first smartphone I had, with MS Windows CE and an SD card slot. The back was designed fairly obviously to look a bit like some Apple products, and the whole thing was meant to be a “music phone”. That didn’t mean it came with any real storage capacity, and I added a 2GB SD card – at the time those cost real money. Having worked out how to configure the data access point, it meant I could read NANOG on the train of a morning until I got banned for three months for swearing. I also managed to permanently reduce the default camera resolution, so a whole holiday’s worth of snaps were thumbnails. It was this phone that I took to Singapore and Cape Town in one month and set my personal record mobile bill of £132.

BlackBerry ?

Vodafone sent us one of the BlackBerrys before they were designed to not be hideous, as a review of their hosted BlackBerry service. This was quite impressive, even if it was hard to stop it getting my colleague Sean Jackson’s e-mail. My partner was horrified by the blinking, commanding red light, I was delighted by the clickwheel. I took it to 3GSM in Barcelona. VF asked us for it back soon afterwards. I wonder why?

HTC ?

I had this one in early 2006. I can find similar ones, but only from at least a year later – or perhaps we got an early prototype? Anyway, it was similar to this one but with even fewer hardware controls, so only the horribly crap touchscreen. The first one I had with a touchscreen, or WiFi. Didn’t really work. It also destroyed the SD card full of songs. Bastards.

HP iPaq 6915w

This one was actually quite impressive in a slightly grim enterprisey way. It provided a touchscreen, a QWERTY keypad, WiFi, and GPS, and it worked when it wasn’t crashing. It also had a hard plastic cover that flipped over the screen. I remember deliberately taking a photo on board a plane from London to Dubai to get a GPS fix, and finding that the camera app would look up photos on Multimap (Multimap!) if it could. Also, looking up questions on the Buddha Bar’s WiFi from IMDB to settle an argument.

HP wanted it back.

BlackBerry Pearl

Around then, RIM discovered product design and suddenly BlackBerry devices didn’t need a tea cosy over them. The first of the new breed was this one, and RIM sent me one, which I took to Cape Town. It worked well and looked good, although it was made of glue and phone calls sounded really odd.

Nokia N73

3 UK announced a new product – the X-Series tariff, which offered Skype! on a mobile. They sent us one. I was impressed and paid for one myself. It was a damn good photo phone and a good all rounder, even if it wasn’t pretty. The Skype implementation was disappointing. But the camera was great.

HTC TyTN

I went to an Orange UK product launch. They said there were Nokia E61s going, but I got there late and they were all gone. I got one of these instead – a preview of the future, really. Windows again, with a large but not good touchscreen, and a slide-out QWERTY, and basically top specifications in everything, and a handy click-wheel. The first 3G device I had. My sister then needed a phone and the N73 turned up, so I offered her the gadget. She renamed it the Beast of Telecom but used it for ages.

Nokia E65

I changed operator to 3UK for the X series and stayed for the cheap Internet service. The E65 was part of Nokia’s attempt to outcompete RIM on looks – a shiny slide-out device. But the bit that got me was the fact it could read RSS feeds. I could check key blogs on the train!

Nokia E71

Ah, a genuine design classic this one. So much so I’ve still got it. Mine came in a mix of chrome, white plastic and white leather keys on the QWERTY. The late version of Symbian S60 it ran worked very well unless you wanted to write code for it, in which case you were basically in for a world of tiresome. It felt and looked great and everything built in worked great. And you could just USB it to any computer and wvdial it to get online.

Bizarrely, Nokia shipped it with a 200MB(!) SD card with some apps on it, rather like they sent out crappy tinny headphones with “music phones”. Also, the phones socket was at 90 degrees to the phone, so it wouldn’t drop into a pocket and never worked well.
Eventually I dropped it and the screen crazed, and I thought it was time for Android.

Samsung GT-i7500

A hacky mess. No QWERTY, which annoys me. Seriously buggy in every way. Made of tickytacky, ugly. Atrocious battery life and radio performance. Crashy, although that’s the Google’s fault. At least the headphone cockup was avoided. Perhaps some of the ‘droid issues are fixed in updates, but the updates never come. (On the other hand, Nokia announced in about 2008 that you could update your phone’s software to the latest version…but it would overwrite all the data on it. Thanks!)

And if it runs out of internal storage, it silently drops SMS messages. Fail.


  1. My phone history is much less impressive than yours: mostly Nokias of the 6250 sort of line, the last one I still got as my voice phone, with one Sony Ericsson inbetween which had the annoying habit of blowing up my battery — twice.

    Also got an HTC Wildfire now, as a cheap pocket internet device.




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