I was thinking about all the phones I've owned and how dramatically each one was an improvement of the other. Comparing what I have now (iPhone 4S) to my first phone (That BT Cellnet brick) - it's just remarkable the speed technology is improving, allowing us to do more and more, and in more beautiful ways.
The number one entry - The BT Cellnet brick and I have since discovered this is called the Philips Savvy (who knew?).
From memory, this was actually a good solid phone. 9 Speed dial numbers - assigned to the 9 number buttons on the front of course, the ability to SMS, and I think it could probably be used as an alarm. With an OS that simple, not much went wrong with it. I remember that being the phone I took to University - so 1999. 13 years?!
I'm sure I must have had something between the 'Savvy' and the Sony CMD J5 (notice no 'Ericsson') - but I cannot remember - I doubt this will pose too much trauma to people. So around 2000-2001 I got hold of this phone and it was quite a cool phone for the time, a really loved the look and feel of it. Weighed nothing and was pretty slick. Although it had a greyscale display, I remember it having quite a cool UI, which you navigated with the multi angled scroll wheel (up & down, 'away from you click' and 'towards you click') on the left hand side for your thumb (very cool) and it had a half decent speaker with nice ringtones. This phone met its death on the Broadstairs seafront during my summer swan song to non working life. After a 10 pub crawl at Broadstairs' finest establishments, I decided to run into the sea at around 11pm, whilst fireworks were being fired on the beach. As I ran towards the water, my friends were screaming at me that I had my wallet, keys & phone on me. Nevertheless the water was calling me, I naturally felt like Andy Dufresne in 'The Shawshank Redemption' having a rebirth.
The walk home whilst soaking wet, covered in sand and seaweed did manage to sober me up - as when I returned home I did manage to have the sense to open the phone, remove the SIM and pray it would dry out and work in the morning. Of course it didn't work. So off I went to Dixons to get a new phone and got this pioneering piece of tech - the Nokia 3510.
This was the Volvo of phones. You couldn't break it if you tried, it always worked and just kept going. I also loved the fact you could operate it blindly, memorising the pattern of button presses to write a text - you could almost pretend you were Jack Bauer secretly sending a message to CTU about where the nukes are (or telling Mum you'd be home a bit late for dinner). This kept me going for a good year though.
I'd since moved to London in search for what Peter Gabriel would refer to as 'Big Time'. The lyrics in his song didn't allude to half a shift at Wetherspoons, and three months at Virgin Megastore - but I guess you have to prove to the London gods that you really want it.
I did eventually get my break producing and editing a variety of work for a company in Soho, called Loki TV. I justified it to myself that I should get a smartphone, so I could work in a more 'professional' manner. Even now I create some kind of justification for buying something, it's just getting more and more pitiful explaining why it's necessary to have a PS3 or an Apple TV to my wife.
2004 - I think my wonderful boss at the time, Derek Hanlon, had a Sony Ericsson P910, and I was pretty transfixed with it. It seemed to do everything, and looked pretty cool. I loved the way you could remove the hardware keyboard if you wanted, and yes I did. I was getting rid of physical keyboards long before Steve Jobs. I really loved that phone at the time, it's only real downfall was it was quite a hefty beast. It was touchscreen - responsive to touch and the included stylus. It had that multi directional scroll wheel that my J5 had, except this could go in 5 directions to navigate menus without using the touchscreen - super cool and great for one handed use. It had GPRS, so I dabbled in mobile internet now and again - most memorably trying to find the local Chinese whilst on a shoot in Leeds - Google had a very quick mobile site even then. It's home screen had 9 touch screen speed dial's - which was brilliant - interesting why Apple never built that into iOS. It also had some apps, and you would have to forage through the web to find some. Apple really made that process remarkably easy (and successful) with the App Store - it was a massive pain to find mobile apps in those dark days.
It had a camera, which was only VGA - so I used it sparingly for video mostly. The Bluetooth allowed Apple's iSync to work - which was awesome, so I could sync my contacts with my MacBook.
It also had a native email client, that was pretty great for the time. That must have been one of the best phones at that time, maybe the Treo's were up there too? Here's a review of it from the time. It interestingly has almost the same dimensions of the original iPhone (apart from the depth) - but it did have cut, copy & paste!
I used that phone very happily for some time, I then received a free upgrade 18 months later from Vodafone - the Sony Ericsson M600.
This had a lot of similarities to the P910, upgraded Symbian OS - but almost similar UI and touchscreen with a stylus. It had a basic scroll wheel which I thought was a bit crap. It had a built in keyboard, which couldn't be removed - but was quite cool in that the keys were really designed for quick typing. I'm guessing they copied some Blackberry keyboards - but that was one of the best features of that phone - super quick and accurate to type on.
One strange omission, was no camera. I read some odd justification at the time - which was this was Sony Ericsson's attempt to really go after the business sector (read Blackberry), and that many large corporations frowned on cameras as people could capture imagery of workplaces/sensitive data etc relating to said business. So they omitted the camera in the hope businesses would buy tonnes of them. I don't think that happened though.
Around this time production of 'Casino Royale' was occurring, and Sony did what Sony does, and rammed a load of product into the film - including the M600 - it was Vesper's phone (the white version). Not sure if that had any effect on sales either...
Ultimately the phone was no where near as good as the P910 (apart from the extremely addictive golf game !). And failed to capture the business market it seemed to be chasing. So back I went to my fabled P910.
Like most people with a pulse, I was aware that Apple had been working on a phone from the endless rumours in all the tech blogs. I was excited by it and when it was announced I was going to get the iPhone, no matter what. I didn't care about lack of 3G - I wanted that device that would fit seamlessly into the ecosystem I loved. Up to the point of getting the iPhone, my trusty P910 was in a holding pattern of being passed over. I think I even changed the wallpaper on the P910 to that image of the clown fish, to make it that little bit more like an iPhone. Deary me.
Getting the iPhone was a special experience. Just an incredible device, and it did very little back then compared to what it does now - no 3G, no cut and paste and no Apps! What I really loved was that now one device could do it all - I didn't have to carry a separate iPod for music. And having the headphones with the mic & remote on was so cool to control the iPod and use for the phone. Let's not talk about the design decision to have that recessed headphone socket - lets just say a scalpel was used to 'amend' my headphones of choice at the time...
When the iPhone 3G was announced, the fact that apart from the 3G chip and the new design, everything was the same internally as the original iPhone. So I was going to stick it out, and wait for the next design. The even better one...
Apple then announced an 'incremental' update to the iPhone 3G, and instead of a complete overhaul they kept the design the same and updated the internals. Much like all other (original) iPhone owners - I kind of wished for a total overhaul. "How could they do that to us?" Yeah, anyway - not the biggest problem in the world.
But deep down I knew it was a way better phone that the 3G - completely new innards - 2x faster, better camera (the first really acceptable camera on the iPhone) - compass (which was really helpful when you do that thing where you come out of the Tube and are visiting a new location but unaware of which direction to go). It was a huge update from the original iPhone as well, especially that now I finally could use 3G - which just felt like WiFi compared to the old EDGE connection.
Then we come right up to date with what I have now - the iPhone 4S. Again I was a little miffed it didn't get a redesign from the 4 (which of course the next release will get - but I've now resigned myself that I will forever miss out on any new redesign - and always get the ultimate version of said design a year later!).
The 4S is a tremendous gadget though - I cannot fault it on any level. The display is gorgeous, the speed is phenomenal - is one of the fastest computers I've ever used - regardless of mobile or desktop. The camera is just stunning - the stills and video from this phone have rendered all other cameras I have redundant. Every week I seem to find another use for the phone - iOS, the App Store and now iCloud are three phenomenal platforms to use each and every day. I can't wait to see what happens next with this product line.
Obviously I'll be quietly angry when the next gorgeous release happens, and I know I have another year to wait - but I'll be getting the best version of that new gorgeous design - and no doubt will be incredible.