…living up to its name

mobile phones (and me)

I want to talk more about mobile phones. Earlier I talked about why I think they have the wrong name, now I want to talk about ‘the phones in my life’, I can’t promise this will be captivating reading but I know as if I don’t write this now it will come up in later postings as the mother of all tangents, so better to do it now as its own entry. Apologies for such a blatant me me me post.

My first mobile looked like this . It was near the end of my second year of uni (bday pressie). When I started Uni only a few had them, mainly the posh ones, by the end most did. The phone took a credit card size sim card! (the photo was scanned in during my last year of University and put on the webserver running in my halls based room – the contents of that webserver can be found here. If you think it can’t get any worse, it can. I scanned in a pair of my socks and stuck in online, and showing a firm understanding of privacy issues put scanned in copies of my student id cards there too. I need help)

After a year that contract ran out, I was mobile-less for a few months until I got a BT Cellnet contract from the link. The phone was a blue panasonic g250. I loved it.

Now the the deal I got from the Link at the time was fairly common but unheard of now. Pay up front for a year for about 80 quid, and you were considered to be on the same contract as those paying £18 a month, bargain.

Each year they would phone you up to see if you wanted to renew it, you’re mutter something about the handset not being very good, and it all being quite expensive, and they would normally offer you a free handset (well, every other year).

So a couple of years later I joined the masses and got a Nokia (3310), again excellent phone, and I jumped up and down like an excited thing when I got it through the post (I can still remember exactly where it – and its box – were on my desk when it was charging just after opening it). In hindsight it wasn’t that different to the Panasonic, but of course when camera phones and colour screens don’t exist and ‘big memory’ means you can hold 20 texts the little things impress. It did have an important feature: snakes! It should be the law that all phones have this. Every phone since has had crap games.

A year later (~2002) or so I got upgraded again, this time it was a Nokia 8210. This was at a time that smaller always meant better, as big had meant really big. In hindsight, many years later when I found the 3310 at the bottom of a draw, I released this wasn’t true. It was fiddly to hold to your ear (imagine trying to hold a pen next to your face, you have to use a two finger pinch, not comfortable for long periods), and the buttons were too small for my fingers when it came to txt’ing. This model was famous for going wrong but I had better luck than most.

Around 2004 I really needed a new phone. The 8210 was getting temperamental and things had moved on. This was the first time I looked round on the web for reviews before going for one. I got the Sony Ericson t610. Just like all my other phones, I was excited like a little child. Oddly I wasn’t that fussed by the camera and hardly tried it. Probably because there was no easy way of downloading the photos which made them a little pointless. I finally had a colour screen, real music for ringtones (which I instantly set as a ringing sound) and generally a more sophisticated phone all round, a different world to the Nokia.

A couple of years later, the joystick on the Sony Ericson started to play up (which meant lots of txts sent accidentally). I wanted a Motorola RAZR. Why? I liked big screen, I liked big keyboard, and I liked the idea of the closed phone being less easily damaged when I constantly sat on it while it was in my pocket (which had been the story of every phone I owned). It was free (on my still stupidly good value pay once a year contract). The shop assistant confused  me by asking if I wanted the V3i or the V3X, I went the the Motorola RAZR V3X, and it was a good choice. I found the large rectangular clam shell (which opens so that the two halves are at a slight angle to each other) was very natural as an actual phone and was very comfortable to hold. I haven’t had a landline for years so as it is the only way to make calls this is fairly important. I also liked that it used a USB connection for recharging and connecting to a PC (same type as a camera), though it was annoying that you had to install the CD-ROM based software before it would recharge or let you access the files, a real pain when you were low on battery and near a PC but didn’t have the software installed.

That was another thing, the software was crap. The phone, like most, had a calendar, contacts, to do lists, notes, etc. These could have been useful, but only if they sync’d with other web/pc applications. The other really annoying thing was that you couldn’t set a recurring alarm clock. As someone who had used his phones as alarm clocks for years this was annoying, it was something I just presumed come as standard. I was also impressed that it came with various accessories such as headphones/headset, and a memory card.

About 8 months in the phone started to play up. First just switching itself off, then doing odd things and then it just stopped. It took it in to 02 who sent it away for repair. Then they phoned me, it needed a software update and it would cost £30. I was pissed off, 30 pounds for a software update, while in warranty. I could have understood it if it was a hardware thing, which needed replacing and could have been due to my own misuse, but a software update. I decided to think about it but in no time it had been sent back to the local 02 shop and was too late.

So Autumn 2008, having had to revert to the Sony Ericson for a while I finally got a new phone, the Motorola RAZR2 V8. Yes I know, why get another Motorola based on my last experience. To be honest it was the shape. I really like the design, other clam shells are smaller and have a pebble shape, quite small. This was comfortable to hold, and had a good sized screen and keys. It was clearly a step on from the last model. Better camera (though only one, the V3X had two), most importantly vastly improved alarm setting options! Slightly annoyingly due to the smaller size it had a thin USB port, just means it needs a different cable to other gadgets. The V3X has a flash, which I never used as a flash, but you could set it to stay on and it was an excellent touch when leaving the office in the dark :) . It was amazing how I miss this feature, even if they didn’t design it as such. The software had clearly been updated but perhaps not as much as I would have liked in parts, and the PC software was still lame.

It has two screens, the one on the outside is a touch screen. Oddly, this is only used when displaying music controls, and in a limited way. They could have made much more use of this, a real shame. I don’t use it as a much player. Why? First it is the software, its a pain moving files on to there, secondly the interface on the phone. Thirdly you need to use the headset which fits the small usb port on the phone. As I find this very useful for long conversations I’m reluctant to carry it around with me where i will almost certainly loose it.

Odd thing was the jumping up and down like a happy thing was gone. I used to find getting a new phone and equivalent to being told world peace and and end to hunger had been found. No. it was better than that. But somehow the excitement had more or less gone. Have a funny feeling it would soon come back if I got an iphone or Nokia N95 though.

Soon after getting my original RAZR (V3x) I ended up moving off the yearly contract and on to a monthly plan. Basically because I forgot to phone up and renew it. When I wanted to get the V8 they explained that on my contract it was £80, but on the next contract up it was free. The ‘next contract up’ worked out as a bit more than £80 extra a year, but of course I was getting the phone AND better talktime/txts. Oddly the new contact meant any off peak calls I paid for would be 20p a min not 5p (or 2p, i forget), quite a lot more. But here is the funny thing. I went for the new deal, watched the staff member fill out the online form, and put it through the till. She must have done it right as I got a letter thanking me for moving to the new contract and txts regarding the special offers related to the new deal. All that, but they never actually moved me to the new contract! I still pay the same amount and the bill shows me on my old contract. What sort of system do the have where I get the letters and confirmations and the new phone but never actually move to the new contract.

Anyway, I want to talk about why I don’t make more use of the features of the current phone and my musings about the current top-of-the-range offerings. But that’s another post.


I’m now trying to remember my own phone history – it goes something like:
Nokia 8110
for a long time, then a big jump to…
Sony Ericsson K750 (? or something similar)
Motorola RAZR V3 (nice phone, rubbish syncing and clunky s/w)
Sony Ericsson K something again – going back to Sony after the Motorola experience
iPhone (definitely a wow factor)

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