The Boss asked me over the weekend why one of our friends behaved very strangely and never ever bought any products from the loins of Steve Jobs. This got me thinking about my own choices in mobile technology. Why did I choose the products I use on a daily basis? What was important to me? Am I a typical customer or am I a right royal loony?

Jogging down memory lane, our family’s first real dalliance with mobile technology was a Motorola brick. Then came the indestructible Nokia 3310 in classic blue and silver with Snake (!!). My first mobile phone was a Hyundai unit tied to the Orange CDMA network which was quickly swapped for a (what was then) state of the art NEC 3G flip phone. On second thought, it probably wasn’t a flip phone. It was more of a Transformer. Communications device by day, deadly blunt weapon by night. This thing was even more impervious to owner stupidity than the Nokia 3310. Its sheer bulk and weight was unbelievable. It is probably the Battlestar Galactica of the mobile world. But I was glad that it was built like that when I tripped and fell directly on top of it whilst running on a road.

An NEC 3G phone posing as a massive battleship.

An NEC phone posing as a massive battleship

Of all the mobile phones I used up until my very first smartphone (more on that later), that NEC probably had the best interface. There was a full QWERTY keyboard and the buttons were laid out reasonably logically. Of course, this was and still is a pretty standard layout for feature phones. Then a series of LGs and Sony Ericssons followed. Back then, being a poor university student meant that having the best of the best, a smartphone was unattainable. Of course, the fact that mobile computing was at that stage dominated by Microsoft’s clunky miniature replica of the Windows desktop was none too appealing either. I had my experiences with the microscopic keyboard, tiny icons and slap dash interface whilst working as a student engineer. It was none too pleasant for someone who knew technology like myself, but for the suffering end users of the devices, it was a nightmare. The little part of my heart that always wanted one of them just for the brag factor was always overruled by the brain (which was more than right in this case) because it knew that using one of these things was a proven nightmare.

So, before going on to the next part, my confession is that I’m not an avid Apple fan. I can appreciate the engineering and aesthetics, but I just don’t get them in the same way fanboys do. Maybe this is just like a Ford and Holden stoush.

Then, in 2007, the iPhone launched in its original, glossy aluminium look limited to 2G services (because American telecommunications systems are complete shite). As an Apple sceptic, I wasn’t convinced that it would revolutionise much of anything purely because it was limited in its scope (at least for that first year moment). Yes, the user interface was better than Windows Mobile 6, but you couldn’t install new programs on it and it was just a fancy touchscreen version of a feature phone. Of course, with the advent of the app store and 3G connectivity, the true smartphone had arrived and Windows Mobile was stuffed.

Since I was sceptical, I managed to acquire a first generation iPod Touch, which was the thinner, less talkative version of the iPhone. I was sold. The natural feel of the interface, its ease of use and its logical layout was quite stunning. Nobody else had this kind of software and hardware combination. No wonder it went unchallenged as the mobile phone to aspire to and cherish for quite a few years. My iPod Touch experience led me to getting the iPhone 3GS, the first available on my preferred network. By then, the App Store had just started up and things were going gangbusters for Apple.

At this point, Google came along with Android. I tried to like it, since I am supportive of open source software. But then, it just looked and felt like a cheap knockoff of iOS. The rows of icons were there, but cartoonish, a bit 16-bit graphics. That cemented the idea the iPhone was the best of the bunch. When the iPhone 4 (and 4S) came out, it was an automatic upgrade to the new, much squarer model. Android was still catching up at this stage, but finally managed to gain equivalency with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S2 which had some surface resemblance to an iPhone.

The late charger came along from Microsoft in the form of Windows Phone 7. A completely revamped user interface, it ditched the Start Button (!) and went for flat, simple tiles that could be hot swapped to a user’s content. Then came Windows Phone 8 two years later and some superb industrial design from Nokia and here I am today holding a Nokia Lumia 920. It’s yellow, loud and proud.


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