in Antics

Phoning it in

As often happens lately, I started this post a long time ago but never finished it. While my inability to finish things is discouraging, it is nice to have half-full blog posts for days (like today) when I’m short on ideas.

Inspired by this post on Kottke by interim host, Adam Lisagor, I will now take you on a tour of all the cell phones I have ever owned. You know you’re curious. Admit it.

Powertel Nokia 5510
mid-1999 – April, 2000

At my first job after college, I was an inside sales guy slash project manager for a very small software manufacturing company. Garrett also worked there albeit before me. A few months after I started, someone above me quit and I inherited their company phone. The only thing I really remember about the ubiquitous Nokia 5510 was never ever having a problem with it. Also, the interface was incredibly intuitive. There was virtually no learning curve despite having never used a cell phone before. The timing was extra-super sweet because Gia had just moved to Portland and I could use the work-funded long-distance minutes to talk to her every single night. You hang up first. No you hang up first. No you.

After a year, I quit that job and moved to Portland, so no cell phone from April, 2000 until December, 2000

Nextel / Motorola i1000
December, 2000 – January, 2001

After slogging it out in the pizza trenches for a few months, Davehog helped me get a job at a wireless email startup. Once signing up, customers would call the 800-number and a text-to-speech engine would read them their email. Great for commuters. Not so great for customer service reps who have to answer calls from people who didn’t understand the service. “Howdy, this is Steve! Read me my damn email!” The company provided me and some other folks the Nextel i1000, which I despised. It was a big, loud, non-intuitive, bloated, poorly-made antique. I thought the earpiece was going to crack off every time I opened it. Also, it had push-to-talk features that weren’t disabled but would mean certain termination if used. A direct quote from the training session: “This button here? It costs $28 every time you push it, so, you know, don’t.”

Qwest Kyocera QCP 3035
January, 2001 – May, 2001

Due to the nature of the work, we needed to test as many device / service provider combinations as possible, so I often went home on the weekend with three or more phones. I managed to get my work account transferred away from the i1000 and onto a Kyocera QCP3035 operating on the Qwest network. I had the most advanced device in my group. See that black four-way toggle pad below the screen? Get this, pushing it dead in the center added a fifth option. A FIVE-WAY TOGGLE PAD! You just better make sure your aim is good or your thumb is only going to hit the right button every fourth time or so. Which is what my thumb did the entire time I used this phone. Also, despite a key-locking feature, I have never pants-dialed more people in my life than with this phone. In May, 2001, I heeded the call back to the pizza trenches, which meant forfeiting all the various devices I accrued.

I was sans mobile technology from May, 2001 until sometime early in the Summer of 2002.

Voicestream / T-Mobile Motorola T193
Summer, 2002 – Fall, 2002

2002 was a big year for the Geester and I. In this order: We got cell phones and ditched the shit out of Qwest, we bought a house, we (I) bought a new car, and we got married. I also started this blog in ’02. Click here at your own risk.) The phones Gia and I got were from Voicestream and they were both the Motorola T193, which we likely received free. They were solid little candy bars, but DAMN if Motorola doesn’t have the crappiest interface in the history of UI design. Because he would leave it lying around all over the place at Pizzatownville, I quickly became jealous of Mike Justice’s Nokia 3390. It was so small, so simple, so functional, and I missed the Nokia interface. Foreshadowing …

T-mobile Nokia 3390
Fall, 2002 – September, 2003

I bought a 3390 on Ebay sometime during the fall of 2002 for like $40. It was … well look at it. It’s a phone and not much else. I used it dutifully the rest of our time in Portland, and continued to use it after we made the switch from the 503 back to the 404 in August, 2003.

T-Mobile Samsung S100
September, 2003 – August, 2004

I’m so meta, I’ve already blogged about the circumstances surrounding receiving this phone. Our friend Ashley got a new phone, had no use for the old phone, gave it to me, and I used it for a year. It was the first clamshell phone I had ever owned and I haven’t looked back (for personal phones anyway). Even with locked keys on a candybar phone, I had accepted my phones calling people while in my pocket as one of the quirks of owning a cell phone. With a flip phone, not the case. Plus it was smaller than a candybar when closed, and bigger when open. HUZZAH! It was like getting my braces off all over again.

To further my extreme metatarditude, I’ve also already blogged this next part. The one problem with the S100 was not with the phone, but with T-Mobile’s GSM network. Tall Brown is on the side of a hill that seems to serve as a media curtain of sorts. As such, almost all airborne frequencies have very weak signals at our house. For the first year or so we were there, we simply grew accustomed to having to run out the front door and into the driveway when we needed to use the phone. (There is a whole separate blog entry in here somewhere about my and Gia’s tendency to adapt to ridiculous circumstances.) Anyhoozle, one afternoon Gia’s friend Lanie came over and was using her cell phone without issue all over our house. To and fro all the live long day. I demanded an explanation. The obvious difference was that Lanie’s phone was on the Verizon Wireless network. I took her phone into the basement and it still had two bars of reception. Since our T-Mobile contract had long since expired, we went to the Verizon store THAT AFTERNOON and signed on the line which is dotted.

Verizon Samsung SCH-A670
August, 2004 – September, 2005

This was a small, powerful phone that would likely be my all time favorite were it not for Verizon’s ass-tarded user interface. Oh, and the camera was laughably terrible, but it was my first camera phone, so my standards were low. It made and received phone calls very well, had solid battery life, and was built like a tank. I used it happily until I started my current job at which point I was provisioned a …

Palm Treo 650
September, 2005 – March, 2007

I’m not even going to begin to try to provide any sort of product review for this phone. Let’s just say it does a lot of things really well, some things not so well, and, since I refuse to wear one of those ridiculous bat-belt phone clips, the entire time I carried it around in my pocket it annoyed the hell out of me. Also, I never really “got” the whole Palm OS. The Treo did what I needed it to do, and I’m sure it does a whole load of crap that I have never realized, but she and I just never clicked.

Verizon Samsung SCH-u740
March, 2007 – Present

When I first saw ads for the Samsung u740 a little over a year ago, I thought all my prayers had been answered. It’s the size of a Razr, but it has a dual-direction hinge which lets it operate as a phone or a PDA, and it has a full QWERTY keyboard which would satisfy all of my digital hopes and dreams. Or so I thought. The phone itself is great. Unfortunately, Verizon’s totally useless interface makes for a total waste of beautifully functional design. Sure you can check your email, so long as it’s Hotmail, Yahoo, or AOL and only then through their clunky proprietary interface. I even opted to pay extra each month so I could check work email, but that involved forwarding all emails to a Verizon sync site which the phone would then access to check email. It’s an insecure non-solution and Verizon should be fined for advertising it as a product that does anything but suck.

Also notable when discussing the u740 is the fact that, during a bizzare impromptu laundry incident in Portland last summer, it got washed with my pants. Luckily I have the insurance, so I immediately pulled the trigger and had a new phone mailed to me. Right before mailing back the, uh “clean” one, I tried to turn it on and it powered up just fine. Oh well. Then, about a month later, the outside screen on the new one broke, which is how it remains to this day.

I won’t be able to get a new device cheaply through Verizon until March, 2009. And unlike the GSM networks (AT&T, T-Mobile), the CDMA networks (Verizon, Sprint) don’t have a SIM card system to facilitate easy phone swaps. But that doesn’t matter. As soon as Apple releases the 3G iPhone, I’m buying the shit out of it, contract termination fee and all.

A side note on this entry, other than the fact that it is colossally boring and you still read the whole thing (sucker!), is how difficult it was to track down some of the older phone pictures. It’s indicative of A) the sheer volume of different phone models available throughout the past 8-9 years and B) how commoditized phones have become. Despite investing considerable amounts of money into a life with a cell phone and using it several times every single day, I have had zero emotional attachment to any of these devices, and that’s saying a lot because I am typically a sentimental wet blanket. I do however, have an emotional attachment to the data (stored contacts) within the phone. There’s a sociology dissertation in here somewhere.

  1. I had the Nokia 3360 – basically a more buttony version of the 3390 – and it was hands down the best phone I ever owned. But that’s when a phone was just a phone, not an all-in-one mp3 player, calendar, life organizer, e-mail reader, web browser, and butt wiper. Ahh, the good old days.

  2. I would not so discreetly like to note that the Samsung SCH-U740 was not the only non-washable item that you put into my front loader on that fateful day.

  3. That Nokia 5xxx series was truly a high point for phones expertly designed to make phone calls with. I miss its simplicity, and I miss its squishy buttons. They should make a digital version and roll it out again.

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