Sunday, July 12, 2015

Call Me

Place: Taco Time
Lunch: Soft meat burrito, crispy chicken burrito, cheddar fries, Coke

Usually, I have a crispy beef taco for the beef portion of this meal, but I had a soft meat burrito for the first time in years recently and was all like "HOLY CRAP HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT THESE" so now I'm having them more often, yo.

Still, this is a lot of food, and I don't eat nearly as much as I used to in one sitting.

In writing about Windows Phone in our last lunch together, I got to thinking about all the cell phones I've carried over the years.  Phones have come a long way from that first one I had that did nothing more than make and receive calls that pretty much anyone with a high end scanner could eavesdrop on, so I thought it would be fun to share my memories of my more fondly remembered handsets, most of which I still have in a drawer labeled "Phone Boneyard", which is sort of sad when I think about how exciting it was to get these when they were new.

This does NOT include every handset I've ever owned...just the ones that still have a special place in my technology heart.

We'll start from the beginning...

Nokia 100 -  My one and only analog cell phone.  This was back in the day when $30 a month bought you fifteen minutes of airtime.  Anyone remember Airtouch Cellular?  Yeah.

Nokia 2190 - A co-worker at my last radio gig was the first person I knew to get one of these.  It was digital.  You could text people.  It stored voice mail.  That was the part that baffled us...we couldn't figure out if the voice mail was stored on a chip on the phone itself or on a remote server.  It was all so NEW AND AMAZING.

Nokia 6190 - It did everything the 2190 did, but it did it better and more efficiently in a smaller package.  And you could play Snake on it.  I still play Snake to this day, though it's via an app that emulates the display and even the Nokia 5190 keypad.

Ericsson T28 - This is the smallest phone I ever owned, and the first with Bluetooth.  I had a Bluetooth headset that had a big stem microphone with a blinky diode on the end of it that made people, even complete strangers, make Borg jokes at me.  "RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!"  But I loved the tiny handset size and the swimming pool blue on the display.  To this day, it's my favorite backlight hue.

Ericsson T39 - The T28's successor was slightly bulkier than its predecessor and had a slightly larger display.  It also was the first phone I had that could browse mobile websites.  It was not initially sold in the US, but I wanted one so badly that I actually called the alleged owner of a wireless shop in Sweden who used to promote himself on a Usenet forum with no way of knowing if he was legit or just trolling to steal credit card info.  But within days of its European release, I had my phone and no unusual charges on my credit card.  A co-worker was so impressed with it, HE called the same guy and got one too.  I actually still use this fourteen year-old handset to this day as a test phone.

Nokia N-Gage - HA HA HA HA!  Remember these?  The phone that you could play video games on if you didn't mind pulling out the battery to swap game cartridges?  The one with the phone speaker and microphone on the side so it looked like you were talking into a taco?  Yeah, I had one.  Technically, I suppose this was my first smart phone.  I actually downloaded RealPlayer on it and could stream radio while driving.  It was clunky, but fairly amazing too.  I was annoyed that it didn't come with Snake and that I had to find a hacked version to get it to work on the thing.  Actually, now that I think about it, this was my first phone with a color display.

Sony Ericsson W810 -  The "W" is for "Walkman", which made this model an iPod competitor.  And it worked well as a music player.  I carried a few Sony Ericsson handsets over the years because I felt they had the best menu interface, but the W810 was, as far as I'm concerned, the most beautiful candy bar-shaped handset ever made.  Elegant in black with chromed orange accents.  It was also my first useful camera phone (2MP) and the back ACTUALLY LOOKED LIKE A CAMERA.  It even had a real shutter button that made it FEEL like a real camera, and a reflective orange dot on the face so you could see yourself for selfies.  They thought of selfies before selfies were even a thing.

Apple changed the world about a year after the W810 came out with the iPhone.  After a brief affair with BlackBerry, I jumped on board with the 4S, mostly because it was the best camera phone on the market and I didn't have to carry a digital camera anymore.  Now, all the cool phones are unremarkable displays with a button or three.  They're fantastic supercomputers that can do almost anything but cure cancer, but from a physical standpoint, they're hard to tell apart, really.

Still, I ordered a cheap used Windows Phone this weekend to add to my test phone arsenal and the overall collection.

It'll get some use before it makes its way to the boneyard and becomes a conversation piece of a bygone era.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Windows Phone

Place: Taco Bell
Lunch: Bacon Club Chalupa (no tomato), Nachos Supreme (no tomato), pintos and cheese, Mug Root Beer

This Bacon Club Chalupa is amazing.  Bacon, chicken, some sort of sauce...yesss.

My Pintos and Cheese has no cheese.  I'm too lazy to complain.

Microsoft announced the write-down of the value of their wireless handset division yesterday, just a year after acquiring it.  If that seems amazing to you, consider that said handset division was acquired from Nokia, who once was the industry giant of handset makers not fifteen years ago.

My, how times have changed.

My first cell phone was a big brick analog Nokia.  The high end fashion statement of handsets at the time was Motorola's StarTac flip phone.  My first digital handset was the Nokia 2100 series which, at a half pound, nearly six inches in length, three inches wide, and an inch thick, was downright tiny in comparison.

But it was Nokia's next generation of digital handsets that changed everything.  The Nokia 6100 series was a high-end handset that was much smaller, much lighter, and most importantly was much more power efficient.  But it was its cheaper sister handset, the 5100 series, that changed everything.  That was the handset that changed the top selling cell phone accessory from extra batteries to faceplates.  It was so good and available at such a great price that it nearly put every one of Nokia's competitors out of business.  It was by far the dominant handset in the industry for a good two years.

But that was about it for Nokia innovation-wise.  Sure they came out with some odd ideas over the years (the N-Gage comes to mind), but Nokia really faded from dominance, especially during the smartphone revolution.  Their last attempt at relevance was partnering with Microsoft to get the Windows Phone OS out there in their "Lumia" line.  Everyone understood why they tried, but nobody expected it to work.  And Nokia sold its handset division outright to Microsoft.

The thing is, Windows Phone is actually pretty great.  I love the tiles and many of the features.  And it has a die-hard core fan base screaming their frustration at the lack of global app support.  Why the lack?  Because fewer than three percent of smartphone users world wide use Windows Phones.  "Why bother," say the app makers.  And let's face it...Apple and Android fans are happy enough with their handsets to say the same thing.  It's not only that Microsoft hasn't given anyone a compelling argument to try their product out, Google and Apple haven't given users any reason to seek out an alternative.  They're all solid products.  Most of you probably didn't even realize Windows Phone even existed.

Microsoft isn't killing Windows Phone outright...yet.  Windows 10 is still coming, and Microsoft still partners with third-party handset makers to release Windows Phone handsets.

But expect to see fewer Lumias, if any, built by Microsoft going forward.