My Very Personal Smartphone History

P900-Nokia5800-Samsung GalaxySIII-RememberEverythingOrgThis year, in early August, I made the transition to a Samsung Galaxy S III, my first Android smartphone. In the future, you can expect to see several blog posts on how I am (hopefully) making my Galaxy into a productive powerhouse. The first post is already out. After all, without integrating it into one’s personal information management, any smartphone is just an expensive toy.

For me, this is the perfect time to look back at my personal smartphone history.

It started in June 2004 at Hong Kong’s international airport with a Sony Ericsson P900 (the smartphone on the left in the picture).


The P900 set me back a whopping 6000 Hong Kong dollars, which is around 770 US dollars. I used the P900 until well into 2008, that is, for more than 4 years. Why did it take me so long to replace it? Well, it worked so well, and I had perfectly integrated it into my workflow.

What did I do with it?

  • Personal information management (PIM), that is, contacts, tasks, calendar, notes (including doodling) etc
  • Brainstorming via a wonderful outlining application
  • Captured and organized all kinds of ideas and information snippets I came across via the camera and the note taking app
  • Read books and documents
  • Took maps, travel guides, and other documents with me on the road
  • Learned foreign languages
  • Multiple language dictionaries
  • Web browsing and email
  • Occasionally listened to music

What did I like most about the P900? It had a fantastic user interface (Symbian UIQ) and touch screen for the time. And – it featured a 5-way wheel (jog dial) on the side which made it really easy to navigate through documents and webpages. You could hold on to a handle on a crowded Taipei bus with one hand, and use the other hand to hold and completely operate the P900, e.g. read books, start and use apps, and so on.

What I didn’t like was the limited proprietary Sony Smart Stick memory (128 MB maximum), and the fact that Sony Ericsson (SE) wasn’t properly supporting their flagship phone. As it turned out, the 128MB were a software limitation, and SE was not going to do anything to support a larger memory or help you to add languages. They just suggested buying another SE phone (after I had my P900 for 6 months). Luckily, many helpful people on the Internet found the solutions and apps SE refused to offer. As it turned out, memory expansion and adding languages were all doable, just not officially. At that point, I made the decision; my next phone wasn’t going to be a Sony phone.

Spec/Phone Sony Ericsson P900 Nokia 5800 XpressMusic Samsung Galaxy S III
Released October 2003 November 2008 May 2012
CPU 156 MHz ARM 9 434 MHz ARM 11 1.4 GHz Cortex-A9 (Quad Core) + GPU
Memory 16 MB internal (upto 128 MB MS Duo) 81 MB Rom + 128 MB Ram internal + 8 GB micro SD (up to 32 GB micro SD) 1 GB Ram + 16 GB internal (up to 64 GB micro SD)
OS Symbian with UIQ 2.1 Symbian, Series 60 rel.  5 Android OS, 4.0.4 ICS and Android 4.1 JB
Screen Resistive LCD touchscreen, 208 x 320 pixels, 2.9 inches Resistive LCD touchscreen, 360×640 pixels, 3.2 inches Capacitive AMOLED touchscreen, 720×1280 pixels, 4.8 inches
Camera VGA, 640×480 pixels, Video 3.1 MP, Zeiss lens, Video VGA@30 fps 8 MP, Video 1080p@30 fps
Weight 150g 109g 133g

In the beginning of 2009, I got another Symbian smartphone, the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic.

What did I do with that one? Well, pretty much what I did with the P900. In addition, I used it to navigate using GPS and a fantastic Nokia map app plus Google maps. What made the 5800 really great was its fantastic sound, so I ended up creating an extensive music library. What’s more, it came with a standard 8 GB micro SD card which I upgraded to 16 GB for an apple and an egg.  No more memory issues. Most importantly, Nokia has supported (until this day) this phone with multiple OS upgrades. Apart from the lackluster 3MP camera, which was o.k. during the day, but almost unusable at night, I loved my Nokia. Would I buy another Nokia smartphone? Given the support the phone received, hell yes. In fact, I suspect, Nokia will stage a comeback if Windows 8 turns out to be a good OS on all platforms. I found their hardware and phone usability more than a match for any competitor. Given Nokia’s strategy, it became apparent though that Symbian’s days are numbered, and besides, I wanted to play with something new.

Now to the Samsung Galaxy SIII:

What am I doing with it? Well, so far everything I did with my previous smartphones, plus watching lots of videos and using it for social media. I already have quite a few other applications in mind to really test out its limits. What do I like most so far? The fantastic large screen, the speed, the ability to easily share information, and the fact that Android is an open operating system. Anything I don’t like? The main concerns I have with Android are privacy and protection of personal data. You really have to be pretty smart to prevent an Android phone from uploading your data (including contacts) to the cloud. What’s more, many apps require permissions they clearly don’t need to do what they say they are going to do. Also, even after having installed an app, I want to be able to limit its permissions. Since Android is based on Linux, this could easily be implemented (without someone “rooting” their phone and losing the warranty).

As far as I am concerned, I’d rather pay in cash for my apps than with my data.

This pretty much wraps up my personal smartphone history. It’s been more than 8 years – and only three phones (not counting the feature phones I had of course), but lot’s of applications.

What is the killer application on your smartphone?

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