Before everyone owned a smartphone, this particular lineup of devices was the definition of cool. They were hip before hip was a thing; celebrities brandished them like expensive jewelry, a status symbol that every young person wanted. It garnered a fervent cult following. They were the next big thing—the brand was its own snarling beast that could do no wrong.
And then it all came crashing down. Suddenly what was cool became one big running joke, like your embarrassing aunt that acts and dresses like she’s still a teenager.
I actually owned one of these devices for about a year, the third iteration on T-Mobile, and it was (and still is) one of my favorite devices. I haven’t actually owned very many mobile devices in my lifetime, but being at this job I’ve been fortunate enough to use many of the latest smartphones. To this day, this device holds a special place in my heart, and I still contend it had the best keyboard in mobile, ever.
As a pure communication handset, back when AIM was still a thing, the device was only rivaled by BlackBerry. But even then BlackBerry devices were viewed as rigid business tools that couldn’t keep up with this mysterious handset’s cool factor. (When I say device, or handset, I’m lumping the entire lineup into the equation, if that makes sense.) The way—and this will give away a lot—the screen swooped out, like some electronic butterfly knife, was so inexplicably satisfying. Just thinking about it brings me back.
We have the latest device in this lineup in our office—it came out in 2011—and it’s a sad, sad sight. The keyboard is still great, and the screen pops up with a gratifying snap. But it was rebooted when it shouldn’t have been; it was a dinosaur trying to recapture past glory, way past its prime, a device that tried and failed to dig into iPhone marketshare.
At least we have our memories to look back on. By the way, last week’s Guess the Phone was the HTC Hero.