My four-year-old asked me recently why I change phones so often. I told him it’s because I review them, and then he asked how many I’ve reviewed over the years. So, thanks to a bout with insomnia I counted. Ladies and gentlemen of the Herd, I have reviewed 317 phones and tablets. Not even going to lie, I was shocked, and kinda felt old, but the exercise did get me thinking, what are my favorite phones I’ve ever checked out. Five immediately jumped out, and a few may even surprise you. Don’t interpret this list as the best phones, but these were my favorite to check out for various reasons. Let’s go.
BlackBerry Bold 9700
I told you there would be some surprises. In 2009, RIM – as they were still known then – was a mess wrapped in a crap show with two CEOs and no direction, but man, the Bold 9700 was still something special to me. Physical keyboards were still in demand and no one did it better than RIM.
It seems weird to even say now, but this felt like a modern Blackberry. It had an HTML browser, Blackberry OS 5 (eventually got 6) and, quite honestly, made me feel like a baller. I loved this phone for its productivity battery life, and smooth navigation thanks to a trackpad. My love affair was short-lived, but I remember how this phone made me feel when I used it, and I kinda long for a simpler time.
Remember back when all iPhone screens were tiny? While Android was going big, Apple was stubbornly sticking to their 3.5 or 4-inch guns… until September 2014 when it finally supersized to 5.5 inches! I remember the day this came out, sitting on my couch, staring at it. It was hard to believe iOS finally had a larger screen home. I know this sounds whimsical, and maybe a bit silly, but it was a pretty cool feeling to have. I was thinking how bad the battery life was originally, but that was just because I was using it so much. For me, this is when Apple changed, and started hitting Android where it mattered.
The story of the original Galaxy Note goes back all the way to 2011. I was just recently married and the IFA trade show in Berlin that year was coming up. My wife and I (gloriously pre-kids) decided to make a little European adventure out of it. We went to London, took the train to Paris and finally settled into Berlin for the Show. This was back when companies still announced big products at trade shows, and Samsung took the stage and announced what seemed unheard of at the time: A 5.3-inch phone with a Pen. I loved this phone. I used to carry it around and show absolutely everyone. More people stopped me to ask what this giant thing was more than any other phone I’ve ever used. If the original iPhone represented the future of mobile, the Galaxy Note ushered in a brand new era of screen size.
The usability coupled with the warm fuzzy feelings from our European trip make the memory of the Note stand out. Pour one out for a legend.
The HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1)
Now we are really going back to the history of smartphones, the first Android phone, the HTC Dream, released in 2008. I’m not going to pretend this was a good phone. It was, quite honestly, a mess. The UI was slow, the browser was subpar (no multitouch yet) but this was finally the answer to the iPhone. What this represented was incredible.
I hadn’t yet left my marketing job to go to TechnoBuffalo full time, but I remember how excited I was to sit at my kitchen table, angle the webcam on my old school Santa Rosa MacBook Pro and talk about this guy. The slide out keyboard mechanism was awesome, the keyboard was solid, but we finally had something with the potential to challenge was looked to be oncoming Apple dominance. I still have this phone and once a year I dust it off, and plug it in for a stroll down memory lane.
The Apple iPhone
This one probably isn’t much of a surprise. I picked it probably not for the reasons you think. Yes, it was clearly the future and all that, but this was the phone that started my career. I picked it up launch day, ran home to film as fast as I could. My heart was pounding, I was sweaty, but was so damn excited. I loved that feeling, it was pure, and I still remember it.
So those are my top 5, I’m not even going to ask if you agree, but I will ask what your top 5 are? Try to keep the same perspective. Leave them in the comments and I’ll be responding as often as I can.
Honorable mentions: Palm Pre, T-Mobile Sidekick, Treo 650
What would your top 5 be?