Man on phoneImage: graur razvan ionut /

I’ve lost count of all the mobile handsets I have owned over the years; however I can tell you the names of all the manufacturers with relative ease, they are, “No brand name, Nokia, and Apple“.  The generic / no brand name handset was the first handset I ever owned and looked like a pencil case.  It was on the Vodafone network in 1995 at a time when a monthly line rental would set you back £50 and for that sum you’d get no provision other than the ability to make and receive calls.  For every call you made, you’d pay £1 per minute on peak and 75p per minute off peak.  Until April 2009, all the other handsets I owned were made by Nokia – it was at this point I moved to the Apple iPhone and I haven’t looked back since.

I used to monitor Nokia’s web site and follow numerous Symbian blogs in order to see what new handsets were coming out – in many cases literally months after I’d just got a new phone.  I enjoyed gathering information, planning my upgrade and what new and wonderful things it would do to improve my life.  To begin with the handsets were all pretty generic.  They made and received calls, later moving on to providing text messaging, picture messaging and so on.

Some time around 2002/2003 mobile operators started to be able to customise the handset user interface.  Whilst the operators might argue this enabled them to improve their handsets, my experience was always the opposite.  The interface was degraded and made my device slow, buggy, wasteful of battery life and unreliable.  Towards 2005, I began to read more and more about methods to restore the manufacturer’s vanilla firmware in order to eradicate these horrid custom interfaces.  Not only were they ugly, in my experience, in some cases the operator intentionally “broke” the wireless component of the firmware so that users were unable to join wireless networks therefore requiring data to be routed via the mobile network generating revenue for the operator.

Performing the firmware changes was quite dangerous and I can clearly remember one occasion where Sam and I bricked my handset and I had to seek a replacement from my operator.  Thankfully, as time elapsed the methods by which you could restore the Nokia handsets to vanilla firmware became reliable and easier.  I was able to enjoy my Nokia N95 properly and over the course of 20 firmware increments, saw it’s reliability and usability scale.

I distinctly remembering sitting down with Sam and looking at his iPhone 3G during 2008.  I didn’t like it, I couldn’t see the point of many of it’s features and there was no way I could afford it, nor contemplate being on the only UK mobile network that carried it, O2.  (No reception where I live).  Instead, I hankered after the Nokia N96 taking delivery of one the day after they were launched in the UK.  I was bitterly disappointed and had to get the handset swapped out shortly after recieving it.  I wasn’t alone, many people returned the handset as unfit for purpose choosing other models instead.  I persevered with it, changed the handset’s product ID so it thought it was a generic EU model and updated the firmware.  Mild improvement came; however it was just that, a mild improvement.

As the months went by I grew to despise the handset.  I was ready to give up, sell it and put my sim back in an old handset.  I started to look at my options and this was when the iPhone started to gain my attention.  Methods for unlocking the O2 sim restriction on the handset were released for the 3G model and by January 2009 I was sold – I wanted an iPhone and I frequently stopped by mobile outlets to fiddle with my desired handset.  O2 started to offer Pay and Go handsets and after a little persuasion, my Wife agreed to let me get one provided I could cover my costs by selling my N96.  (Although she felt it wasn’t a necessary move and was more of my “never satisifed with what I’ve got” technology thing).

Regular readers of this site will know all the different things I’ve done and achieved with my iPhone.  The steps I’ve taken to get the best from it and any discoveries / teething issues along the way shared for all to see and (hopefully) benefit from.  Since owning the handset I can, hand on heart, say that I’ve not visited the Nokia web-site once.  I’ve no idea what they are producing, nor do I have any desire to even go for a sneaky look.  Nokia’s constant hype regarding what their handsets will do coupled with an ability to fail on what they’ve promised to deliver doesn’t wash with me any more.  I can see the company suffering further as the Google Android operating system gets used more by other manufacturers (not Apple of course!) and I can’t help buy wonder what Nokia will be churning out in years to come and if they’ll even survive.

What are your thoughts?  Are you still supporting and loving Nokia handsets?  Have you abandoned them and don’t intend to look back?  Join us in discussing this in the comments section below.

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