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10 things about pre-Android phones that nobody under 20 will believe

10 things about pre-Android phones that nobody under 20 will believe

The past. Things were different then. There were flares, and mullets, and songs by Europe. And before iPhones and Android came along, phones were completely different. Here are 10 true things you’ll only know if you had a phone before the Android era.

1. Batteries went for weeks

Look at us all, killing unwanted apps and dimming our screens in the name of battery life, running home like silicone Cinderellas before our phones turn into pumpkins. In the 1990s, you could charge your phone and it wouldn’t run out of battery until you were dead. We have a Nokia somewhere that’s been in standby since about 1993.

2. Phones didn’t all look the same

Today, all phones are essentially the same. Sure, the logo might be different, or the case a slightly different color, or the frame 0.00001 mm thinner than a rival's. But fundamentally they’re all what tech site The Register calls Fondleslabs: big touchscreens with a bit of case around them.

That’s been the case since the first iPhone in 2007, but before then phones came in a fantastic range of forms: magic springy things, foldy things, flippy things, things with aerials, things with keyboards… it was fantastic. We still think phone design peaked with Motorola’s RAZR v3 (below).

If you had one of these, villagers would carry you around on a golden throne. Probably. / © Motorola

3. The internet didn't work

Imagine if the internet involved you writing things down on a bit of paper, attaching that paper to a small bird, sending the bird off to its destination and waiting six months for it to return with the answer. That was the mobile internet before 3G.

We couldn’t get proper web pages, let alone music or video. We couldn’t even Google. What we got instead was WAP, which is short for Forget About Mobile Internet For Another Ten Years Or So. It was text-based and slower than Mr Snail going uphill on ice while towing a caravan. Slowly.

4. The best mobile game was Snake


CUSTOMER: Hey, I wanna buy a phone!

SALESPERSON: Certainly! How about this?

CUSTOMER: Does it have Snake?

SALESPERSON: No, but it has —

CUSTOMER: No Snake? No sale!

That’s pretty much how it went down in the late 1990s. Nokia’s Snake might look primitive now, but a lack of it was the deal-breaker for many phone buyers.

Snake: so good they made it again. MGS V it ain't. / © Nokia

5. Nobody wanted a touchscreen

There was a really good reason for that: all touchscreens were terrible. Today’s capacitive multi-touch screens are fast and fluid, but pre-2007, any phone with a touchscreen had a resistive one that you had to poke with a stylus, and you had to calibrate that or the screen would decide you’d tapped about two centimetres away from where you actually had.

6. Windows was the future

No, honestly. It was. We remember standing on an LA boardwalk marvelling at the Orange SPV, a tiny smartphone running Windows Mobile, built by HTC. Imagine the thrill: Windows! On a phone! As so often happens, Microsoft was way ahead of everybody else, but ended up watching its competitors take its ideas and do them better.

We thought these were pretty sexy. Don't judge us. / © AndroidPIT

7. Nokia was Apple

It’s impossible to exaggerate how important Nokia was, or how exciting their handsets were. Boom! A phone with a spring-loaded cover! Boom! A phone that turns into a little laptop! Boom! A phone that looks like it’s been designed by a bunch of drunks! In Finland, phone time was fun time.

8. We paid actual money to replace the operator logo

Come to think of it, we paid money for everything. Mobile data? Ker-ching! Ringtones? Ker-ching! Wallpaper? Ker-ching! Voicemails? Ker-ching! We even paid to send SMSs. The world before WhatsApp and Wi-Fi was a pricey place.

9. Crazy Frog was a thing

A terrible, terrible thing. It was used to advertised ringtones, which people used to buy (see point 8). You can watch the video below, if you want to, but don't say we didn't warn you. 

10. Phones were unbreakable

So far this month we’ve shelled out for new screens for one smartphone and two tablets, the second of which got smashed twice.

Back in the day, if you dropped your Nokia on the floor it would smash the floor. If you put it on train tracks it’d break the train. And all over the world, people wondered: what would happen if you put the unstoppable force of Chuck Norris against the indestructible object of the Nokia 2210?

There are lots more where this one came from.  / © unknown

Do you have any fond or foul memories of phones from the pre-Android days? Tell us about them below.

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  • There was this funny ad of a woman talking on a very small phone in a restaurant, a guy on the next table thought she was talking to him, he walks over to her and apologises when he sees she was talking on her tiny phone, those were the days

  • I remember using my Nokia 3310 in a fierce game of "phone fight" where a friend and I would flick our phones at the other, on a table. The aim was to knock the other phone off the table. We both had Nokia's and after about 2 hours of crunching falls, battery pop-outs, and sudden reboots, all it took was a wipe down and a rearrangement of the parts for it to get back to normal. My Nokia 2690 (the last non-android device I owned) was flung across the floor on countless occasions - at times even getting jammed under doors. Still, nothing hurt the mighty Nokia.
    If, and when, they do release an Android device, I hope it's as great as the previous devices. Either in terms of design like the N-Gage or in terms of tank-like durability.

  • As note 7 didnt make it im still waiting for a new phone maby the next one will be a nokia. As im reading this i went to look if my old nokia still works and guess what found a charger and it lights up, it was my first phone 3330 i think it was bought xmas 2002. Not a scratch cant count how many times i dropped it after that i have had about 5 nokia i think. Only 2 have had problems one got a crack in the plastic screen and onother one lost usb charging port. Loved the inovative thinking of nokia, loved n900 and n9 sadly the promised support for both phones wasnt that good do to microsoft and maemo ecosystem was abit small same goes for meego. And n900 was as lightweight as a brick.

  • My very first phone was a Panasonic GD35. I got it for my State Examinations aka Leavign Cert year. The I did the ECDL I had only gotten the Nokia 3510i. I really adored this one very much, til it went down a manhole. ahahah. Another one got stolen. I then got myself a Nokia 7310, something like that. I remember that when I was looking up specs, that a USB is was a vital thing where I wanted to connect to the computer.

  • The first ever Mobile phone I own was the MOBIRA ART 100 , then the NEC "brick" (similar to MOTOROLA "brick"), then NOKIA 3310, SAGEM, SAMSUNG Win CE, MOTOROLA RAZR V3, NOKIA X5800, before moving into the Android LENOVO only camp A880,A369i,S939, A8-A5500, A7-30. I am not much of a games guy so I dont care whether the Nokias has "Snakes" or Not , all I was looking for was aesthetics, functionality and compatibilty with my local telco mobile plans. But i missed the most was my Moto Razr v3 which was stolen.

  • My first phone was Sony 610 having ear phone on its sony connector only, No 3.5 mm jack..! having joy stick.
    Also have used nokia e55, I love its slim body, 3.5 mm Audio and the best part was the map... it was provided by Nokia with audio guidelines, speed in km/hr which was accurate (till date I could't find the same in Android (google maps)

  • Still got my Sony Ericsson K 810i and Sammy D900i. We use them as alarm clocks now. A battery charge lasts for days, not nearly a day like my Note 4. Just bought a replacement battery for the D900i- the original one was in use for 7 years.

  • Yeah! When "Flip" and "monoblock" were actually important.
    I remember searching in internet for "Nokia composer Hawaii 5-0".
    When writing with numbers totally made sense.
    Great article.

  • I remember when the Moto RAZR v3 first came out in PINK. Dec 2006 I think. I managed to get hold of 10 new sim-free RAZR's in pink for a knock-down price (don't ask) and the fight that occurred in front of me between two female of the species over the last one I had left.

    First mobile I had was a chunky Moto flip brick sometime in 1994

  • Shit ur word speak the truth what happened dam !

  • Yes indeed I remember the first "cell phone" a stockbroker friend of mine brought this huge Motorola portable to lunch one day( this was circa 1987). We all lamented about how the bosses will always find us now.

    You are so right about longevity, battery life and different styles. I gave my old Nokia Cell Phones to a charity who are still using them. That was about ten years ago I believe. I kept my Samsung Flip Phone SGH-E316 which still runs beautifully. I am not sure how old it is. Then there is Blackberry who still produce awesome phones.

  • And the monochrome green color display :)

  • Al JR Dec 8, 2015 Link to comment

    A browser showed characters remaining in type-in pane;
    ...showed page-info on a speedial;
    ....possible to just see the imgs of a webpage;
    hit a button to get the Feed;
    ...go back without reloading;
    turn off suggestions in address bar;
    ...every site's favicon was loaded;
    ...a choice of good search engines;
    ...porn sites hadn't started pretending to be -art...

  • True..!

  • The smaller the better. In the early 2000s the phones were getting smaller. Now its the other way around.

    My grandmother owns a nokia 3310, recently the battery broke. I brought it to the shop to get a new battery. I asked the sales person new battery or new phone, he answered new battery.

  • I love it! this article is hilarious but true

  • Before Android there was Symbian OS, you had a very basic YouTube app, there was no real app store, it was a bit of a mission to find a stable app that you wanted/needed.

  • point number 10

    true no phone at this time need thing called screen protection or good material covered to protect it

    the early phones made from thing stronger than iron I don't know what is it which you could to make a crime with phone only

    • Yeah, people can use the early generation phones to hurt someone or do damage to something just by throwing it. :P
      I remember once, dropping my Nokia 1100 from my 2nd floor balcony, and it crashing through a car window still intact with only the back panel slightly dislodged. Now if I did it with the 2015 phones, I would be tearing my hair out.. :P :P :P

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