I was early to the game compared to most - I started with the T-Mobile Sidekick 3 in 2006.
This was a game-changing device. It was not only far more advanced than most devices on the market (always on data connection, push email, cloud synced contacts/notes/calendar, app store, IM clients, high quality games) but it was cool as well and a unique part of pop culture, with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Paris Hilton promoting it. The company was founded by Andy Rubin, who went on to found Android.
I went from that to the Sidekick Slide in 2008, which I adored the build quality of, and it was purple! I did miss the trademark flip mechanism of the previous model (this was the only Sidekick that differed in that sense, as the name implies, the screen slid up rather than flipped outward).
Sadly this was the latest Sidekick to be released in the UK, although the US got two more models - the LX and the Sidekick 2009 before the range ended through Microsoft’s disastrous acquisition of Danger, Inc. Regardless, we were about to enter a new era, with the launch of Android.
In 2008, right after launch, I got this wonderful device, the T-Mobile G1.
This felt like a device that could do it all, and a rapidly populating Android Market was a beautiful thing to witness, as developers pushed the open operating system to it’s limits. Android releases happened thick and fast, with 1.1 (Petit Four), Cupcake, Donut and Eclair all landing in 2009, a few months after each other and all bringing major new features.
I kept this device for a full two years, before importing this from the USA - a T-Mobile G2, aka HTC Vision, i late 2010. Unfortunately, the UK release with the same hardware was the HTC Desire Z, which had HTC’s customised version of Android, which I was unsure about, wanting to stick with stock Android - yep even in those early days there was huge debate about the value of modified OEM versions of Android compared to stock.
At this time I was still convinced that hardware keyboards were the way. Software keyboards were OK but not quite good enough for me.
Just 6 months later, that all changed. Summer 2011, and Samsung launched the Galaxy S2.
It’s impossible to overstate how much of a gamechanger this phone was. It took me (and many others) away from both stock Android AND physical keyboards because it was just that good. It had an insane processor in it, was faster than anything out there, and had a phenomenal screen and camera for the time. This was when Apple started getting scared of Samsung and started chucking lawsuits at them, because this thing was selling a lot of units and winning a lot of hearts. This is the device that put Samsung on the road to where they are today as the biggest OEM in the world. Everyone I knew was blown away by this device.
I kept that for 18 months, during which time it became clear that even a large company like Samsung couldn’t deliver updates in a timely manner. As Google’s pace of innovation was getting faster and faster, this became a problem. The phenomenal hardware after a year of ownership wasn’t quite enough for tech geeks (although your average joe didn’t care, and I still met people using a Galaxy S2 5 years later in 2016!) who also wanted new software promptly.
Enter Google, who after three Nexus devices which only sold to techy folks given the premium price point, lack of marketing and small scale distribution, hit their next big milestone. The Nexus 4. I bought this in late 2012.
It’s hard to tell from pictures but this device was beautiful. All glass back which shimmered, and lovely tapered edges on the front, plus it was powerful, shipped with Android Jelly Bean which was a huge update including Google Now, a precursor to the machine-learning powers of the modern day Google Assistant which could provide you relevant and contextual information all the time, and the kicker was that it launched at just £279 for the 16GB version, when at the time, the competing Apple and Samsung devices were at £400 or so.
I kept that for a year, when Google delivered another knockout product with the follow up - the Nexus 5.
This hit all the same points as the original - great design, great price point, lots of innovative new features in a new version of Android, combined with Google starting to get better at distribution. This was probably the biggest selling Nexus device. I kept this for a year also, before upgrading to…
Codenamed Shamu, because this thing was a whale! A full inch bigger screen than the N5, the 6" screen on this device was unprecedented at that time - even the Galaxy Note series was nowhere near that big! Unfortunately most people weren’t ready for a device that big. Unless you had big hands like me, it wasn’t super easy to hold due to the width, and it wasn’t priced competitively compared to the previous Nexus devices (I think it was £499). But I personally loved it. I’ve always loved big screens, the stereo front facing speakers on this were amazing, and I loved having all that extra real estate for apps and widgets. I kept this for about 16 months, before upgrading to…
Nexus 6P (Gold)
I initially wasn’t sold on the 6P. I didn’t like the colors that were available at launch (Silver, White, Black) and I didn’t like the fact that the screen was smaller (5.7") than the Nexus 6. The Gold version came out in the UK about 4 months later than the others, having initially been an exclusive in Japan and then slowly making it’s way to other territories. So I picked this up in March of 2016.
Although the finish felt great, the screen quality was brilliant, and the camera was insane (a huge jump from the N6, in fact, image processing speed aside, the camera of the 6P isn’t that far removed to the best camera in any phone right now, which is the Pixel 2 XL) - this device ended up being hugely problematic. The Snapdragon 810 processor had to be throttled due to overheating issues, meaning that the performance of this device wasn’t what it should have been, and then it came to light that almost every 6P out there had battery issues which meant that the battery would start failing massively after 7 or 8 months. I had to RMA my device after 11 months after random shutdowns and a severely depleted battery, and it sullied the experience massively). Kept the device until November of 2017, when I upgraded to my current device.
Pixel 2 XL
I skipped the original Pixel, mainly because, as I’d waited extra time to get the Gold Nexus 6P, there only ended up being 6 months or so between me buying the 6P and the release of the first Pixel. However I almost pulled the trigger on many occasions, but managed to stay patient and wait for the second generation and I’m glad I did.
This is the best smartphone on the market, bar none. Fast, powerful, the best camera in any device, sits perfectly at the centre of the Google ecosystem (of which I am fully entrenched with multiple Chromecasts, Google Homes, Android TV, Android Wear, and more!). The build quality is great, the UI is smooth as butter, and it’s generally a joy to use. Obviously I’m still in my honeymoon phase with this one, but I think Google really nailed it with this one - aside from some units with reported screen issues - I’ve not had any of those issues so can’t comment on them.
So, these have been my main devices! I also presently own an iPhone 6S as a secondary device, and at various small periods of time have had other devices like the original Moto G and some others.
What’s your smartphone journey been? I’d be really interested to know! For those of you who have only ever owned iPhones, have you ever wished they’d change more? Between the iPhone 5 and the X, it seemed to me that they never really changed much, whereas some of my upgrade would bring a vastly new experience - Nexus 5 to Nexus 6 being a good example!