Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sony Ericsson P800

I had a fairly short learning curve with cellphones. Pretty soon I'd figured which websites would review the hottest cellphones and reveal yet to be launched ones. In fact some of my friends used to ask me for these URLs. I think Google search hadn't matured as much at that time (all the others like Altavista, Hotbot, Dogpile were still smoldering as they died down). So, I came across this excitement about the launch of Sony Ericsson's first ever smartphone. The amazing P800. It had everything you could think of - and more. I was just wide eyed in wonder at all the stuff it could do.
One of the biggest attractions to most people was the fact that it had a digital camera built in. Actually that was probably it's weakest point because it did pretty poor grainy images. However, that's what people were interested in the most. So I spent a princely sum to make the P800 my own (around INR 30k, about 750$, IIRC). Sometime in 2003.

The P800 was the first Sony Ericsson-branded smartphone and was feature rich: built-in camera, a pen-operated touch-screen, media player, Web browser, organiser functions, PC synchronisation, GPRS, MMS, Bluetooth and Java. 3rd party apps had started appearing on handango. It had a great form factor as far as smartphones go. And it was curvy in a cute way. All subsequent models from Sony Ericsson went business like steel greyesque straightlined ones.

I used it for a lot of stuff. I got GPRS enabled and even used to surf the web. And Yahoo IM though Agile Messenger was a commonly used app. I heavily used this till mid 2005. In between at one time the screen broke (I'd dropped it) and I had to give it for an expensive repair (cost about 200$). I still have this phone as a back-up and I'd last used this in 2009!

Overall, I think this was a phone much ahead of it's time and I thoroughly enjoyed having it. Many phones I had since then were lot less impressive.

The thing I like the most? The rotating jog dial on the left of the phone. This made it possible to scroll and click on this phone even with one hand. I just love this feature. I guess it's a SONY proprietary design (the j70 had it too) and I miss this on most other cellphones.

Sony j70

Well, it was not just the battery problem with Siemens c35i alone. I confess that I wasn't immune to the social pressure of possessing a smart cellphone. I had also discovered the Burma Bazaar area while buying accessories for the c35i (besides the data cable, I'd also got car chargers, covers, cases, batteries, handsfree etc). On one of these trips I saw the pleasantly trilling metallic cellphone. On enquiry, I found this to be a SONY (which was unusual - there wasn't a SONY cellphone I'd seen before) and pretty well priced. I straightaway went in for that. It was sometime in 2002.

Subsequently some of my friends also bought this very same model. It was a very elegant design. And the polyphonic tones were very pleasing to the ear. Folks with the same model could exchange proprietary canned picture messages between themselves. It also had a speakerphone built in. Overall very nice and sturdy. Battery life was never a problem. I didn't have a handsfree cable and it wasn't available in the market. I remember pestering my roommate to get me one when he was on a trip to the US. I don't think I ever got one. Because by then I was already eyeing my next cellphone. And this was completely to meet a want, not a need...

Siemens c35i

It was not for long that I could resist the allure of a cellphone. I think I succumbed in the mid of February 2001. By then many more cellphone models had proliferated. And the rate plans had also become a bit easier on the wallet. After a decent amount of research (there wasn't really a whole lot of options still), I zeroed in on the c35i from Siemens.

For it's day it was probably a fairly advanced model. And it was in the top half of the models sold in Bangalore (at that time). The more attractive aspect was the very curvaceous design. The buttons had a bluish green backlight. And it had many features. Pretty soon I discovered that a data cable would open up newer frontiers. Based on some colleagues input, I hunted out the Burma Bazaar in Gandhibazar area (near Tribhuvan cinema). And got myself a data cable. It used to plug into the serial port of the laptop. With this I tried a lot of things. Most notably ringtones and screensavers. Even though this model was fairly popular, most people had stock ringtones. So I used to bask in the glow of ringtones based on my favorite songs and guitar riffs. Folks started coming to me to get ringtones and graphics updated on their screens.
The only trouble I had with this phone was bad battery life. Initially I had a very expensive rateplan and so it wasn't much of a bother as I wouldn't make\receive many calls. But soon after I received a connection from office which started seeing very heavy usage as tonnes of official calls were being made. In fact, at some times I used to rack up some of the highest phone bills my office had seen. That time, the poor battery life started being a big problem. And I started to look at an alternative...

Early cellphone ad...

When I think back, the earliest recollection I have of seeing a cellphone was in a TV commercial. In itself, it mayn't have been original. But on Indian television (satellite had started to challenge Doordarshan) this was a big hit. I remember seeing it umpteen times at Cricket match commercial breaks. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nokia 5110

The Nokia 5110 was the first cellphone I saw up front. I was fresh out of college in my first job. One day my manager met with a cellphone sales agent in the office and bought this phone. At that time, I think, cellphones were bought by appointment. One didn't just walk into the shop and buy one. It was a more elaborate transaction. At that time in Bangalore, there were two main cellphone operators - Spice and JTM. And on all the billboards this one cellphone held pride of place. There were other models too, but this was by far the most popular. To a large extent because of (comparatively) attractive pricing.

The call rates would burn through the turban of any raja. Both incoming and outgoing calls were charged. And at 5 to 10 times of present day rates. So it was common to see people with cellphones who wouldn't receive an incoming call. Rather, they'd call back from the nearest landphone. So it was more like a pager. Even text messages cost the moon. And only someone extravagant enough to have a cellphone would possess the means of originating a text message. Two other acquaintances that bought this cellphone around that time were my project lead at work and a roommate. Both were the cynosure of all eyes.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thanks Google

It was very pleasing to be greeted by the above image when I opened the browser today. Thanks to Google, Rabindra Jayanti came alive on the web.