Aside from laptops and other mobile computing platforms, I am a long-time user of hand-held computing devices.
I’ve assembled a chronological list of the devices that were most used or useful to me.
1. Casio fx-451 — Mid 80’s
Back in the 80’s, the coolest calculator you could have was the Casio fx-451. The updated version of the 411, the 451 included functions for trig, hex / oct / bin, stats, and even simple conversions.
The left half was a conventional-looking, solar-powered calculator, embedded in a folio case. Connected via a ribbon cable via the spine of the case, the right half of the folio was a membrane keyboard, used to access many of the extended functions.
Whipping this thing out in Chemistry or Engineering classes, where everyone else was running a TI-83, would seriously turn some heads…
Why do I list this as a mobile computing device? On top of the wide array of functions, it had two memory registers. If I needed to remember a phone number, I could quickly punch it in to my calculator’s memory, where it would stay safe for hours (even with no light and the folio closed) until I could write it down.
Unfortunately, this device’s weakness was the ribbon cable connecting the folio panel to the main unit – every one of these calculators would eventually wear out, and the membrane buttons would cease to function properly. Mine died a slow death, like all of them did.
2. Tandy PC-6 — Early 90’s
The Tandy PC-6 was one of the first, true “pocket computers”
I bought one of these in 1990, and it got me through AP Physics. It had “RUN” mode, where you could enter commands in real time, or run one of the existing programs that you defined in “PROGRAM” mode.
It had 10 (I think) program slots that could be invoked in RUN mode, so you could effectively store 10 formulas, or leveraging a simple INPUT / GOTO, you could combine several similar formulas in to one program.
It also had a free-form “memo bank” that could be read or written by one of the programs, or it could be used for PDA-like functionality (e.g. grocery list)
Since this was WAY before flash (or any kind of static RAM) was feasible or even available on consumer devices, the PC-6 had “non-volatile” RAM, kept alive by a battery, similar to full-sized PCs of that era.
It had a cassette interface for secondary storage, which I DID purchase, but never used.
Programmable and graphing calculators were just emerging at this time, but in spite of a single-line display, the PC-6 was well ahead of any of these early devices, in terms of capability and storage.
3. Epson HX-20 — Early 80’s Retro in the 90’s
Developed and manufactured in the early 80’s, the Epson HX-20 was technically obsolete and therefore “retro” when I picked one up in the early 90’s.
The original “briefcase computer”, the Epson HX-20 had a full-sized keyboard, 3-line display, integrated microcassette (for program / data storage) and integrated thermal printer.
It had an integrated Microsoft BASIC variant, and even as late as the early 90’s, you could find and download programs written to run in it’s BASIC interpreter.
I didn’t really use this device for personal productivity, but it made an excellent portable terminal, and I wrote a few productivity apps for it, such as a memo app that I could use to take notes, which would then be saved in a tape file, and could be printed later on the thermal printer. The full-sized keyboard made it excellent for these purposes because you could type quickly, two-handed.
Although it’s much larger than a hand-held device, I’m mentioning it anyway due to its significance.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, before the “notebook” form factor existed, “portable” computers were either the size of a small suitcase, or “full laptop” sized, where the back extended several inches past the display hinge. Portables of this era either required direct power, or had a battery life of an hour or less, and the cheapest of them were over $1,000.
In contrast, ten years after it was developed, and several years after it should have been obsolete, the HX-20 was small enough to toss in a bag or briefcase, ran several hours on its internal battery (with printer turned off!), and had features that were useful and relevant. And I bought one used for about $25.
If the original “palm top” device such as the PC-6 is considered the progenitor of the PDA, which would eventually evolve in to the Smart Phone, then the HX-20 is clearly the ancestor of the Smart Tablet!
In the mid-90’s, I used a hodge-podge of PDA devices that were quite popular at the time, and none of which actually worked very well.
None are worth mentioning, and more often than not, I would have to resort to “Man’s First Organizer”, also known as “pen and paper”.
I did acquire a tone dialer during this period of time, so I’ll mention that, instead.
Back before everyone had a cell phone, pagers were the rage. Everyone had a pager, and some people had two or more. Payphones were popular, and everyone used prepaid long distance cards, rather than carry around a pocket full of quarters.
Although the days of using a “black box” tone dialer to get free long distance pretty much ended in the 1980’s, tone dialers were a convenient way to store calling card phone numbers, and other frequently-dialed numbers.
On the top, the pocket dialer had several switches and buttons, as well as the 12 normal “touch tone” buttons. Each touch tone button emitted the corresponding DTMF (Dual Tone, Multi-Frequency) “touch tone” that a phone would emit. On the bottom, the dialer had a rubber pad, that you would place over the microphone of a standard phone hand set.
Like “speed dial”, it had 30 memory positions, in which you could pre-program a string of digits to replay with as little as two keystrokes, making it easy and convenient to type in pre-paid calling card numbers, voice mail access numbers, and other people’s pager numbers.
4.1. On a Side Note
The thing I DON’T miss about the 90’s is pager codes.
As I mentioned, everyone had a pager. When you called someone’s pager, you DIALED THEIR number, waited for the tone, then ENTERED YOUR NUMBER, and that’s what the other person saw when they got paged.
If I paged you to my home or office number, and you knew me, then it’s easy to figure out who I am. What if I called from a payphone you didn’t recognize? Presumably, originally used to enter a PBX extension as part of the call back number, you could hit star, then type a few more digits to try to add some context.
People quickly adapted this in to a system of “pager codes” that could be used to add information to the call back number, and each group of people had their own system worked out.
Some codes might identify a specific person. People argued over the popular codes, such as:
- “Number 1”: *001
- James Bond: *007
- Gun calibers: *357 or *45
- Drug, sex and other innuendos: *420, *69, *666, *157
The problem with “people codes” is that everyone wanted to be James Bond, and even worse, you usually had two circles of people who used the same codes. So if you got paged with *007, you didn’t know if that was Bob from Accounting calling because he needs information to submit an invoice, or your buddy Steve who wants to hang out later.
These discussions were way too reminiscent of the “Mr. Pink” argument from Reservoir Dogs:
Mr. Pink: Hey, why am I Mr. Pink?
Joe: Because you’re a fa****.
Mr. Pink: Why can’t we pick our own colors?
Joe: No way, no way. Tried it once, doesn’t work. You got four guys all fighting over who’s gonna be Mr. Black, but they don’t know each other, so nobody wants to back down. No way. I pick. You’re Mr. Pink. Be thankful you’re not Mr. Yellow.
Mr. Brown: Yeah, but Mr. Brown is a little too close to Mr. Sh**.
Mr. Pink: Mr. Pink sounds like Mr. Pu***. How ’bout if I’m Mr. Purple? That sounds good to me. I’ll be Mr. Purple.
Joe: You’re not Mr. Purple. Some guy on some other job is Mr. Purple. Your Mr. PINK.
Mr. White: Who cares what your name is?
Mr. Pink: Yeah, that’s easy for your to say, you’re Mr. White. You have a cool-sounding name. Alright look, if it’s no big deal to be Mr. Pink, you wanna trade?
Joe: Hey! NOBODY’S trading with ANYBODY. This ain’t a g**d***, f***ing city council meeting, you know. Now listen up, Mr. Pink. There’s two ways you can go on this job: my way or the highway. Now what’s it gonna be, Mr. Pink?
Anyone who ever had a group of friends with pagers, can tell you that they participated in a fairly similar, heated debate.
On top of people codes, you had situational codes, such as:
- *911 — Call me back immediately
- *404 — Like HTML, 404 meant “not found” (or “can’t find”)
- *411 — Need or have information
- *07734 — Spells “Hello” upside-down
- A myriad of police “10” codes
In addition, many companies tried to roll out very specific pager codes, such as “*237” for “Fax me your time sheet” (not kidding)
Obviously, all of this is impossible to remember, changes constantly, and the meanings of specific codes vary by context.
On top of that, people would “muddle” codes, such as *0071020911, which might mean, “Bob from Accounting needs your location ASAP”, or equally, “Steve wants to hang out with Jeff until 9 PM”.
Older pagers might only allow 4 “extra” digits, so all of that might come out as “*0071”
Often, I had to call people to let them know that a professional Cryptanalyst couldn’t figure out what the heck they were trying to tell me, using some convoluted string of digits.
More than once, just to nudge someone after receiving a cryptic page, I’d call them and angrily ask, “you want to do WHAT with a taco?”, or I’d page them back with some completely random code, such as *53511. 30 minutes later, I’d get a phone call, “What the heck is a code 535?” EXACTLY.
I’m quite pleased that pager culture and pager codes are dead and gone. Of course, now we have those same people sending pidgin-esque, cryptic text messages instead…
5. Palm – Late 90’s
Long after the Apple Newton was dead and gone, Palm Computing made the “Palm Pilot”, a fast, lightweight, simple PDA on steroids, that could be extended by downloading and installing apps via a serial cable connected to your computer.
Its primary function as a PDA was to synchronize with a program such as Outlook or GroupWise, that had calendaring functionality and contact management, or you could use the Palm desktop apps supplied with the device.
You could read and even respond to e-mail, with the caveat that “sending” e-mail required a re-sync through the serial cable — not quite so handy if you run from meeting to meeting.
What was really nice about using Palm, was having an almost-always up-to-date copy of contacts, calendar, and to-do items. I could walk to someone’s cube between meetings, ask them to do something, and add it to my to-do list. Later, when syncing with Outlook, it would show up as an Outlook to-do, that I could delegate back to that person via e-mail. Once they completed THEIR to-do, they would check it as “complete”, and eventually, I would get the update on my Palm, along with any related notes or comments.
Another useful feature, the device itself could sync with multiple desktops, and could be used, for example, to synchronize your contacts in two different places. I had two cradles, and used it for exactly that purpose.
Unlike so many PDAs from the mid-90’s, using a Palm device was natural and effective.
Palm had elementary handwriting recognition via a “gesture” alphabet, touch screen, and tons of third-party development for apps as well as games.
Anyone could download the SDK and cross-compiler kit, as well as an emulator, and develop their own apps.
Although the display was initially monochrome, later versions supported color. The Palm V, and its successor, the Palm 505 were two of the most popular models ever made.
The case was rugged plastic, and it had a hard flip-up cover, as well as a slot for the stylus.
Palm Corporation was eventually purchased by 3Com, and by the mid-2000’s, the Palm line of products dwindled in to obscurity.
I had a Palm III, which died a sudden death on a marble floor of the 9th floor lobby of the building where I was working at the time. Despite the hard case and cover flap, it landed right on the corner, and never powered on again.
6. HP Jornada 540 — 2001
Running Microsoft PocketPC 2000 OS, the HP Jornada was an updated version of the Compaq Aero, and predated “iPaq” PDA line.
Featuring a metal case and “fold over” cover, the Jornada was built like a tank. All of the controls, including the “rocker” dial were ruggedized, and the device had an excellent battery life.
Featuring ActiveSync, the device connected via USB or serial to a desktop, where it could synchronize with Outlook, and you could use the ActiveSync interface to synchronize files or install software.
As with Palm, the PocketPC platform was relatively open, with thousands of apps and games available for download and installation.
Like the Palm SDK, Microsoft offered Visual Basic Pocket PC edition – similar to Visual Basic 6.0, anyone could download this SDK, which came with an emulator, and allowed code to be developed and tested using the emulator, or compiled code could be side-loaded to a physical device via ActiveSync.
WiFi was still a fledgling technology, and although the Jornada came with Internet Explorer, and supported a “network” connection via serial (modem) or USB (ActiveSync), in reality, browsing was highly impractical, because you had to be tethered to use it.
Some phones at the time supported tethering, and I suppose that you could have connected your Jornada via serial cable to a cell phone, to use as a GPRS modem, and dial in to an ISP, this would be completely impractical, except in an extreme situation where you absolutely had to send some critical e-mail.
I loved my Jornada, and used it extensively, but lack of connectivity made it impractical. I still have it to this day, and I’m sure it would boot right up if I let it charge for a while. The only reason I stopped using my Jornada was because I got the HTC PocketPC Phone.
7. HTC PocketPC Phone — 2002
This was THE first “Smart Phone” – A phone running a full-blown GUI operating system, rather than a hodge-podge of PDA utilities.
Unlike its “Pocket PC” predecessors, the HTC PocketPC Phone had a built-in phone and cellular data application, meaning that you could VPN to your corporate network, and ActiveSync in real time wirelessly!
Running PocketPC 2002, it had a touch display, integrated stylus, and an SD card slot.
Of course, the first thing I had to do was download the latest Pocket PC Visual Basic edition, and write my own web server…
To set the level – In 2002, I was walking around with a wireless web server IN MY POCKET.
It was everything I loved about the Jornada, but I COULD actually browse the internet using the data connection, and make and receive phone calls. I could download files right to my phone!
It was a great gadget, the first of its kind, and Microsoft could have dominated the market. This device was ahead of its time – released before the Compaq iPaq PDA series, it was also 2 years ahead of the iPod, and 5 years ahead of the first iPhone!
Unfortunately, this device had two downfalls… it had lousy phone reception, and extremely poor battery life. Toward the end, after having mine for about 1 year, I ended up having to charge it 3 times per day. I had to stand out in my front yard to have a decent phone conversation due to the poor reception.
8. Nokia 6800 and 6820 – 2003 through 2005
The Nokia 6800 series phones were not quite “smart phones”, but had advanced PDA functions, and supported the Java Midlet platform.
A “midlet” is a Java “micro app” that can be downloaded and run on any phone that runs “Java Micro Edition” and supports the Midlet API.
I gave up having a fancy smart phone, and went back to a “traditional” phone because it was more effective for communicating — it was a far superior phone, and with the fold-out keyboard, I could still browse the internet, take notes, etc…
The “Nokia Desktop” application synchronized with Outlook, providing an up-to-date calendar and contacts.
Eventually, I traded my 6800 for the newer, smaller, faster 6820 – both were rock-solid phones.
9. HTC Faraday and HTC StarTrek — 2005
With the advent of Windows Mobile, I found myself back to using a smart phone. Many of the sharp edges were gone, and the devices had new capabilities, such as integrated cameras.
With its porpoise fin design, it’s hard to miss the Faraday, also known as the Cingular 2125. A very rugged device, running the Windows Mobile (now renamed from Pocket PC) operating system, this was a good phone and decent PDA.
The flip phone “StarTrek” came shortly after the Faraday. Well ahead of its time, the outer, round screen could be customized to display notifications or one of several clock faces. In 2005, this phone had design elements that are just now re-emerging today in 2015 with the advent of smart watches.
The lack of a functional keyboard drove me crazy… For me, there is no circle of hell worse than having to send an e-mail using a T9 keyboard.
10. Samsung Blackjack — 2006
One of Samsung’s earliest smart phones, the BlackJack, ran Windows Mobile. Although the screen size was quite small, it had a QWERTY tic-tac keyboard, navigation D-pad, and a side rocker selector, as well as the “standard” array of smart buttons (home, back, and two soft buttons) that defines a modern smart phone interface. Early versions suffered from poor battery life, but they eventually released an extended battery.
This is still one of my favorite devices, and one of the best smart phones I’ve ever owned.
As a phone, it was easy to use as a phone, with external mute key, “talk” and “end” buttons that were well placed and slightly larger for easy use, and the number keys are interlaced on the tic-tac keyboard, making dialing natural and simple. In comparison, every blackberry I’ve ever used, has the number keys squished off to the left side, making it impossible to dial without looking at the keyboard.
The phone was extremely fast, and supported micro-SD storage.
Like its predecessors, there was a wide variety of Windows Mobile and PocketPC apps and games available.
With Exchange ActiveSync (the server version of ActiveSync desktop), my calendar, contacts, To-Do’s, and e-mail were constantly up to date, over the air, all the time.
Using the device was easy and natural, and I hated to give it up.
11. BlackBerry “Pearl” 8800 — 2007
During an acquisition, the company migrated from Windows Mobile + ActiveSync to BlackBerry + BES. Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) is the server version of Blackberry Desktop, and integrates with Exchange server directly for realtime over-the-air updates.
I ended up with a Blackberry “Pearl” 8800.
The “pearl” is a tiny little trackball, allowing cursor movement.
What is a trackball? When you roll the “ball” to the right, the cursor moves to the right. Up –> up, Down –> down, etc…
“Clicking” on the pearl selects whatever is highlighted. This strategy can be problematic and frustrating, because the pearl tends to move slightly as you push to click it, resulting in selecting “Something I don’t want” versus whatever was highlighted.
Back in the 80’s and early 90’s, computer mice used a “ball” like this, pointed down, where the motion of the mouse would cause the ball to roll, and the ball would connect with a horizontal as well as a vertical motion “scroll” sensor, usually linked to an opto-coupler, that could determine the rate at which the mouse was moving horizontally, vertically, or both.
The problem is that the “ball mouse” or “mouse ball” would pick up dirt and grease from any surface, which would slowly accumulate on the “rollers” (scroll sensors), causing the mouse to freeze up in one direction or the other.
“Ball mice” could be partially-disassembled and cleaned out. Often, this would result in damage to the rollers.
Overall, when the ball mouse was designed at Xerox PARC, it was a revolutionary design, but for modern, mainstream computing, it had serious shortcomings.
Track balls, also popular in the late 80’s and early 90’s are essentially a “ball mouse” turned upside-down. The user moves the ball, which rotates horizontal and vertical sensors, and trackballs suffer from the same “gunk” problem as ball mice.
Eventually, “ball mice” were replaced with optical mice. Why? Because ball mice suck.
Optical mice first appeared in the late 90’s, and use LEDs, cameras, or lasers to detect the position and motion of the mouse, rather than rely on a ball to drive optical couplers.
Having solved this problem in the 90’s, it strikes me as odd, that in 2007, one of the top cell phone manufacturers (at the time) would release what is, in essence, a ball mouse. Worse, it’s a ball mouse that can’t be disassembled, in order to be cleaned. Meaning, it will eventually fail, due to grit or grease that can’t be cleaned out.
I predicted this when I was handed my “pearl” Blackberry in late 2007. By early 2010 (2 years and 2 months later), the trackball had failed, necessitating replacement of the entire device. The device interface isn’t very useful if you can only scroll in one direction because the “pearl” is jammed, with no way to unjam it.
One of the things I hated most about this device was the rounded edges and smooth surfaces, which made the device slicker than goose crap, and difficult to grab or hold, without dropping it.
I view Blackberry as a collection of features, not an integrated platform. None of the apps are intuitive or easy to use. It does stay synchronized to Outlook (MS Exchange via BES), but things often show up in the wrong field, or something you expect to be intuitive, isn’t.
One of the biggest problems with every Blackberry I’ve used, is that there is no way to “absolutely lock” it. There is a lock button (which fails after 2 months, no exceptions), but even in a “locked” state, touching the “pearl” or any of the keys pops up a message asking if you want to make an emergency call! Because of this design flaw, I ended up “butt dialing” the police multiple times, until I finally figured out how to hold the thing correctly oriented in my pocket so that ABSOLUTELY nothing could accidentally actuate emergency dialing.
12. Blackberry 9700 — Early 2010
An updated version of the “pearl”, the 9700 replaced the trackball with an infrared “trackpad” (think upside-down LED mouse), had more angular edges, and a textured back panel.
The “pearl” had plenty of quirks, that the 9700 took a large step to address.
As with the pearl, navigation could be frustrating – clicking on the infrared track pad could result in slight movement, and selecting “that other thing” instead of “that thing you wanted”.
Still a loosely integrated collection of features, the device itself was actually much easier to use than the “pearl”
Even though I generally dislike Blackberry, of all the Blackberry devices I’ve used, this was the best.
As with its predecessor, having no way to “absolutely” lock the device was annoying. Even a power off event was considered a “soft” power off, and any keystroke would cause it to “power on” (think “sleep mode”).
The other thing I intensely disliked about this device was the 16 to 20 minutes it took to boot and synchronize with the network. I am not kidding nor exaggerating. I timed it.
If your phone crashed, you had to pull the battery, then wait up to 20 minutes for the device to boot, before you could dial back in to a conference call.
When it started randomly dropping calls and crashing, I couldn’t tolerate the 20 minute reboot wait time, and had to get it replaced.
13. LG Thrive — 2011
Having traveled with a “real” smart phone, the ability to pull up maps, directions, and reviews is invaluable, especially on vacation.
I had a completely contrasting experience, traveling with a Blackberry, where maps were too difficult to access and slow to pull up, directions were impractical, and much information was inaccessible due to the poor “Blackberry Browser” application.
I was required to have the Blackberry for work, but I upgraded my personal phone to an Android Gingerbread, planning ahead for an upcoming vacation.
Having a real smart phone again made a huge difference.
The Thrive was sturdy, had a decent camera, and was smartly designed. The size was convenient, but the screen size and resolution, as well as the hardware speed quickly became obsolete, as newer apps and games began to support 3D graphics.
It was a great device, and a great way to get my feet wet with Android.
14. LG Nitro HD — 2012
I was in the phone store with my wife, who finally made the jump to Android. While there, ostensibly in there to buy a phone for her, I started playing with the LG Nitro HD, and ended up buying myself a new personal phone that day, as well.
The LG Nitro is the one of the best phones I’ve ever owned.
Although much bigger than the Thrive, it was still smaller than its “phablet”-sized cousin, the Optimus G.
The controls were intuitive, and it fit well in the hand.
Although slightly cheesy, the “fake carbon fiber” rear panel did provide texture for a positive gripping surface.
Note that the “back” button is on the right… my Thrive had the exact same layout, but the newer models have the back button on the left — a very confusing design change.
The “HD” camera took excellent pictures and video, even in lower-quality modes.
Eventually, after numerous Google app updates, including the infamous “Google Play Services” application that is now mandatory, it could no longer perform quickly, and had a poor battery life.
After accidentally soaking the device TWICE, it still worked, but there were glitches, such as the touch display misreading touch events, it thought the headphones were always plugged in, and the battery would drain within an hour. Due to all the glitches, I finally had to get a new phone.
15. Blackberry Torch — 2013
The Torch is a hybrid touch screen, with a slide-out “traditional” Blackberry tic-tac keyboard. To replace my failed Blackberry 9700 for work, I opted for the Torch, even though it had some pretty severe user complaints, thinking that the “slide” functionality would provide better locking.
The boot time was only about 3 minutes!
The other good news is that, as expected, the slide “locks” the device, and the default action is no longer to attempt an emergency dial.
It has controls similar to the 9700, where an infrared “track pad” can be “clicked” to select an item. In addition to the traditional controls, the screen was touch-enabled, so even though the track pad still suffered from “click on the wrong thing” syndrome, you could simply touch what you wanted using the touch screen.
Although the device itself was rugged, the manufacturing quality was poor. The rear bezel started to de-laminate a mere 2 months after I got it. My previous device had a textured, rubberized rear panel, and the torch simply has a textured plastic rear panel. After about a year, the front “slider” panel started to rattle.
Once again, the sides were too rounded, making the device difficult to pick up easily – a step backward from the perspective of the 9700.
Android and Windows Smart Phones have a customizable “home screen” paradigm, so that the first thing you see is exactly what you need – frequently-used icons, status, etc…
The older Blackberries had a main screen with status and information at the top, and icons (applets) at the bottom.
The 9700 had a sparse main screen. The top still had status and information, but icons were relegated to a single line of 4 or 5 at the bottom. Opening a menu led to the list of all applet icons, where only the most frequently-used were on the main screen.
On a tiny device, where half of the front panel is taken up by the keyboard, the difference between a “sparse” and “populated” main screen is very little.
Because the Torch has a very large screen, having a “sparse” main screen makes no sense. You can’t create shortcuts nor configure status widgets, and you can’t really use the real-estate unless you are actually running an applet, such as browsing or watching a video.
One of the most annoying things about the user interface is the notifications.
All notifications pop up on top of whatever else is running, even on top of input boxes. This is extremely frustrating – you often get a notification for a meeting reminder, as you’re dialing in to the meeting. If you connect a bluetooth device, you might get 3 or more notifications in maddening, rapid succession.
Eventually, the touch pad freaked out, and started either disconnecting calls, or placing them on mute. It would malfunction, and randomly scroll around.
16. LG G3 — 2015
When my LG Nitro (personal phone) finally got to the point that it was too glitchy — completely self-inflicted, due to getting it wet TWICE — I opted to replace it with the LG G3, the updated version of the LG G2.
Rather than the controls being side-mounted, the volume and power key are located on the back of the device, underneath the camera.
The front hardware keys are gone – the familiar “home, back, settings” keys are now replaced by a soft toolbar that can be configured to your preference — e.g. so that I can put the “back” button on the RIGHT, where it belongs :-)
This phone has a ton of really cool and useful features:
- While locked, pressing and holding the volume-down button activates the camera
- The camera can take multiple shots, by holding the button down
- The camera can take shots by saying “cheese” or “whiskey” (and a few other words)
- The camera is laser-focused, and takes crisp, beautiful pictures
- Two taps on the display can lock or unlock the device (similar to tapping the power button)
- In addition to the familiar authentication features (PIN, pattern lock), you can authenticate with a “knock code”, a series of timed taps.
- “OK Google” activates the search feature
- “Guest” mode – A second pattern lock can be configured, that when entered, takes you to “guest” mode, where only a configurable subset of the features and apps are available (e.g. you can disable gallery to prevent someone from looking through your photos)
- Multi-tasking and split screen
Although “phablet”-sized, and a little larger than I prefer, in most cases, the controls can adapt to one-hand operation.
Unfortunately, the curved, smooth back plate makes it way too easy to drop, but I solved that problem with a silicone protective shell.
Like the Optimus G, there is a folio case available, but the G3 folio case has a round aperture, and the G3 supports “folio mode” with a selection of widgets and notifications that can be configured to display through the circular hole when the folio case is closed.
17. iPhone 5s — 2015
As soon as I was eligible for an upgrade at work, I switched from the Blackberry Torch to an iPhone – the new company-issued communication option for integrated e-mail / contacts / calendar.
I selected the iPhone 5s in “space gray” — choosing a “color” for my phone was a new experience for me.
I’ll go in to more detail in a future article, but surprisingly, the iPhone wasn’t necessarily a step up from the Blackberry in all respects.
Geared toward personal use, there were some features and functionality that Blackberry handles extremely well, as do other smart phones, but the iPhone either lacks or handles poorly.
18.1. My favorite and most useful devices:
- Samsung Blackjack – Long before the “Galaxy”, this device put Samsung on the map as a serious smart phone vendor. The device was rugged and had excellent controls, but suffered from a short battery life, later remediated with a larger battery.
- LG G3 – with modern features, and plenty of horsepower and storage, the G3 can handle a lot of diverse applications and use cases. This is the first phone since the Blackjack, where I can say “This device is part of my day to day life”.
- LG Nitro – An excellent phone, and still one of my favorites, it was a little slow — especially after Google dumped out a bunch of bloated updates in 2014 — and the battery life was a little too short.
- HTC PocketPC Phone – THE first smart phone. Walking around Vegas in 2003, with a wireless HTML browser and the power of PocketPC, ON A PHONE that could connect wirelessly and instantly, was a completely new life experience.
18.2. My LEAST favorite devices:
- Pagers – I’m glad they are dead and gone. Even two-way pagers are a pain – they came on to the scene way too late, and can be completely replaced with Short Message Service (text messaging).
- Blackberry Torch – Suffers from poor quality, a terrible user interface, an inaccurate touch display, and horrible “notification” popups.
- Blackberry Pearl – Doomed to fail due to poor design of the “pearl” 1990’s trackball tech, I was looking for an excuse to get rid of this phone from the day I got it.
18.3. Honorable Mentions
- HTC Faraday and StarTrek – These phones were an excellent entry in to the smart phone arena, but living your life from a PIN pad doesn’t cut it.
- HP Jornada – I loved this device. I still love this device. It’s utility was limited by a lack of connectivity. Wireless was still too new, and cellular was too cumbersome. Its successor, the iPaq, included wireless and cellular options.
- Palm III – When I used the Palm, this device was indispensable. Lack of USB support and a cranky “connector” paradigm on the desktop made it difficult to configure and maintain.