I don’t know when Nokia passed Motorola as the gold standard of mobile phones in my mind, but if I had to hazard a guess I’d say it was probably around 1997. I replaced my Nashville phone with a Nokia 636 after leaving grad school – it was HEWWWWGE in today’s terms, but I went out and bought the NiMH battery to try to eke a little more time out of it (as you can see this has been an obsession for as long as I’ve had a phone) and when I left for DC, it became my dad’s phone until he died, and was my mother’s phone after that for at least five more years…after which she replaced it with another Nokia for five years.
Because that’s what Nokia was: solid, sturdy, easy to use and utterly robust. I kept falling back on Nokia. I got my Moto Piper when I moved to DC, broke the contract, wound up with a little Ericsson, but sure enough, before long I was on a Nokia 5160 or so. When I moved to GSM, I had a dual-band Siemens phone that did GSM and TDMA for about six months, but it kept shutting itself off in the subway – so I wound up with a Nokia 3590. I tried to go smartphone and got that SonyEricsson P800…and moved West and wound up pushing a Nokia 6620. I got a cheap Moto flip as a backup phone at work with an eye toward traveling – and wound up getting a Nokia 3120 to replace it. Even when I started using that Moto F3, I picked up a Nokia 1112 as a backup to the backup just because it sipped battery and hung onto signal tenaciously.
My nephew has that Nokia 1112 now, and my wife’s Nokia 1600 (locked to Orange) sits in a drawer against the day we go back to London, and all those other phones have been donated or sold or just lost. But nonetheless, there was still a little pang today when Nokia’s smartphone business officially became a subsidiary of Microsoft. Sony Ericsson had the flashy UI, and Motorola had the hot industrial design, but Nokia was old reliable. And yet, they were late to the game on smartphones. Had they not stuck with Symbian for so long, they could have ruled the Android world the way Samsung came to – their Windows phones are things of beauty and are to all accounts right there with the best in the world for performance. But they spent too long sticking to the low end of the market, and they paid…and eventually the only option was to go all in with Microsoft.
Which is too bad. I wish I still had that 3120.