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First smartphone: What was in your pocket then, Pocketnow?

By Adam Doud July 31, 2014, 10:00 am

When you stop and consider the world we are living in, it’s a fascinating time to be alive. In the span of a few short decades, we have gone from bag phones permanently installed in a car, to people that carry around two of the same things in one pocket. We’ve gone from the phonebook to Google, and from 411 to…well Google. Technology has exploded all around us and left in its smoky wake a society that is all at once smarter and faster because of these devices we carry.

But it wasn’t always like that. No sir. Once upon a time, a Blackberry was a status symbol and a PDA was in a separate pocket of your bag, accessed only when you needed to schedule something. So too, were your editors here at Pocketnow born into technology slowly. Some of us dipped a toe in; some of us did a cannonball that showered the pretty lifeguard. As a follow-up to our daily driver piece last week, let’s do a Pocketnow edition of throw-back Thursday and see how it all started.



treo 650

Adam Doud

Contributing Editor/Social Media Manager

“Palm, but for all the wrong reasons.”

My first smartphone was a Palm Treo 650 that I bought for the stupidest reason ever. It was a time when people were starting to carry iPods and PDAs more regularly and I wanted to get in on that action, but I couldn’t justify carrying around a second device. I had a phone, it had Snake and that was good enough for me. But then I came across the Treo 650 and it had everything I wanted – A full qwerty keyboard, mp3 playing capability and a bonus – a web browser! WOW! And Email! So, I was hooked.

This was also right around the time I started geocaching, so I was able to find an app for geocaching, and an app for just about everything over at the now-defunct mytreo.net. I loved that website. But back to the phone…

I loved the touch interface (resistive) and the stylus that came with it. I loved the one-handed use the 5 way rocker gave me, and it was STILL great for playing Snake! But more than that was my budding relationship with connectivity in general. I loved having access to email and web and music all in my pocket. I’ll never forget that phone and the whole world that it opened for me.



Adam Lein

Senior Editor

“For sheer utility, and a long time before it was offered by some other companies…”

My first smartphone was the Compaq iPAQ H3600 with a GSM/GPRS Expansion pack. This was the most popular Windows CE Pocket PC of the year 2000, and the GSM/GPRS Expansion pack was a sleeve that slide onto the back of the Pocket PC and included hardware for a phone as well as GPRS internet access. The expansion pack also included a secondary battery, secondary charging port, microphone, speaker, antenna, headphone jack and SIM card slot. While I had the iPAQ for a while, the phone attachment didn’t come out until spring of 2002, and even then it was extremely rare, so I had to import it from the UK. That ended up being my first review posted on Pocketnow.com. In 2012, we took another look at the device, but the phone part doesn’t work anymore.

The reason I went with a PDA phone at the time instead of a standalone PDA along with a Bluetooth cell phone like everyone else had, was because I didn’t want to carry around two devices. Also, it seemed ridiculous to me to have to enter contact information and phone numbers into a mobile phone using those numeric keypads and tiny grey screens. Why couldn’t I just sync the thing with Microsoft Outlook 2000 where all of my contacts, appointments, tasks, and emails were managed? With my Pocket PC Phone, all I had to do was drop it in the docking station and all the info was synchronized. It was the most powerful mobile device at the time. I could browse real HTML web pages, send/receive emails, communicate via instant messenger, listen to MP3s, watch videos (in color), edit Office documents, play games, etc. I could even copy/paste text from one app to another, create folders for my apps, use handwriting recognition to type SMS messages, and I had informative widgets on the home screen.

Just for some perspective, in April of 2002, the best mobile device Apple had was the 1st generation iPod with 10Gb of storage, a tiny black & white screen, click wheel for navigating menus, no iTunes store, no connection to Windows PCs, and no USB connection. All it could do was play MP3s really.


HTC Trinity
My first smartphone. I loved it sooo much!

Anton D. Nagy


“Tinker, tailor, soldier, geek.”

At the end of 2006 I got my own PDA, an ASUS MyPal A636, running Windows Mobile 5.0 for PocketPCs. That’s where it all began.

Every evening I would just go through the menus and tinker with the settings, and I soon found out about XDA Developers, a place to do stuff. Towards the beginning of 2007 I met a foreign official who, after talking on the phone, took the stylus and made a note. I busted through the bodyguards and I just had to ask him about what became my first smartphone: the HTC P3600, aka the Trinity.

Why did I get it? Because of the geek in me. I wanted to have a device that can properly guide me on my travels, and which could also display my emails, and take phone calls. I loved the novelty of it, I loved the fact that I had a computer in my pocket that also acted as a phone, and i loved how you could interact with the device using the small capacitive stylus. Being an HTC device, needless to say that the build quality was top notch. The Trinity marked a starting point in my journey which will probably never end. Replaced soon, it still has a special place in my heart.




Jaime Rivera

Multimedia Manager

“It was the next logical step.”

My first smartphone, which I actually still have today, is an HTC p4350. You might remember it as the HTC Herald, or the T-Mobile wing. I had been using Pocket PCs since the year 2000, and its evolution to the smartphone was the next logical step. There were a lot of things to like about it, like amazing one-handed usability through the hardware buttons, the roomy slide-out keyboard, the ease of use of Windows Mobile 5, which eventually moved to Windows Mobile 6, and the fact that almost all my legacy apps worked on it. Sadly my biggest complaints had to do with its limited storage to run apps (as Windows Mobile required part of any app to live in the built-in storage, even if you moved part of the app to the storage card). It also had a terrible camera for its time, even compared to some Motorola feature phones of the day. This phone is still a piece of history, and I won’t deny that I’d love to spend a day with it today just to bring back the memories.



Joe Levi

Senior Editor

“Killed and imported hardware. Minus the sexy.”

In the beginning, I really wasn’t into the whole “phone” scene. I wanted something I could use to take notes, and to get and send email. I tried out Palm’s highest-end devices, and although I loved the form factor, I just couldn’t bring myself to learn chicken scratch Graffiti. I tried out a Newton MessagePad 130 the same day, and walked out with it in-hand.

After upgrading to the MessagePad 2000 and later the 2000U, Steve Jobs killed off the Newton. Thus began my foray into a world of devices powered by Windows CE (or whatever other name Microsoft wanted to call it. During this time, these PDAs were still just that, they didn’t have any cellular capabilities. I ran through a few different Nokia handsets during that period, but eventually the two worlds were combined. Since the States didn’t have many “cool” smartphones I ended up importing most of my devices. My favorite that I can remember was the Mitac Mio A701, one of the early GPS-enabled smartphones. It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t sexy. It got the job done, and it lasted quite a while for my needs.



Michael Fisher


Editorial Director

“Jealousy driven Blackberry.”

During the halcyon days of my youth, when working in wireless retail slinging Nextel phones seemed about as cool as it was ever going to get, I found myself lamenting my otherwise-delightful dumbphone existence. Sure, the Motorola i730 dangling from my hip holster was fancy and metal and loud as hell, but the sight of my manager banging out Hotmail messages and trading PINs with other high-ranking Nextel elites convinced me: what I needed was a BlackBerry.

So it was with great pride that I strapped on the BlackBerry 7520 in the early months of 2005: a hulking monstrosity of a PDA with an ugly extendable antenna and a massive speakerphone bolted onto the back – both prerequisites for iDEN handsets in those days.

Despite its massive footprint and terrible battery life, the 7520 changed my mobile life: where before I was confined to the occasional text message or brief WAP browsing session when I wasn’t talking or “chirping,” now I had a BlackBerry with a web browser and a full QWERTY keyboard. I used it to write emo updates to my MySpace page, to trade observations on flip phones at HowardForums, and to point my browser to sites where I could download “third-party applications” that enabled fancy functionality (like keeping the screen backlight on while using the phone).

These days, the BlackBerry 7520 –and indeed, BlackBerry itself– seems like a distant relation to our modern techno-wonderboxes, but I still recall fondly the surprise on people’s faces when I told them I could send and receive email right from my hip. I still remember the familiar weight of the matte black monster in its huge belt holster. And sometimes, as I settle into an airplane chair for a long flight, I still miss trying for a new high score in BrickBreaker.

image courtesy of HowardForums




Stephen Schenck

Chief News Editor

“Hello Moto.”

The first smartphone I ever owned doesn’t seem like it should count, since I never activated it for cellular data: an old Motorola Droid I picked up when starting at Pocketnow. It was really just a platform on which to get first-hand experience with apps. The first smartphone I ever had with a proper cellular connection, though, was the Nexus 4.

All around, the phone was pretty hit-and-miss for me. I loved the glass rear panel (and I’m probably one of the few who did), but hated the chrome trim around the phone’s edge. I loved the HD display, but hated the rear-firing speaker. But really, I got the phone because it was a Nexus device, hardware quibbles be damned. And in that light, it very much delivered. Unfortunately, the arrival of the Nexus 5 drove me to cut short my time with the Nexus 4 after just one year, but it was a pretty awesome handset to introduce me to the world of smartphone ownership.



Taylor Martin

Senior Editor

“Third time was a charm.”

I was 16 and working at a shoe store, and I saw it. My coworker walked in, staring down at this big phone with a full QWERTY keyboard on the front. I only caught a glimpse of it before he slipped it into his pocket and disappeared into the back of the store. Later, I asked him about it and he told me he just bought it. It was the Moto Q and I absolutely had to have one.

This wasn’t the first time I was exposed to a smartphone. My mom had to carry a BlackBerry for her job, but it was one of those awful 7100 SureType models.

A few days later, I used my upgrade to buy a Moto Q and quickly found out it wasn’t the dream phone I was hoping it would be and used my two-week return period to swap it out for the newly-launched BlackBerry Pearl 8130. I still wasn’t satisfied, but I was stuck with it until my mother used her upgrade to nab the Curve 8330 and traded with me for the Pearl.

It was all downhill from that point. The 8330 was my baby. I carried it for nearly three years and it went through everything with me – a motorcycle wreck, truck wreck, graduation, and more. In fact, I still have it today.



Rithvik Rao

News Editor

“I don’t remember why, but I’m sure it was a great reason.”

My first smartphone was the HTC Dream / G1, and I don’t exactly remember why I even had it. Long story (I think?) short, I ended up with it somehow and it became my baby. Fun fact: the first app I got from Google Play (then the Android Market) was Rock Paper Scissors. I loved the slide-out keyboard and the novelty of the then-new Android OS, but probably the most impressive thing was using a touch screen – I’d seen mainly BlackBerries up to this point, and hadn’t used the OG iPhone much, so that was genuinely impressive. What I hated was that it was incredibly slow at times, but that was to be expected as it was a gen 1 product. It was a really nice experience, and it felt like I was beta testing the next big thing (Android). I definitely look back on it fondly.




“What was in YOUR pocket then, Pocketnow readers?”

So what about you? What was the one that got you going down this dark and twisted trail of tech? What phone was your high school sweetheart, your dark seductress? What phone got its meat hooks into you and pulled you into an eternal embrace of connectivity? Sound off below and let us know what you loved and hated. You always remember your first.


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