Maybe my rant about headphone jacks the other day was a bit premature. This is a legitimate excuse for crazy thin phones. To clarify, this is not. I’ll give you my headphone jack, willingly, if you make me a foldable phone. The years and years of being stuck with a slab of electronics has left me desperate for unique form factors. I am desperate for another golden age of crazy cell phone design. I remember the days of full keyboards, optical mice, trackballs, and even full stereo speakers that would make an Amazon Echo blush. My original issue with a preoccupation with thickness is that it originally led to the disappearance of such unique and widely varying form factors. Let’s take a walk down internet archive assisted memory lane, because most of this stuff came out when I was in college and I did college the right way.
The form factor closest to home for most of us here, the full keyboard, whether it was a folder or a slider, is how this site got its beginnings. The HTC Fuze was not a revolution but more so a pinnacle form factor for our long dead friend Windows Mobile. The evolutionary predecessor more to Android than anything else Microsoft ever released, ran like a champ on the Fuze and had no shortage of ROM and OS version selections. These were the halcyon days, for sure. Although the Fuze and arguable its younger brother, the Tilt, were the crazy form factor powerhouses, they were not the most unique.
The Samsung Epix, was another interesting form I had the pleasure of using for a time. While very slabby still, it broke up your device in a very, blackberry-esque fashion, giving you a full keyboard, a touchscreen above it, and in between and optical sensor that functioned just like a trackball for your phone. Long before the time of hi-def screens, which would have only made the shitty camera phone quality more apparent, this interesting electronic hermaphrodite graced my palms and pockets for at least a year and gathered its fair share of interest from those around me. Then Android came along and kept one of its best features.
The HTC Hero, while not the first Android phone, it is certainly the one that launched it firmly into the forefront, with a trackball and a chin that threatened Jay Leno’s legacy as “the chin guy”. Building on its popular TouchFLO 3D it used on WinMo devices, HTC mirrored much of the design language creating a familiar landing pad for many of us dejected Windows Mobile people. While I had very limited experience with this hardware, it was rock solid. It felt like the kind of phone that you could use as a door stop in a pinch, and not like a tiny poorly made starter home door. We’re talking large industrial blast door, “line up three or four of these phones and save everyone in the trash compactor on the detention level” solid.
Talking about all these awesome phones makes me sad that to look at how basic bitch our phones have become. This talk of folding phones and flexible displays gives me hope. Hope for a future where I look in a basket of phones and don’t have only have options between which rectangular black chunk of electronics is mine. Do you miss these or other phones that were unique and different? Are you someone waiting impatiently for another wave of folding/flip phones made entirely of screens?