I have been a major Android fan since the OG Moto Droid from Verizon in 2009. A short, and regrettable stint with iPhone in 2011-12, was the only time I wasn’t rocking a Android. I have wanted to write down my thoughts on this journey for awhile, and after waiting for 4 years to buy a foldable, OnePlus finally released theirs, called the Open. I thought now would be a great time to chronicle my smartphone journey as I take a foray into such a unique category of computation innovation.
First for some backstory, that I assume is similar to everyone’s upon encountering a basic dumbphone that were ubiquitous during the early/mid 2000’s. These devices were merely there to allow primarily calls, and in a pinch, brief SMS (text) communication via T9Word, which worked surprisingly well. During this time, for me at least, the cell phone was a forgettable device, and mostly to allow coordinating meeting people in person. Quite often, I wouldn’t even have a cell on me. Remember, these were the days when Facebook hadn’t even launched, and video game multiplayer meant lugging equipment to your friends house for a LAN party. Technology was still a sidenote to our lives.
Then came MMS, where you could send grainy pictures, and almost unwatchable video. Then the small web browsers, allowing you to check email or open a basic webpage, only after 30 seconds of loading though.
Then two things happened: the internet started to integrate everywhere, and most importantly the first iPhone was launched. Absolutely mind blowing at that time. However, it was only on AT&T, which for the vast amount of the rural or non-metro US, Verizon was the only option. Also, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter launched, which in turned brought janky dumbphone apps. People expected pictures and videos to actually be usable when sending to their friends. Real time updates of posts started to happen. This was the turning point that killed dumbphones. They just could not keep up with the way technology was being starting to be used.
The two alternatives to iPhone at this time were Windows Mobile and Blackberry smartphones. These were clunky, slow, and barely useable. Nonetheless that’s all I could use on Verizon and they were fun compared to dumbphones. I felt like I was on the cutting edge.
Enter the OG Moto Droid from Verizon in 2009. Absolutely crazy hype. Commercials were edgy. The specs, features and software blew the iPhone out of the water. I got one, and actually still have it in storage somewhere. Loved that thing. It was where I was introduced to rooting and custom ROMs, overclocking and all sorts of tinkering. Spent many a night browsing XDA for the next cool ROM to load.
After a couple years, the iPhone started to catch up, and finally it was available on Verizon. So I switched. At first it was a great experience. The OS was way smoother, the App Store was a million miles ahead of the Android Market (before it was renamed to today’s Play Store). And, the jailbreak scene was off the chains. You could modify any part of iOS. Apple didn’t like this and started to crack down, making it more unstable and risky to jailbreak. More notably, Android phones seemed to start overtaking iPhones for features and customization. The Android Market exploded with apps, and you could find any style of Android that fitted your desired form factor and specs.
So I switched back to Android, and immediately felt back at home. I used Motorola, Samsung, LG and HTC phones (which also included some of the Google Nexus models) - (and briefly in 2017 the Essential phone) during a period of about 5 years. I finally landed on OnePlus, and haven’t looked back. See my next post for why I think OnePlus makes the best Android phones, and why I think their foldable is the best one on the market.
As I detailed early in this post, the way we interact with tech has drastically changed in 20 years. However, in shorter segments, periods of stagnation. Think of 2007-2010. We had good progress, but smartphones were in their infancy and had many limitations. The iPad in 2010 was definitely a game changer, expanding the idea of touch interface based computation but on a larger screen and instead of a mouse. But essentially from 2007-2019, it was really just iterations of slabbed devices with larger displays, better specs, software each year.
In 2019, we saw Samsung release their foldable Galaxy. But it was not ready for primetime, for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, I think people didn’t understand how a foldable was more than an expensive, prone to breakage gimmick. And they had a point. Early models were thick, heavy, not reliable or user friendly. Not to mention the staggering price tag, when the market price for a great phone was around $500. Furthermore, the general mentality, at least I think, was that there was no need for that much screen real estate on a phone when you could just use a tablet or ultra thin laptop. I for one, certainly held to some form of the above.
Enter 2023. I believe we are now fully in a mobile computation society. No longer is the mentality that we have to be tethered to a laptop or desktop inside our home or office sitting at a desk. We are constantly on the move, both within our homes, communities and workplaces, but also many different hours of the global time zones. And beyond that, the software we interact with has grown with this expectation. Take for instance Google Sheets on a smartphone or tablet these days. It is very full featured, and aside from some Excel formula/macro wizards (I know there are some of you out there), mobile Sheets can do most of your required tablature computation. The key here is screen size. The only caveat in general is for the extreme power users, that need beefy GPUs to due video editing, or proprietary software, etc. But the majority of people could do most of their work if the screen was large enough and they had a bluetooth keyboard to tie to that screen.
So the question is, why carry a phone PLUS a tablet/laptop, when their exists devices that can potentially be both? I say the barrier to entry is slowing becoming both mentally and financially less insurmountable, although much work is yet to be done. I see a potential for wider adoption due to the mentality switch I mentioned above, but also I predict pricing will lower as this tech enters it’s 5th year, and more companies join the competition, and the current leaders refine their manufacturing processes.
I for one, am excited to see where this segment grows to, and what further innovations come in the way of foldable devices.