Gabriel’s Phoneography #1: Growing up (or, My On-Off Love Affair with Nokia).


I’ve always wanted to do a comprehensive blog post about the phones that I’ve had since my very first set because I’m an obsessive-compulsive list freak my memory’s getting poorer by the day and I need to list this down before I forget completely austerity.

With the recent announcement that Nokia has been bought over by Microsoft and that the Finnish phone giant’s days are numbered (at least for products branded with the company name) and since most of my earlier phones were Nokia ones, I figured this would be as good a time as any to do it.

Because I have apparently owned every other phone in existence throughout the years, I’ve separated my phone list (or “phoneography”, because I’m totally amazing at this English thing) into two posts. The first spans my first set in my secondary school (or junior high, for those of you not in the Asias) years to the most recent one I had in the army.

Warning: might stir up uncontrollable feelings of nostalgia for some of you. And also indicate your age.


(The sequence and exact details from this period might not be totally accurate because, well, I can’t really remember all that well. Hey, I couldn’t even tell you what I had for breakfast this morning so the fact that I managed to get anything out at all is totally a medal-worthy achievement in itself, yo.)

Motorola Startac 80 (Secondary One [~2000]. I think)

motorola startac

My very first phone, passed down from my mum. I don’t remember much about this one, except that I was very fascinated by the removable battery. It was pretty cutting edge and classy for its time and was, upgrading to this from a pager, a massive step up in terms of communication ability, even if I didn’t actually use it all that much.

Nokia 3310 (lower secondary school [~2000-2001])


Like many people, this was my first foray into Nokia and, boy, what a gem it was.

SMS was just coming into its own (as was, unfortunately, chat speak) and I remember everyone either having or wanting one of these. What’s not to like about it? It was pretty for its time, the buttons were amazingly responsive, the screen was decent sized for SMSes, it had Snake (a better animal to make a game about, I’d argue, than irate birds) and the thing was sturdy as heck.

Siemens ME45. I think that’s the model. (mid secondary school [~2001])


After my contract ended (or my 3310 was lost, or something like that), I decided to be adventurous and switch to Siemens, then one of the powerhouses for mobile devices.

Possibly even sturdier than the 3310, I hated this thing from the start because, sleek though it was, it didn’t have Snake (a very important criterion to a thirteen year old) and its shockproof buttons were ridiculously difficult to press. Also, this was the first time I became privy to how important a well-designed user interface was, in that this phone didn’t have one.

Nokia 8250 (upper secondary school [~2001-2003])

Better looking and more compact than the 3310 while still retaining all of its functionality, this (and its predecessor, the 8210) was Nokia’s flagship for quite a while and it’s not hard to see why.

This was my favourite phone of this generation bar none. It was slim, light and had an instantly classic design (I mean, who doesn’t remember the butterfly button layout?). The blue backlight was a pleasant change from the perfunctory yellow of the 3310 (and 8210) and you could actually change the entire casing of it to a colour you liked (something which was available for the 3310 as well but which looked much nicer on this phone because, well, it looked much nicer). Can you imagine being able to swop out your entire iPhone front now?

nokia 8250 blue

I went with this particular colour (which I just found out was called mysterious blue).

Nokia 3310 (upper secondary school [~2003])

Unfortunately, I left my 8250 in my schoolbag, which I stupidly left in the open in school while I went out for lunch with my friends. Came back to find the phone, predictably, gone. Ah, the follies of youth.

So, I had to borrow my grandmother’s 3310 to use as my phone while I watched everyone else play around with their 8250s and, by that time, the first generation of colour phones.


Nokia 7250i (end secondary school to mid poly [~2003-2005])


My first foray into coloured-screen phones was also the one that I had waited the most and longest for and remains, to this day, my favourite Nokia phone ever. I remembered it cost something like a whopping S$400++ (which was insane for that time).

Colour-screened and camera-toting phones had appeared quite a while before this (my mum, in fact, got her first several months before me) and were fast gaining popularity but none of them captured my heart like this one did. It was one of the most powerful phones of that era, had a decent camera and, with its perfect proportions, sleek metallic shades and smooth texture, felt like the most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on.

I remember how happy I was when I first got this and, if memory serves (which…it might not), this was (and still is) one of the only phones that I actually kept to for the entirety of my two-year phone contract.

Samsung E720 (Poly years two and three [~2005-2006])


Having stuck with Nokia for the past gazillion generations of phones, I decided to switch to a new competitor in the mobile scene which was fast gaining traction. At that time, clamshell phones ruled the handphone roost and I, of course, hankered after one. While there were several other clamshells available, only this one really caught my eye, again due to its beautiful design. I loved the colour combination and the materials used felt really high quality (which can’t be said of Samsung phones nowadays). Plus, I loved the shape and feel of the keys and, of course, that screen on the front which made for great selfies.

It was far from perfect, though. Despite being marketed as a music player phone (note the controls on the front), the internal memory could only hold an album or two at most (and wasn’t expendable) and the user interface was a far cry from the intuitive navigation of Nokia’s offerings. I remember getting quite frustrated with its inexplicably obfuscating menus.

Nokia 6230i (end poly [~2006-2007])


Having had to endure the terrible user interface of the Samsung E720 (oh, the first-world horror!), I finally convinced my dad to let me use his contract upgrade to switch back to some familiar territory (while he, being less fussy, would get to use the E720).

I really liked this phone, too. It had a nice grip and weight and the buttons were large (without being comically so) and pressed nicely. Although it didn’t really have much to set it apart from some of the flashier phones from other companies (or even Nokia itself), it was, just like its heft, a solid entry in the company’s history and I was totally content to stick with it for as long as I could.


Nokia 8310 (early NS days [2007])


Seeing as I had to get a non-camera phone to bring into camp, I seized the chance to get an older model I’d always wanted but never had the chance to. By then, the models with no cameras and/or coloured-screens were going for pretty cheap on the secondhand market and I remember getting the 8310 for about S$60 (came with an additional battery too, which was great since we weren’t allowed to bring chargers into camp). Thankfully, I happened to get a secondhand unit which was in pretty much perfect condition and worked fine.

Even then, though, the phone was showing its age. The screen felt woefully small, multi-SMS messages came individually instead of being combined together and (I’m not sure if that was just for my particular unit or for the entire range) the navigation buttons were hard to press.

Nokia 6030 (rest of NS days [~2008-2009])


Thus, the moment I could (I don’t remember how), I changed to what I remember was the most popular army phone during my time. While nothing spectacular (even for its time), the 6030 was an upgrade from the 8310 in almost every way (save looks-wise).

It definitely wasn’t the prettiest of the lot but, like all other Nokias I’ve had, it was remarkably sturdy (especially considering what I put it through in those many months I had it). In fact, I’m pretty sure I could still start it up now and use it if I had to.


Siemens M55


Back when Siemens was still a thing and during one of my Nokia periods, I remembered being quite enamoured with this phone (and the whole scorpion design that it was marketed with). Although I had a terrible experience with a Siemens phone, this one had really good reviews and I really liked the design a lot. I remember the keys pressing very nicely (solidly, without being finger-spraining like the one I had), which was (and continues to be) one of my key (pun intended) areas of consideration for any phone.

Nokia 7270


This came out as part of a series of similarly geometrically-centric Nokia phones but while I didn’t think much of its fellows – the inexplicably popular 7260 and super weird 7280 – I quite liked this a lot. Like the Samsung E720, it had a nice (if totally different) clamshell look, the key difference being that this also came with a Nokia interface.

Nokia N73


This was one of the most powerful phones of its time and, if I remember, was one of the phones that pushed and blurred the boundaries of featurephones and what would eventually come to be known as smart phones.

Although I’ve always felt Symbian was a little too complicated, and often way laggier, than the traditional Nokia OS, this came at a time when it was still acceptable and I remember being excited about what the phone could do (that whatever phone I was using at that time couldn’t) as well as its powerful camera and that camera protecting flap, which is something that should totally come back soon.

As can be seen, I changed through several brands in those years but I always came back to Nokia. It was just that good. And it’s not just nostalgia speaking, too. The Finnish monster was an incredibly dominant market leader at that time and justifiably so – it was simply unparalleled in terms of user friendliness and design. Even now, I’m still a huge fan of their Lumia designs, just not the operating systems they run on.

It’s sad to see what was such a huge fixture of my teenage years (and which was a huge driving force in my developing interest in gadgets and telecommunication devices) disappearing for good (at least name-wise). Goodbye, Nokia. I (and millions of people around the world of a certain age) will miss you.

What was/were your first phone/s when you were young? Why’d you choose those?


2 thoughts on “Gabriel’s Phoneography #1: Growing up (or, My On-Off Love Affair with Nokia).

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