We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

My ten years with 2004’s least exciting phone

Instapundit linked to this: Razr Burn: My Month with 2004’s Most Exciting Phone. Apparently, having become accustomed to smartphones, the lady found the ten year old Motorola Razr V3 un-smart.

Lady, that ain’t a 2004 phone.

This is a 2004 phone.

OK, it would have been nice at this point to download a picture of my phone. But one can’t do that with the Sagem myX-2, the only cell phone that a person of discernment need ever own. The myX-2 does not hamper my appreciation of the world by tempting me to take photographs. Nor does it download things, preferring to keep itself pure. I believe that it is capable of going to look at the internet, at warp 48.3, I am told, but in the decade since I first owned this jewel among telephonic devices, my affairs have never been so disarranged as to oblige me to attempt this feat.

It sends text messages. There is a thing called “predictive text”, but I prefer to make my own decisions.

It has a picture puzzle in which one does something or other with a grid of numbers. Of course technology has moved on and no one nowadays would play anything so primitive.

It falls into rivers. It gets left in the saddlebag of a bicycle stored in a lean-to shed for a month. It is stroked lovingly by people who had one in 2003. It distracts jurors from the case in hand when all the mobiles have to be put in a safe and it is the coolest one there. It bounces. It will be replaced when it finally dies which is sure to happen by 2008 at the latest.

You can telephone people on it.

29 comments to My ten years with 2004’s least exciting phone

  • Laird

    Loved the reference to “warp” speed!

  • The only reason to telephone someone is if you are on fire… everything else is done via e-mail or IM 😀

  • Sam Duncan

    Such phones are not a thing of the past. They’re just cheaper. A lot cheaper.

    Meet the Alcatel OneTouch 1010 (a phone so unassuming it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page). Asda in the UK will sell you one for the princely sum of £5, but I got mine for nothing. Not “free if you sign a two-year contract that’ll cost you several hundred quid”; absolutely, completely, gratis. It is, in almost every way, the mobile phone equivalent of the digital watches you used to get at filling stations 30-odd years ago when you bought enough petrol (it even feels like one, actually: plasticky and very, very light, yet also strangely rugged).

    This is not a criticism. It would have been a fairly ordinary mid-range device ten years ago, but better than anything on the market in 1999. And now they’re literally giving them away.

    Granted, I don’t actually use it, but I’m tempted…

  • I went to Le Mans yesterday to watch the cars which contested the 24 hour race between the 1930s and 1970s race. Of course, all of the cars seem incredibly primitive compared to today’s competitors, but aesthetically they look great and they are still damned quick. The fact is that no matter what the product or design, it will eventually seem dated in looks and functionality, and then if enough time goes by, some models it will become aesthetically pleasing enough for the reduced functionality to be overlooked. I noticed yesterday that the angular cars of the 1980s are now starting to become collectors’ items, and I daresay in time the stuff from the 90s and 00s considered outdate junk now will become “classics” and sought after. Yesterday left me wondering whether in 50 years time enthusiasts will be racing the Audi hybrid that won the 2012 Le Mans 24h and eagerly talking about its ground-breaking technology of the era despite its primitive components by modern-day standards.

  • The very early GSM mobile phones – say the Nokia 2110 from 1994 – could make phone calls and send SMS text messages. Before the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, most people were using mobile phones to make phone calls and send SMS text messages, and that was all. By 2007, phones (and smartphones) that could do many other things existed, but most people did not use any of these other features. Therefore, competition was about how small you could make the phone, how cool looking it was, and how long the battery life was. Hence we got weird and cool looking phones that only needed recharging once every three weeks.

    Then manufacturers started making smartphones that people wanted to use, and we switched to smartphones that are all identical slabs of glass that will barely get through the day on one charge.

  • pete

    I’m sure there are some people who live such busy and important lives that they need to be constantly emailing, messaging and keeping up to date on the move, but most people don’t.

    The huge amount of time many people spend staring at the tiny screen of their smart phones while out and about is no mystery really. It is just an outdoor version of the vapid and empty lives many of them lead indoors where the telly still dominates their waking hours.

    The allegedly busy and time pressed Brit who has no time to cook or read to the kids watches 4 hours of TV per day.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Sounds a lot like my Sony K850i, which is still happily working.

    It does take pictures, but otherwise is much as you describe.

    Oh, and it has the world’s most intuitive user interface (be quiet, Apple fanboys, you’re not in the same league), and lasts a week or more on a battery charge.

    And yes, this is the original battery.

    They don’t make ’em like this any more.

  • john

    The only reason to telephone someone is if you are on fire… everything else is done via e-mail or IM

    Now that is quote of the day stuff.

  • Bod

    Funny thing is, I only decommissioned my RAZR3 about a month ago. And the only reason I did that was because a replacement battery for it was so expensive that I considered the cost was prohibitive.

    Given that the existing battery will be able to hold SOME charge for many more years, I’m trying to figure a way that I can keep the RAZR viable yet untraceable, and hold onto it as a ‘throwdown’ phone in case I ever need an alibi.

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    There’s a Charlie Stross talk on YouTube where he talks about predicting the future. By way of example, he talks about what he would make of the world today had he time travelled from 20 years ago. While much of the world would look very familiar (a laptop is still a laptop, just a bit better), 1994 Charlie, he says, might wonder:

    “Why is everyone walking around staring into these little glass screens as if they are windows into to the sum total of human knowledge?”

  • Rob Fisher (Surrey)

    Pete: “The huge amount of time many people spend staring at the tiny screen of their smart phones while out and about is no mystery really. It is just an outdoor version of the vapid and empty lives many of them lead indoors where the telly still dominates their waking hours.”

    Is there a name for the tendency to assume that people doing things you don’t understand must be doing it wrong?

    Personally I’d rather read Samizdata while standing in the queue at the sandwich shop than any of the other activities available to me (like watching the daytime TV they have on the wall in there).

  • Jerry

    Texting has to be the most backward practice ever adopted by supposedly intelligent people.
    It was made ‘popular’ by youngsters because they could do it
    – quietly – no one could overhear
    – in school – it’s quiet and, again, no evesdropping
    – cheaply – much less expensive AT ONE TIME than actual talking
    and with the growth of acronyms ( to save characters which at one time also saved
    money ) became the preferred method of communication by the ‘younger set’ !!

    It ranks somewhere between Morse code and semafore !!!
    I or anyone else can cover almost any material/idea/thought vocally many times faster than texting and I don’t have to be looking at the damn screen instead of the road ahead
    to send OR RECEIVE ‘messages’.
    I don’t like new ‘laws’ but given the number of injuries / wrecks / deaths it has caused by doing it while driving, punishment should be SEVERE if one is caught at it or causes said injuries / wrecks / deaths. So Severe that very few would be stupid enough to do it.
    You want to waste pieces of your life staring at a small screen while you tap out your thoughts, go ahead.
    I’ll do mine much faster by talking and be finished with that albatross that some many these days seem to think s necessary for their very existence.
    Don’t get me started on that other waste of ones life – Facebook.

  • The last toryboy

    Reading Samizdata on my smartphone on the rail commute home as I always do.

    So there, maybe when you observe someone gazing at their phone and you are wondering what they are doing on it… Maybe, just maybe, they are reading Samizdata!

  • Fraser Orr

    @Jerry, I totally disagree. Texting is a very effective communication mechanism. Of course like any other it can be abused and it has its weaknesses. However, texting offers several very useful advantages over voice and to some extent email:

    1. It can be done quietly without interuption. This means that a communication can be made even when a phone call cannot be accepted. (“Plz get kids at 3pm”, response “K” is a marvel of efficient communication that can be received even during days when I have meetings from 9 till 5.

    2. The culture of texting is short, to the point messages. Email has a culture of bla, bla, bla, and Reply All that makes the actual transaction cost of managing email very high. You could email “Plz get kids” and reply “K” however the culture of email makes this seem kind of rude, and requires bulking up conversation. The very intrinsic limits of texting mean that we don’t have to deal with that. Acronyms like all jargon are fabulously effective, except when they aren’t.

    3. Same goes BIG time with voice mail OMG, how long between “So and so can’t take your call, bla, bla, bla, bla” and leave a message after the beep… What a shocking wast of time. I have a friend who does international research, so if I leave her a message, I have to listen to the bla, bla, bla in English, French and Spanish before the denouement of the beep. Needless to say, I never call her.

    4. Texting is private. You don’t need a phone stuck to your ear. You can quickly read the message.

    5. Texting is queuable. When someone calls you have four rings to drop everything and pick up. You can respont to texts (and emails) whenever you want.

    Facebook is also an amazingly effective tool for reconnecting with old friends and staying in touch with new friends. It is the Christmas letter on steriods, and it is also a super quick and easy way for a non techie to set up their own blog. I hate facebook the company, but the concept is society changing.

    Like any technology, just because it can be effective doesn’t mean people don’t make it into a huge time waste. But the discerning can use these technologies very effectively indeed.

  • Runcie Balspune

    I was always a Motorola fanboi, the best one I had was the V3960, then the RAZR V3, V3i and SLVR. The only reason I moved to a Smart Phone was that I needed a diary and my range of Palm PDAs wasn’t cutting it any more, but it was sure difficult getting a diary app which can be sync’ed with your PC and doesn’t upload your information to the “cloud” (a.k.a. some faceless corporate giant with as much concern about your privacy as a government security service).

    I must admit that other features outdo my Palm, Netflix is marginally better and cheaper than ripping DVDs, Podcasts come straight down rather than via a PC sync, and SD Cards have endless capacity for music now, even Kindle books are easier than a Kindle. Non-confidential documents are nicer when accessible on a sync’ed Dropbox/Drive.

    I have yet to see a cat video or use Facebook on it, though.

    Occasionally I get a call, even if 90% are PPI reclaim scams, and texting is a lot easier with template messages (I just tend to send my wife and kids the same boring messages).

    Samizdata is one of the better websites for mobile use.

  • Roue le Jour

    I expected ‘Swatch’ phones by now but I suppose the target market for Swatches all have smartphones.

    One other thing that occurs to me is, my grandfather could have left me his gold watch or Leica (if he had one) what personal item of value will we leave to our grandchildren? All our expensive personal electronic items only have a lifetime of a few years.

  • Midwesterner

    I really miss my Motorola Ultra Classic II brick phone. It made a serviceable hammer, and excellent weapon for self defense, and a useful tire chock if you had a flat tire. It utterly confused the younguns’ and a few not so young whose frequent guess was that it was some kind of marine radio. Despite a year or more receiving warnings of its impending demise, I used it to the last when they shut down the analogue network.

    And Fraser Orr:

    “Plz get kids at 3pm”, response “K” is a marvel of efficient communication that can be received even during days when I have meetings from 9 till 5.

    Darn it! And yet another denizen of the Samizdata commentariet is revealed to have a TARDIS tucked away in some little pocket of the space/time continuum. Where are you guys getting them? Is Samizdata some kind of confabulation of Time Lords?

  • Richard Thomas

    Bod, I think I have a little-used razr3 battery lying around. Shipping cost might be prohibitive though. You can usually find phone batteries on ebay for $6 or less.

  • Richard Thomas

    Jerry, when you call me, you make the assumption that whatever you want is more important than whatever I happen to be doing at that moment. I have no way of judging that so I must either answer and potentially totally derail whatever I am doing for some mundaneness or (and this is increasingly more likely) let you go to voicemail and risk missing something important. Offline methods of communication are simply more polite.

  • Richard Thomas

    Fraser, for your international friend, any decent voicemail system (so possibly not many) should let you bypass that, probably by pressing “1”. There are many other shortcuts like that that are little-known that can be useful when fighting one of those voice-recognition tree systems (particularly annoying when you have a foreign accent). “1” will typically substitute for Yes, “2” for No and a list of options mapped appropriately to the numbers. I managed to get AT&T’s business support tree down from 90 seconds of annoying voice prompts to less than 20 seconds of number presses (You can typically press the number before the system finishes talking too).

  • Jerry


    I said texting was quiet. That’s why ‘the kids’ like it.

    Short and to the point is debatable.

    Waste of time with voice mail listening to the outgoing message(s). Start to finish, in most cases, I can still say more, faster than you can type it, especially on a 2X5 inch keyboard.

    Private. Again, I said that and again that’s why the younger ones like it.

    Queuable. I’ll buy that one.

    Overall, it’s still slow and you should see some of the ‘conversations I’ve witnessed that go on for an HOUR, back and forth between two people who could have had a conversation lasting no more than 10 minutes !!

    …when you call me, you make the assumption that whatever you want is more important than whatever I happen to be doing at that moment …
    I make no assumption at all since I have no way of knowing what you may be doing. It’s a crap shoot.

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    Is Samizdata some kind of confabulation of Time Lords?

    Calling Gallifrey! Our cover is blown. Please send a TARDIS to pick us up.

  • William O. B'Livion

    You can telephone people on it.

    Why the hell would I want to do that?

  • Richard Thomas: Offline methods of communication are simply more polite.

    Amen! Without IM and e-mail, having a mobile phone is like being a dog on a leash, with anyone who wants to being able to yank it and drag you away from whatever you are doing.

    So unless you are have been forced to climb a street light and are in need of urgent rescue due to a pack of marauding hyenas waiting below (a rare occurrence in Chelsea, thankfully), please, just send me an IM rather than calling me.


    (…Ahem, sorry, got way deep into the character there…)

  • Michael Jennings (London)

    Also, the fact that people have stopped reading printed books and are now instead reading the same words from the screens of electronic devices spells the end of culture and civilization. I meet people who actually believe this.

  • Patrick Crozier

    You have/had a Sagem MyX-2? And, I thought I was the only one.

  • None of your “had” there, Patrick. I still have it. It is my mobile phone. When it finally stops working I will get a screen thingy and join the rest of my family in the modern social activity of jabbing at it while saying, “how do I get this damn thing to…”. But that day seems far off, unless I have unleashed bad juju by writing this post. They really don’t make batteries like that anymore.

  • And may I second the remarks by Fraser Orr in praise of texting. All offline methods of communication are, as several people have said, less intrusive than getting a phone call and less time consuming than making one, but texting has the additional advantage of making brevity a virtue. The telegram had the same virtue in its day.