Living with a 90s mobile phone in 2015

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How difficult can it be to live with a 90s mobile phone in modern day society?
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Living with a 90s mobile phone in 2015

Do we take our smartphones for granted? They can do so much these days it’s pretty easy to forget how sweet we’ve got it. To put this theory to the test, we seized one of our writers’ Sony Xperia Z3+ for a week and replaced it with a discontinued Nokia 1610 from 1996. This is how he got on…

Serious regression

Before we delve headfirst down this miserable rabbit hole of nostalgia, here’s a little bit about how I use my smartphone on a day-to-day basis. In a nutshell I’m a social media junkie, pretty snap happy, unashamedly addicted to Spotify and message almost everyone I know through WhatsApp - apart from my mother - obviously. Both my work and personal email accounts are synced to my phone, and I’ve been known to refer to Google Maps from time to time.

I would assume the above is something you can loosely relate to, but in 1996, when the 1610 was released, none of the applications had been invented. So now I’ve got the ability to call, text, plus a deadicated voicemail button – so swings and roundabouts, I guess.

Teething problems

To get started with the 1610, I needed to transfer all my contacts via SIM card. We, as smartphone users, don’t really do this anymore as our contacts are all saved to cloud accounts, like iCloud or Google+. As such, I had to look up instructions on how to do this.

Turns out SIM cards aren’t really designed to hold very much information, so when I went to transfer the 300 contacts I’ve somehow amassed over the years (I definitely don’t know 300 people), I could only save people with names starting ‘A – C’.

Also, you can’t ‘jump’ to contacts by typing their first initial, so there’s an awful lot of repetitive clicking on the softkeys to find the people you want to talk to. Just think for a moment how annoying the keyboard clicking sound is on your phone - or even worse, on someone else’s phone. It’s as if they have absolutely no consideration for the rest of the human race - quite content incessantly tapping away in their own little worlds.

Thankfully it’s now a function we can turn off – but apparently we didn’t mind it so much in the 90s. Weird.

Texting takes an eternity

I don’t recall texting ever being such a painstaking and laborious task, but obviously my memory has been melted by the efficiency of today’s slick technology. The 6110 predates predictive text, so in order to write messages you have to hit the 0 – 9 keys numerous times each in order to select the correct letter.

To make matters worse, there’s no automation when it comes to capital letters, so you have to hit the # key every time you’re after one.

It hit me around the third day of this twisted experiment, that this must be the reason we all used to text like morons, i.e. ‘hi r u hre ths wknd 4 drnks?’ Typing this way is less time consuming and saves on characters. You can only have 160 characters in a text message before it morphs into two messages. That would have cost you 20p back in the day - the equivalent of two Freddos.

If the actual composition of the text didn’t take long enough, this is the process I have to go through every time I want to send a message:

  • Select ‘Menu’
  • Select ‘Messaging’
  • Select ‘Write message’
  • Compose my message
  • Select ‘Options’
  • Select ‘Send to’
  • Select ‘Add from phone’
  • Find the person I want to message
  • Select ‘Send’

If that’s not ridiculous enough, I can only have about ten messages in my inbox before it’s full to the brim. So if I want to continue receiving new information from people I know, it’s pretty paramount to keep on top of.

No Google

It goes without saying, but living without the infinite knowledge of Google in your pocket for a week is quite an isolating experience. On numerous occasions I’ve had to call a friend or a family member to find out things I would have previously been able to key into the search engine in seconds. It’s kind of like having unlimited ‘phone a friend’ lifelines on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

In that respect however, actually speaking to people has been quite pleasant. Humans like interacting with each other, and we all got by on vocal interaction alone for a really long time just fine. It’s become fairly clear over this week that instant messaging is quite an impersonal and emotionless way of communicating with the people we really like – maybe I should devote more time to phone calls in the future...

I have, of course, also been completely devoid of navigational assistance, with no Google Maps to reassure me. On occasion, I’ve consulted strangers on the street, but thankfully this week hasn’t taken me anywhere I hadn’t been before. Phew.

Welcome back to the 21st Century

There are many things I’m looking forward to having back in my life once reunited with my smartphone, although the social media blackout and Google-less week has proved liberating.

I’m not about to up sticks and move to a cave in the mountains, but it’s certainly been an experience - one I would recommend you try, if you think you can hack it.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation here…

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