Remembering my Nokia 701
Guest writer Shibesh Mehrotra takes us on a trip into the past with his rosy retrospective of the Nokia 701 Symbian powerhouse - a classic device that never really received the credit it deserved.
Disclaimer: This is going to be a long, emotional piece. Read on only if you love Nokia, Symbian or me.
It was a summer of desire and a winter of surprises.
For much of the summer of 2011, I had been using a featurephone to get me by. A Nokia 2690, to be exact. Although I didn’t exactly hate the device, I needed something better. Because, well, it wasn’t cutting it for me. I was a media student, and as such, we had loads of assignments etc that involved taking pictures, working with email and I was getting a teeny, weeny bit sick of Series 40.
Don’t get me wrong, I made the most of that 2690 too. I even remember using it to submit most of my assignments at the last minute, when the WiFi connection would stop working and mobile data was my only choice. I also had 8 gigs worth of music loaded onto that tiny device through my SD card. That it managed to play that collection without crashing several times over and dying on me, still surprises me.
Then, in the winter, I did an internship that was especially demanding media-wise. I had to go around the villages that surround my city, visiting schools and colleges, and recording the student’s opinions on a seminar they’d attended. Minor work, for anyone who has a camera.
Except, I kinda didn’t.
So, in preparation for that, I decided to get myself a smartphone. Something that would double up as a camera, and at the same time serve my desire of having a mobile device more powerful to access the interwebz than a one-tab only version of Opera Mini. My choices at the time were the newly-released, NFC-toting, Symbian Belle-running Nokia 701 and the LCD-version of the Galaxy S.
I would tirelessly research both smartphones for a month, video-hopping from PhoneArena to The Phones Show. Review-hopping from All About Symbian to Unleash The Phones. And basically absorbing every piece of information there was on the internet about both. From DailyMobile to MyNokiaBlog, I went through hell trying to decide.
At the time, Nokia still had the inertia of being a household name, whereas Samsung didn’t quite inspire the same level of confidence, the Galaxy S II being just half a year old. And the video capabilities of the 701’s EDoF camera blew the Galaxy S out of the water. In all the test videos I watched online, the Galaxy would periodically drop frames and focus, while the 701 would hold its own till the time you pressed stop. And then there was the dilemma of buying a year-old device vs something spanking new.
In the end, I chose a dying OS on a better device over a flourishing OS on a subpar one.
And I never regretted that choice.
The first few days were glorious. Imagine the excitement of your first touchscreen phone. Add the exhilaration of making a jump from the most basic of featurephones to a top-of-the-line smartphone and that’s where I was emotionally, with the 701.
Browsing the Store frantically for known names of apps that I had seen other people use. Getting slightly disappointed when I found they weren’t available for Symbian. Brightening up again to see the other stuff that I could do with the device. It was pure tech geek bliss.
And all of the things that I would later learn to avoid (having multiple widgets of Nokia Social running on my homescreen, using Nokia Social, trying to coax the EdoF camera to take macro shots) I was learning on-the-job.
Speaking of jobs, that video-taking internship went by like a breeze. In good light, which India always seems to have in the afternoons, that camera was brilliant for photos/videos with no moving subjects/subjects with minimal movement. Here is a photo of me that one of the aforementioned subjects took after gifting me a rose:
The 701 was also the only phone that I’ve used as a frikkin phone. Seriously, I have never made as many 6-hour long calls with any other device. I have never sent as many 500 word long text messages with any other devices.
See, the phone wasn’t the only thing I was in love with.
But, as such, the 701 was also the only phone that I brutally threw around in savage anger whenever I got into a fight over the phone. I remember literally hurling it at a wall and then just picking up the pieces, putting everything back together and using it to call someone to send me food.
The 701 incidentally was the first phone on which I discovered, I could download podcasts to. It was the phone that introduced me to the concept of podcasts, the concept of never being alone again. To have people having conversations around me, and me not being obligated to take part in them. To listen to people smarter than me talk about things that, at first, went completely beyond me, and then slowly and surely, understanding those things and moving above and beyond them.
It was the first piece of tech that inspired me to write about it. It was the phone that I had no option except to hack, and play around with its internals. It taught about how smartphone operating systems work and how to bend them to do my bidding.
Here are some other pretty nice (to my eyes) photos that I managed to take with it:
Yes, it wasn’t Android. It didn’t have 900 gazillion apps, but I still fell for it and loved it until the day CJ accepted me into UTP and handed me a 620. I still love it. I still sometimes take it out of the cupboard, caress it, switch it on and play with it. It’s got its fair share of battle scars. The lock key is gone, the screen now has a crack which I have no idea how my brother managed to put on it. I mean, I threw the frikkin’ thing at a wall and the screen didn’t crack, my brother cracked it in 2 days.
Anyway, the point is, the 701 kinda made me who I am today. If it wasn’t for that phone, I wouldn’t have spent hours upon hours bent over my laptop going through the forums at DailyMobile and Symbian-Developers trying to figure out some nitpicky thing that bothered me. I probably wouldn’t be into tech.
Or maybe I would, I don’t know. What I do know is that today I’m happy with the journey I began with that phone. And maybe that’s what all of us need. To be happy with the device we chose, at the end of the day.
To everyone reading this, I hope your first smartphones were as special to you, as mine was to me.
Thanks, Shibesh! If anyone else out there would like to wax lyrical in such style about their own favourite Symbian smartphone then please get in touch.
[article first published at UTP, used here with kind permission]
Published by Steve Litchfield at 7:56 UTC, May 19th