Motorola A920 and A925
|Motorola A920 and A925|
The differences between the A920 and A925 are mostly cosmetic – the A920 launched first with all the design charm of 1960s East German tractor factory. After working frantically together, Motorola and 3 came up with the A925 which had the design charm of a 1980s East German tractor factory. This was progress of sorts.
Perhaps the most striking phone in 3’s early line-up was the NEC E808, which was one of those visionary devices that demonstrated that neither carriers nor manufacturers really knew what consumers wanted.
Rather beautifully engineered in black and chrome, the E808 had a full QWERTY keyboard and a relatively large 2.8” display along with both front and rear-facing cameras. It looked like a tiny laptop computer, but the reality was a bit disappointing. The large display only had a resolution of 162 x 132 pixels, and because 3 had a “walled garden” approach to the internet in most regions, you couldn’t actually browse the web. You could use the keyboard for text messages and emails, but the phone was too limited to do much else. You could make video calls on it though – this was a big thing for 3G networks – but in reality, hardly anybody did.
|NEC E808 and E808Y|
But if you thought that the E808 misjudged the market... there was Nokia. Their mainstream 3G phone was the batshit-crazy Nokia 7600 which so fundamentally missed the needs of potential customers that it ended up being a high-profile disaster. The insane keyboard, tiny screen and lack of video calling just made it rather pointless.
NEC E616 / E616V
Admittedly these weren’t the only phones, but the NEC E606 and Motorola A830 were like the last kids to be picked for the team, and they were never going to win 3 any medals. By late 2003 there was finally a less awful handset in 3’s line-up, the NEC E616.
The E616 looked rather nice, although like all 3G phones at the time it was a bit large. Two separate front and back facing cameras delivered on the promise of video calling without having to swivel a camera around, there was expandable memory and a decent media player and the 2.2” screen may not have been very good but the 176 x 240 pixel resolution was better than most. The E616 did have a pretty rubbish main camera though at just 352 x 240 pixels, but this was rapidly replaced with the E616V which boasted 640 x 480 pixels.
It took a long time for 3G phones to be the standard – a big problem for 3G-only networks such as 3. The market took about 5 years to fundamentally shift away from 2G with the rise of the Android platform helping to drive high-speed data use. Today most these curious relics of early 3G telephony are still fairly easy to find and not expensive.
Image credits: NEC, Motorola, Symbian, Nokia, TimSE via Wikimedia Commons, Conrad Longmore via Wikipedia, Retromobe