My first post when I started this blog was about Android launchers and customization, and I talked a little bit about my history with smartphones and how much I liked to customize them and make them mine.
So I thought it was about time I went ahead and wrote about the history of devices I’ve owned and played around with, I thought it would be fun to make a trip down memory lane…
The dark times
First, what did I have before Android was even a thing? Well, I was just a kid back then, so I don’t remember specific models, but I at least know the type of phone and brands I had.
My first cellphone could not do phone calls, it was a Nokia phone that was locked down so it would only work in the US (I didn’t live in the US). It had a green monochrome screen that served me well to play simple games such as Snake and Space Impact. It was a wonderful little thing with tons of battery and fun, it resembled a classic Nokia 3310, but the up and down keys were in the middle (Kinda like the 3510, but I remember the keys being separated). I have not found a picture of it anywhere.
After that, my second device would be a Sony Ericcson, after some googling I was able to find that it was a K300i. I remember playing a Darts game on it, as well as recording a lot of videos of me practicing magic tricks, the quality was not great, but kinda decent back then. Again, I didn’t really had a SIM card, so no phone calls.
There was another phone that I really liked, because it finally had a QWERTY keyboard, it was an LG phone with a Windows Mobile OS, it was really fun. This was one of the first times I tried side-loading stuff, I realized the phone could run java apps, so I found a version of Plants vs Zombies and managed to get it running on it. It didn’t run great, but it was cool nonetheless.
Looks like LG made a ton of phones with QWERTY keyboards, so I couldn’t quite find the model I used to have. I remember its keys were all separated, instead of being like a single grid, they were all a bit spaced out, and it was quite squared, the body was not as rounded as some of the models I saw online.
The rise of Android
When Android came out, I remember the talks about it, one of my most clear memories were a friend who thaught Android apps where pirated versions of iOS, and that’s why they were free on Android’s Marketplace and paid in the App Store.
I really defended Android back then, I remember phones like the Samsung Galaxy Ace taking over the budget market, and stuff like the Galaxy S phones growing in popularity. I also remember the Galaxy Young ripping everyone off with its terrible performance compared to its older brothers.
Back then my dad didn’t really like smartphones, and didn’t feel the need for one, and my mom had a similar sentiment. But one day we ended up at a gas station where they had an electronics store, my dad was buying a FM radio transmitter for the car. I saw some phones there, and I somehow convinced him on the spot to get a phone for mom. It was some terrible chinese knock-off that was super cheap. It ran android 2.3.5 and it kinda sucked, it was already out of date when we got it, I remember around that time learning about Nova Launcher and icons packs, and it all required Android 2.3.6 or 4.0.
It didn’t take long for my mom to give up on the touch keyboard and get another phone. The thing actually had quite a lot of buttons compared to today’s navigation gestures; along the volume and power buttons, there also was a Search, Menu, Home, Back and Overview buttons, which is kinda interesting.
I ended up getting it, and I was very happy, at least it had some things that modern phones lack, like a removable battery, a TV antenna that also worked for FM radio (without needing plugged in headphones) and an SD card slot.
I got Whatsapp, games like Flow Free, Pou, or Zombie Highway, and it was quite great. Sadly, I didn’t have a lot of storage, just updating from the Android Market to the Play Store left me with enough space for a couple other apps. So I was quite limited.
Eventually the battery inflated and I did not bother to look for a replacement it, I wasn’t even aware of stuff like that just yet.
I actually still have the box of this device, but it had another thinner box around it that contained all the information, so the actual container does not say anything.
The next phone I got was once again passed down by my mother. She got an HTC Status, also known as the HTC ChaCha, and it had a QWERTY keyboard and Android 2.3.6, still.
I really liked its interface, it looked really nice, with great animations and a skeumorphic look that rivaled Apple’s. Sadly, the horizontal screen limited the apps that worked on it, they just didn’t look right. It had a direct Facebook button, which I found quite annoying since I didn’t have an account (although I wanted one, back then). The storage was, once again, quite limited so I never really had a chance to explore too much with it. I did try a couple of launchers and icon packs tho, like Smart Launcher 3 and an icon pack called Goolors, which is not available anymore. Most other launchers were vertical only though.
It was not until the Samsung Galaxy S III mini, passed down to me by my father around 2015, that I finally got the chance to play around with root access and custom roms. I remember that I bricked it the first day I got it, I was so eager to mess with it, and I flashed the wrong recovery. Thankfully, Odin was a thing and flashing the stock rom was not hard at all. I decided to wait for a while (only a couple days, actually 😅) to try again. I eventually found out about the rom mantainer’s website of the different roms available for my device, so I stopped relying on specific YouTube tutorials.
I was very happy during this time, I tried a ton of roms, many mods of the stock samsung UI (Touchwiz), stuff like Carbon or Resurrection Remix, with versions like Android KitKat, Lollipop, up to Marshmellow and even Nougat. It was a great time.
Sadly, out of nowhere, my phone died completely, it just stopped turning on. I actually had two Galaxy S III minis, but the second one was locked down, so, again, no phone calls, it worked for a while though, until I managed to fully submerge it in water, and it ended up dying months later, the charging port was also quite messed up, so it wasn’t even charging properly already.
I ended up going back to the HTC Status for a while, with only Whatsapp, Facebook Lite and Geometry Dash installed on it, anything else would not fit, at the time I realized there was a 4.0 custom rom somewhere, but I never bothered trying it out.
It took until now to finally get a new phone, that was actually new. I had saved some money, and my dad would pay half of it, I wanted a Xiaomi Redmi 5A, codename: Riva; it was a really good phone for the price, pretty low end, but good enough for me, since I knew it had good rom support, even today I think it has some Android 12 roms available.
I remember I spent a couple months running MIUI on it, I kinda liked it to be honest, it worked just fine. However the limitations it had on background processes, and the bad support for auto-fill were a bummer. It was around this time that I started to get interested in using FOSS, and since Bitwarden, my password manager at the time, did not work properly, I decided to try out some custom roms.
Once again, I got the wrong recovery for it, I was getting some blurry lines instead of the proper interface, turns out that the recovery to install Android Pie roms or Android 10 was different, but thankfully it was a matter of running an ADB command and flashing the right thing. It did scare me though, so I waited a couple weeks until I tried again, this time I succeded and got into the world of custom roms once again.
This was the first device where I could try pretty much everything without worrying about compatibility. I only had 16 GB of storage, but I learned to live with that just fine.
Sadly, once again the charging port was starting to show its age and quality, becoming looser and faulty. If there was anything that made me want to switch phones, it would be the lack of a fingerprint scanner, and that it still used microUSB for charging, other than that it was pretty awesome, I could probably still use it today, since I kinda like the small form factor too, which is even less common today.
And finally, we arrive at my current phone, the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8, codename: ginkgo. Yet again I saved up half of the price and my dad completed it. I remember being so excited about it, since it would be the biggest step up since the S III mini. I would be having a current gen phone for the first time, even if it would be a mid-range phone, its more than enough.
I have to admit there were not a lot of new things that weren’t possible with my S III mini or my Redmi 5A, but just type C charging and updated hardware is more than enough for me, not to mention the great support for custom firmware.
Its the phone where I’ve managed to go degoogled for the longest time (if you don’t count the ocasional browser logins for Google Classroom and other school shenanigans).
I am still really happy with my current device, and I don’t see myself switching at least for another year. For the future I am looking forward to getting a Google Pixel 6A or 7A, whatever is latest when I have to change. Or I might go with another chinese phone if they still have Snapdragon chips, since they have not been in the Redmi Note series for a while, as far as I’ve seen.
There were other less important dumb phones I used too, but I didn’t see the point on mentioning them since I don’t remember their model or anything interesting I did on them.
It has been fun to write all this, I was remembering stuff on the spot and many fun memories returned to me. It was quite a wordy post this time around, vacations seem to be going quite well.
I hope more people try doing this, I got the idea from a post by Ru, so maybe you’ll be inspired too.