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January 8, 2010

My three favourite Nokia devices, ever – Younghee Jung

Nokia-3310GLOBAL – I’m originally from South Korea, but left the country before its mobile obsession had begun. I remember my first encounter with a mobile phone was my father’s analogue model. I saw a Nokia phone for the first time visiting my hipster friend in New York. I never saw a monoblock phone before, closest kin being the wireless home phones. Its streamline contour left the most memorable impression on me. I was living in Silicon Valley when I got a job offer from Nokia. I accepted it through a text message to the recruiting manager who was in Helsinki. I asked him if I could choose my first Nokia phone, as a mobile phone is part of ‘employment benefits’ working for Nokia.
Nokia-8890The Nokia 8890 was my first ever Nokia. It was a tiny – at the time, and still is – metallic slider phone, which is an old ancestor of Nokia 8800 series of the present. It was one of the first phones that worked both in Europe and in the US. There was a vague sense of psychological comfort, knowing my phone would work in many places at the point of moving to another continent where I knew no-one except my recruiting manager. My Nokia 8890 spent the first winter in Helsinki with me, through the coldest and longest nights I had ever experienced since I was born. With its small size yet heavy build it was almost always in my hand. Finding the right gloves became an important mission that winter so that I could easily use my phone when I was out and about without getting frostbite. I ended up wearing two pairs of gloves: a thin inner pair was thin enough to use the phone without taking them off. Thanks to my colleagues and friends who were already so used to texting, I could rapidly develop my typing speed with the predictive text input on the mobile phone keypad as well as friendships.


I have a very nostalgic memory of the Nokia 9210 Communicator. It was strange in many aspects: it was always referred to as a ‘brick’ for its size, with full Qwerty keyboard and the little foldable antenna. I hated it at first as it was huge for my hands but quickly got very fond of its functionalities, which was definitely a novelty at the time. When I started to work on a project to build a very first prototype of what had become later ‘Nokia Lifeblog’, Nokia 9210 Communicator became very close to me. As I was designing the prototype, I had to install numerous development versions of the prototype over a few months. When you work as designer for a prototype application as proof of concept, you get to know more than you ever want to know about the phone. Even as my Nokia 9210 Communicator was aging, it continued to serve as data collection centre for pilot studies I ran with various concept prototype applications for a couple of more years. I never tested the maximum limit, but the device stored at least five thousand text messages containing application usage log data. I am quite sure that device will survive the rubbles and tumbles over time, will eventually be discovered by future archaeologists excavating the world we live in today, and serve as important evidence of human life on earth. Nokia 9210 Communicator does have that kind of robustness around it, making its nickname ‘brick’ actually quite cute.


I have been often asked what my favourite Nokia phone is, but there is no easy answer.  Symbian operating system came out in the world embodied in the Nokia 7650. Since then, I have been always using one of the contemporary Symbian phones with an average changing cycle of six months or so. I have a very vivid, enjoyable memory of Nokia 7650. It was one of the very first phones with an embedded camera and Bluetooth. For my work, it was really exciting to have a camera phone: it marked the start of an era when mobile phone was no longer just a communication device. I have handled and set up dozens of Nokia 7650s for running the pilot studies of experimental applications, including early concept prototypes of what later became Nokia Sensor application.


On my research trips, I get to see many Nokia phones living their lives with other people even though I personally never used their sibling models. Most impressive are our entry range phones, especially the Nokia 3310 and its family surviving years of use by their affectionate owners, regardless of the fact that their keypads may be completely worn out.

Younghee Jung works in Nokia’s design team. Check out Younghee’s blog.