ESPOO, Finland – Annamari Qvist and Åsa Tötterman have black belts in launching mobile phones. Combined together, the two ladies have more than 56 years experience in Nokia’s communications department. I took a peek into the archives with them and asked them to share their memories of Nokia’s old devices throughout the years. Mobira Cityman (1987) was the first mobile phone Åsa ever used. It cost a thumping 24,000 Finnish marks (about 4,000€) and operated in the now-defunct NMT (Nordic Mobile Telephone) network.
“Only the CEO and the head of communications were using these at Nokia,” Åsa recalls. “I was using the Cityman in the weekends, but network coverage was so poor in those days that I could only get a connection from one place in my house.” The Mobira Cityman was nicknamed Gorba in honour of the former USSR leader, who participated in the device PR in the form of a press photo that later became famous (at least in Finland).
Nokia 1011 (1992) was Nokia’s first portable GSM-phone and also Annamari’s first mobile device. “Back in those days I was editing the Nokia mobile phones unit staff magazine, titled ‘Mobile Express’, which now sounds fantastically retro. I often used to travel to the Salo factory and had to carry two or even three exchangeable batteries with me, as battery life was not what it is today.” Owning a mobile phone was considered glamorous in the mid-90s and it drew a lot of attention. “People carried mobile phones so that other people could reach them, but they didn’t really use their mobiles for making phone calls, as that was still quite expensive. You were able to receive text messages with the 1011, but not send them, which brings up the question: where on earth did people receive the texts from?” Annamari wonders.
The Nokia Communicator (1996) was Nokia’s first business device. According to Annamari, it was also a true guy magnet, which attracted a lot of attention in bars. The device was launched at the CeBit trade show in Hanover, where people were astonished by it. The Communicator got a steady fan base in many countries. Symbian was a mere glint in the coders’ eyes; the operating system was Geos OS. Åsa tells us: “In addition to voice functionality, the Commie featured text messages, elementary internet, conference call speakers and a fax machine, which was still widely used. The device freed people from their desktop computers and many users really loved it. At this stage we had started understanding that mobile devices could be produced for many different purposes, like business use.”
The Nokia 6110 (1997) was the device that the writer of this article first used, to the envy of her friends! It introduced many useful functions for the average mobile user, such as a more reasonably long battery life and different usage profiles (silent, meeting, etc.). The small size amazed many users. “How can such a small mobile phone even exist?” Annamari remembers herself thinking. The phone was available in several colours and it introduced one of the most popular mobile games of all times, Snake. Thanks to this baby, text messaging became mainstream in many countries. “Nokia 6110 became an icon,” Åsa recalls. “When someone wanted to show a generic picture of a phone, they displayed the Nokia 6110. This device was a step towards mobile phone usage as we know it today.” It is also worth noting that the Nokia 6110 was the first and only device that has ever been launched at the Nokia HQ in Espoo, Finland.
Nokia 8810 (1998), also known as Zippo, is fondly remembered by many. “Zippo was the darling child of our former head designer Frank Nuovo. Zippo is Frank personified,” Annamari chuckles. “Zippo brought design into the mobile phone arena. People started understanding that mobile phones could be constructed beautifully.” Zippo was Nokia’s first device without an external antenna. It received several design awards and lifestyle magazines couldn’t get enough of photographing it.
The design of the Nokia 6250 (2000) is another story. Titled the “builder’s phone”, this device was super-durable. It was again launched at CeBit, where thorough German reporters tested its strength in the 2nd floor press area by dropping it in a water bucket downstairs. “I also heard rumours of engineers throwing it down the Nokia House parking garage,” reveals Annamari. “6250 was not a beauty, but it was certainly unique,” Åsa chips in. “It reached its audience and people were using it for a long time.” You needed heavy machinery to open the back cover and the device was so strong it could practically have been used as a hammer.
Nokia 5510 (2001) was the company’s first music device, and also a pioneer in its launch method: its announcement happened online. The QWERTY keyboard doesn’t look very user-friendly to the untrained eye, but how did it rate as a music phone? “Do you want Nokia’s official reply or my personal opinion?” Åsa enquires diplomatically. The music capacity for AAC-files was a whopping 64MB and you couldn’t use a memory card. Connecting accessories to the device also wasn’t quite as straightforward as it is today, either.
“The lipstick phone” Nokia 7280 (2004) could very well be one of the quirkiest Nokia phones ever. The Fashion Collection device featured a round disc instead of a keyboard. “The functionalities were surprisingly high-tech, but they were overshadowed by the design. This was a time when we were trying out everything,” Åsa reminisces. “My son used to love this phone, because it had certain show-off value. The text messages I received from him from this phone were very curt, thanks to the eccentric input method: a simple yes or a no.”
Which Nokia devices do our readers remember the best?