Sooner

Suddenly today, the Internet is all a buzz with the prototype version of Android devices from the mid-2000s. Maybe it has something to do the millionaires at Oracle and Google fighting each other in court today over the money in our pockets. Or maybe it's because Android is so awesome that every little thing about it makes for a great headline. Probably a little of both. In any case, we figured we'd have a look ourselves at how things that are great go through changes. Back in '06, Android looked a lot like the ChaCha BlackBerry. Pretty much all good smartphones did. That prototype phone was called the Sooner, and there are still a few of them floating around today. I wish I had one myself. That's a picture of one above, courtesy Mike and Maaike. At the time, that's what smartphone users wanted -- an easy way to see content, and communicate quickly via text. Hence the QWERTY. I've never used one, but I imagine for things like e-mail and texting they were awesome. My old BlackBerry was, and sometimes I miss it. But again, things change. 

Then, in late 2006 LG introduced the LG KE850, also known as the LG Prada. It was a 3-inch capacitive touch screen phone that put multimedia content into a smartphone. After winning multiple awards for design, and selling over a million units (which was an amazing feat back then), things had to change. On the heels of the debut of the KE850, a little company called Apple decided to try their hand at a touchscreen based smartphone. That changed everything, for just about everybody -- including Google. The anticipated 2007 release of the Sooner didn't happen, and instead we had to wait for Google and T-Mobile to have a love fest and deliver us the T-Mobile G1, which incorporated the QWERTY with a touch screen. Other companies didn't rest on their heels either, phones like the HTC Touch Diamond and BlackBerry Storm showed up with varying degrees of success. It was obvious that capacitive touch screens could add multimedia to the user experience, and the modern smartphone was born.

Change is good. As long as it's done right, most of us can get on board. Heck, even old dinosaurs like myself now use touch screen phones with no keyboard, and secretly we enjoy it. It's significant because products that don't change to reflect what users want will slowly wither on the vine, and great engineers and designers keep a finger on the pulse of the users and deliver. Android, and all modern smartphone operating systems owe much to the pioneers of media-centric smartphones, and we hope things never stop changing for the better.

More: The Verge

 

Reader comments

Great things, like the Android OS, change with the times

22 Comments

I'm going to say it right now - no phone gave me a bigger "wow, this is something totally different" than my HTC Touch Diamond.

I've had 6 Android phones since my last WinMo phone, and they've all been better, but they all improved on the ideas of that phone. It really showed me how cool a mobile phone could be.

I agree.... I had the Touch Pro the day it released on Sprint and I lost a few days of my life just staring at the screen in amazement.

I distinctly remember all the "wow" moments I've had with gadgets over the years. One of them was definitely typing on the original Droid's keyboard soon after I got it and thinking to myself "this more of a laptop than it is a phone."

I think the LG Prada was more of a feature phone... not a smart phone.

But its distinctive feature was a capacitive touchscreen.

The original iPhone was more a feature phone as well. No 3rd party apps, and no plans for 3rd party apps, everything would be web based apps.

While reading, I can imagine fanboys slaying each other over which copies which.
I mean, geez, give yourself a break, unless you were paid to defend that product.
However, I do enjoy the show a bit until I got bored.

I reject this article on the grounds that is does not properly credit any and all phone/mobile technology advancement as descending from iOS/Apple invention, which is the birthplace of all innovation.

/sarcasm.

Seeing these old designs makes me want to pick up a DROID Pro as a backup device.

I remember reading about android back in 2006-2007 thinking it was gonna fail, cause it was a ripoff of a blackberry. Now I love android!

Yea instead they ripped off the iPhone! Google has had its photocopiers running full blast since then.

LG Prada was released first, and as indicated, sold a million which was very impressive for the time. Apple looked at the current status of the market, and added their spin / improvements. Google, and every other manufacturer (including Apple) does the same for all their products. Apple was the first to mass market smartphones (and portable music players for that matter) to the mainstream consumer vs. advertising exclusively in tech centric publications, very wise moves indeed.

lol Apple the first to market portable music players... how old are you? Did you not own a Walkman? What about any portable cd player? What about a portable cd player that could play MP3s? Or, perhaps a Minidisc player? Forgetful...

By mass marketing, I meant mainstream advertising on network TV, and non-tech centric publications, not that the devices were exclusively for tech gadget enthusiasts. I did own multiple devices in all the categories you mentioned, but do not recall any network TV ads, or billboards for those devices. All ads I remember seeing for those other devices were in tech publications. If they were advertised on TV, or on billboards downtown, don't recall seeing them. Apple's iPod was the only MP3 player I remember being advertised on network TV, and I do not recall the Walkman, or any other music player ever being advertised on network TV even though I was referring to digital, tapeless audio. If Walkman, or other players were advertised on network primetime TV, they were infrequent, I don't recall seeing any competitor ads on network TV, yet do recall seeing many iPod ads, we were saturated with them nightly. During the heyday of the iPod, it was hard not to see multiple iPod network TV ads each night on prime time shows, and see many ads on buses, subway stations, and billboards vs. little to nothing for the digital audio MP3 competitors in the same media outlets.

In answer to your question, I owned tube based portable radios because I used them before the transistor was available in consumer devices, yes I am that old. My first transistor radio was a Motorola, a birthday gift from my parents about 50+ years ago. I owned many examples of the devices you listed, but although geared for everyone, I do not recall them being heavily advertised in the mainstream media particularly network primetime TV. If they were as heavily advertised on TV as the ubiquitous iPod ads, then I missed them, and may be having a senior moment.

Enjoyed this post as I do all of Jerry's posts.

I agree with Jerry's opinion, just want to add a bit of a different spin with some random comments.

I was a fan / power user / bordering on evangelist for the old WinMo. WinMo out of the box did more of the tasks (still does) than any other mobile OS for my needs. Contrary to web lore, WinMo for me (I understand some had different experiences) was solid, reliable, and I have to soft reset my Android, and iOS devices as often as any WinMo device I owned. I did favor the higher end WinMo devices with larger, quality screens, usually VGA or better resolution. Ninety-five percent of the time, I used finger navigation, or the physical navigation controls. With a 4" VGA screen, even the small UI elements were easily used with a finger (same for Palm OS with 3.5" screens) at least on the higher end devices. When I did use a stylus, it was usually to select a closely spaced web link. I have the imported Note, and do still enjoy the physical vs capacitive home button. I purchased the imported Note before the US version was released, I did not purchase it just for the physical button.

One of my favorite WinMo devices was the old 800 series Toshiba 4" VGA resolution PDA which I used regularly for about five years even though I had newer, more powerful devices. The 800 series, as did most higher end devices of the era, had dual expansion slots (SD, and CF), and a graphic chip which made it an excellent multimedia device. Using drag and drop / downloading from a central NAS, I transferred the multimedia files I wanted to either card, and enjoyed the videos on the bright 4" VGA resolution screen which was bigger, and until the iPhone 4, this 2004 vintage device had a higher resolution than the iPhone. Using CorePlayer, you could play just about any media format within reason respecting the limits of the processor capability of the time. Videos formatted for a smaller screen looked great, and played flawlessly on the higher end WinMo devices. Another multimedia benefit was playing videos directly streaming from a NAS using the included file explorer. In some ways, my WinMo devices were better multimedia devices for me due to native streaming, drag / drop copying, and dual expansion slots. Yes, the processors were slow by today's standards, but the HD2 (1GHz) can handle any non-DRM video file (plus a few more) that my iOS device plays, and this abiliity was only recently matched by Android with some new third party video players. Although some 3rd party apps could be a bit quirky on the HD2 because they were designed for resistive screens (would have been corrected if MS did not abandon classic WM), overall the HD2 was the pinnacle of classic WinMo for me although I did miss a physical keyboard. For the longest time, a streaming app for Android (from NAS) was as rare as a dodo bird. Now, finally we have some good ones.

I do enjoy the capacitive screens, but still miss physical buttons, particularly the five way navigation controls used on many WinMo, and Palm devices. Although it doesn't look as cool, scrolling through long pages with a navigation control was much easier than the frequent, constant, tiring screen scrolling.

The on-screen keyboards have improved; however, for anything longer than a two sentence email reply, or tweet, I still prefer a physical keyboard while respecting others prefer soft keyboards, or do only shorter correspondence from their mobile device. When I use the Epic 4G, or G2, I am reminded how much I miss physical keyboards for longer correspondence. With the 4G, and G2, you have the best of both worlds, a physical keyboard for longer use, and a nice on-screen keyboard for shorter durations.

Sorry, did not mean for this post to be so long, but it was a nice walk down memory lane. I welcome technology advancements, and usually have the latest, and greatest since I am a gadget addict. Most of advancements I enjoy / welcome. Sometimes we discard good features such as keyboards, navigation controls, and replaceable batteries / storage etc. solely in the interest of thinness, or fashion which is a negative IMO.