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These are the phones that kickstarted my love for Android

Motorola Atrix
Motorola Atrix (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

I was in the seventh grade when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone on the stage of MacWorld 2007. Of course, at the time I didn't realize I was watching what would quickly go down as one of the most significant keynote addresses in modern history, but I knew that I wanted one.

I wanted an iPhone so badly

I remember insistently begging my parents to switch our Verizon plan over to AT&T so I could ditch my flip phone and we could all get iPhones (remember when carrier exclusivity was a big thing?) ... but it didn't happen. At least, not until the following year when the iPhone 3G was released, and we finally ported our numbers away from Big Red. I was ecstatic; it was a whole new world coming from my LG VX8300, and with the addition of Apple's new App Store, I was downloading every app I could find.

The magic eventually wore off.

For the first couple of years, I couldn't put my iPhone 3G down, and once our two-year contract with AT&T was up for renewal, we upgraded to the iPhone 4 — a shockingly gorgeous phone for its time.

With new hardware, I fell in love all over again ... but eventually, I started to get bored of the same old software. Some of my friends in high school had Android phones that looked very different from the iOS interface I'd grown tired of, and before I knew it I was finding ways to jailbreak my iPhone and dual-boot Android for kicks.

It was ... terrible. Janky, slow, unresponsive — not to mention outdated; if memory serves, I was only able to run Cupcake when Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" was already starting to roll out to some phones. But it was enough to pique my interest, and before I knew it I was scrolling through Craigslist ads looking to trade my beloved iPhone 4 away for some fancy Android phone.

But eventually, I got bored

Motorola Atrix

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Luckily, it didn't take long. I got an offer for an HTC Inspire (known globally as the Desire HD), which came with the bonus perk of being AT&T's first 4G-capable phone over HSPA+. That was enough of a selling point for me — not to mention it had equally impressive build quality and an unfathomably huge 4.3-inch display. Who could need a screen that big?!

For all its flaws (particularly with the miserable battery door), the Inspire sparked an entirely new level of excitement in mobile tech for me. Android was so different from iOS, and everything was so customizable. And that signature HTC clock widget. Who could forget it when it took up half the screen?

I'm not sure where my Android experience would have started without the Inspire.

I was enthralled; the Inspire recalls such fond memories for me that I'm sifting through eBay listings as I write this article, wondering if I should drop the $30 on one now just to relive the nostalgia. But while a 4.3-inch display sounds comically small by today's standards, I was accustomed to my iPhone 4's 3.5-inch display at the time, and the Inspire just felt like a little too much phone.

So once again, I turned to Craigslist to initiate a trade — this time for the Motorola Atrix, whose 4-inch display felt like a good compromise. The Atrix was a far less flashy and ... dare I say, ugly phone compared to the Inspire, and its MOTOBLUR software interface wasn't great, even for its time.

But the prospect of its Lapdock accessory, which converted the Atrix into something resembling an early imagining of a Chromebook, along with its top-mounted fingerprint sensor (one of the first of its kind!) were bold and futuristic enough to draw me in. Sadly, I never managed to get ahold of a Lapdock, but I enjoyed the Atrix for a good while ... until I realized that I really missed my Inspire and found someone to trade me yet again.

I couldn't shake the Inspire

HTC Inspire 4G

Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

Yeah, I was indecisive in high school, but with the mobile space absolutely booming with interesting new phones left and right, can you really blame me? This time, I stuck with the Inspire for a good while, remembering all the things I loved and hated about it. I remember carrying spare batteries in my school bag, since the Inspire's battery life was rather un-inspiring and, well, changing batteries was a thing you could do back then.

Having experienced two flavors of Android at this point, I wanted to keep things rolling, and naturally gravitated towards rooting my phone and installing various custom ROMs. I wasn't very good at it, and I managed to brick my phone on more than one occasion — explaining to my friends why I didn't have a working phone for days at a time certainly didn't make me any more popular in school.

The Galaxy S II marked my first time using an AMOLED display.

But it was fun to see what Android was fully capable of, and how quickly groups on XDA were able to squash bugs and add new features to their own software builds. I was having a blast, and it wasn't until shortly after the Galaxy S II came to AT&T in late 2011 that I decided to once again try something new.

The Galaxy S II was an immensely successful phone for Samsung, and for good reason. It was insanely thin, took great photos, had long battery life, and continued on the original Galaxy S's legacy of being one of the Android phones of its time. But for me, the biggest wow factor was its screen.

This was my first time seeing a Super AMOLED display. I remember being utterly shocked at the levels of contrast and the absolute black in the screen, and I quickly began to look down on most LCD displays on subsequent Android phones (even though they were much more color-accurate at the time).

Once again, I rooted my S II and flashed dozens of ROMs in the time I carried it — and if memory serves, I didn't swap again until the original Galaxy Note came down in value around the release of its successor, and I managed to work out yet another trade.

Of course, since then I've cycled through dozens, if not hundreds of Android phones through both hobby and profession, with the occasional iPhone thrown into the mix. I've gone through a few other memorable phones over the years, like the original Moto X, but this isn't the first time I've waxed poetic about the Inspire — this thing stuck with me.

These days I'm carrying a OnePlus 8, and while I enjoy it, it certainly isn't going to make the same kind of lasting impression as my first Android phone. Now it's your turn. I'm curious to know what Android phone of the past had a profound effect on you — whether that was your first-ever smartphone or something a little later down the line. Let me know in the comments!

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

24 Comments
  • Palm Pre! Until Darth HP came to own......Motorola Droid X
  • Mine was the Evo 4g. I also wanted the iPhone, but AT&T had crap service near me
  • I also went iPhone 3G & 4 before making the switch. The iPhone 4 was truly a fantastic piece of hardware. Hell, I recently acquired an iPhone 11. The phone is great, but I can't stomach iOS. Can't do it.
  • Nexus One > Nexus S > HTC One M7 > Nexus 6P > Pixel 3.
  • Transition from flip phone was to Blackberry, and this changed my perspective on phones. But, it wasn't until I reached the Nexus 6P (the first phone I felt didn't need to be rooted and modified) that things cemented for me. Blackberry 8830 > Epic 4G > Nexus s4G > Galaxy Note 2 > Nexus 5 > Nexus 6 > Nexus 6P > Pixel XL > Oneplus 6T > ??? OnePlus 9 ???
  • Great article Hayato, I loved it! I was a Palm and feature phone guy after years of flip phones, then it was all iPhones. My first Android smartphone was the HTC One Mini, which was a sheer delight to hold and watch movies on compared to an iPhone. It's Achilles heel was zero-gap construction with an aluminum back bonded to a polycarbonite body which was too brittle to expand with the metal, producing micro-fractures all over the place. One of it's strong point though, was an incredible standby time of 692 hours! That's 28 DAYS on one charge.
  • I went from flip phone to Blackberry. Walked into the ATT store to get an IPhone and walked out with a Motorola Atrix. So glad I did too. The saleman said, "Here's what you need, not an IPhone!!!" Haha. Best advice ever.
  • My experience with my first ATT Android phone was quite the opposite. He was a richard trying to force an iPhone down my throat. a year later I remembered the dude and he had an Android.
  • Haha. Must have been more commission for him to sell IPhone's or something. :-)
  • Yeah it usually is. Plus Android was still trying to make its mark then.
  • This was a drive down memory lane. It's been awhile, but here it us best that I can recall. Samsung Moment > HTC Evo 4g > Nexus S > Galaxy S2 > HTC One X > Razr M > Galaxy S4 > Nexus 6p > Galaxy S5 > Essential PH1 > OnePlus6t > Galaxy S10+
  • I remember having the Motorola Backflip as my first ever Android phone. Then I got the Nexus and never looked backed. That phone was built like a tank for mods.
  • Flip Phone > LG Optimus V > HTC One V > Nexus 4 > Nexus 5 > Nexus 6P > Pixel XL > Pixel 3XL LG Optimus V is still operational, if Virgin Mobile service isn't.
    HTC One V hit me repeatedly with SD card failure. Ultimately bricked by an update.
    Nexus 4 got a battery swelling. Disposed.
    First Nexus 5 died by soft drink. Refurb replacement still works.
    Nexus 6P's battery dies at 50%.
    Pixel XL drains battery inordinately quickly.
    First Pixel 3XL got a battery swelling, Refurb replacement is current phone.
  • Motorola Droid X What has happened to them is a shame.
  • iPhone will always be my first love, the iPhone 4S was my very first smartphone back in 2013, but my absolute favorite phone is the iPhone 6s Plus, I loved that phone, it just felt right and was comfortable to use and to typo on. On the Android side it's easily my OnePlus 7T (my current Android phone) it's a beautiful phone, I love everything about it, easily Oxygen OS, I've never used an Android phone that's as smooth, fast and fluid as Oxygen OS, it's so smooth that it's the first Android phone I've used that I didn't need to tweak the settings in developer options, my only complaints are the average battery (probably due to the buttey smooth 90hz display) life and OnePlus' updates policy but other than that, the 7T is a fantastic phone.
  • I have had a cell phone since 1993 and still have the same number, how many can say that? Anyway I was late to Android thanks to Blackberry, and I very much enjoyed them. But they were getting left behind. So my first Android was a Galaxy Nexus, loved it at first but after any a year I hated it for several reasons. Because of that and now the curved screens I have never bought another Samsung. I went from that to the LG G2 and that was a great phone, I loved it! Even recently my kids were still using it to cast shows to the TV. Pretty much stuck with LG but adding a launching to them until the OnePlus 7T. Hopefully when I'm in need for a new phone OnePlus will be making one with a flat screen even if it is their cheapest phone
  • (didn't really read the article, will do tomorrow when I've more time). History for me after a Nokia Symbian phone (yes, I'm from Europe): Motorola Defy > Nexus 4 > brief time with Nexus 5 that broke > back to Nexus 4 as backup phone > Poco F1.
  • You lost me at "bored of of software".... lmao..... That would have been your grade 9? Seriously, are all you AC writers mobile phone operating system obsessive compulsives? For the love of mankind, the rest of the world doesn't care.... Based on friends or family they pick Apple or Android and they run apps, If they pick Apple, they accept buggy software updates, lol, and lots of them. If the pick Android, chances are there are one of three versions of Android OS with tiny differences only AC writers care about.... The real world is buying based on their budget.... They want the best from Samsung if they can afford it. Lol.... Your first phone was 2007..... My first was 1993. Phone upgrade mania for me got boring almost a decade before your iPhone.
  • I'm deeply sorry for ... checks notes ... having experiences as a teenager that differed from yours.
  • Motorola Atrix for me! Loved that phone! Even if the fingerprint scanner didn't work well and it took 5 minutes to get the dialer to open towards the end.
  • It couldn't have been that bad, after all there are 1.2 billion Android phones sold world wide.
  • galaxy s2, nexus 4, htc one, moto x (temporary, loved), htc one M8, galaxy s7, galaxy s8, pixel 3 (best by far, but broken camera stabilization and lack of support in Brazil made me switch), galaxy s20
  • I totally bought into the DROID DOES marketing. In the smartphone space, I carried a BlackBerry (9000, the best one) prior to running the original Motorola DROID. DROID Bionic and the Lapdock made me feel like I was in the future. The in-hand feel of the original Moto X was near perfect, while the third gen Moto X (Pure Edition) perfected in-hand design for "larger" phones.
  • OG Droid to Droid X2 to Droid RAZR Maxx HD to LG G3 to Nexus 6P to LG G6 to Galaxy Note 10+.