A brief history of being a nerd on the go (pt 2).

My next foray into the world of smartphones came in a chunky little body. The PPC-6700 was the successor to the 6600 I spoke about in the last post and surpassed its predecessor in every way. The OS was Windows Mobile 5, which allowed for more customization and some other things I don’t remember because evidently they weren’t important enough to commit to memory. But I remember being excited simply because the overall UI was improved – things like fonts were clearer and icons looked nicer. Those kinds of little things can’t be underestimated when you use a mobile device as intensely and as often as I do, since your eyes are always on it, detecting any and all imperfections and flaws.

The real draw for me was the form factor of the phone. It had a stubbly little antenna with a stylus tucked inside and a slide out keyboard on the side. When you slid out the keys, the screen would rotate to accommodate the new perspective, but it never was quite enough. Sometimes you would be waiting several seconds (like three) for the screen to catch up with what you had wanted to do, and by that point, you just gave up, or got angry because of the wait time and the hiccup in your user experience. But it was one of the earlier devices to do such a thing, and I remember peoples’ eyes bugging out when I did that in public. “What is that, some kind of tiny laptop?!” Keep in mind, this was before the advent of the netbook, when the only other devices that had keys like this were things like the HP Jornadas and other palmtop thingys. But only business guys carried those, and they definitely weren’t phones. First of a new breed of form factor. (6700)

But for the time, it did have a decent keyboard, and more onboard memory than the previous model, which allowed for some more programs to be installed. It also added a miniSD slot as opposed to the full-size SD slot on the other phone. Which, though exciting, basically meant that you had a leftover SD card now, and had to buy a new card from Newegg. The miniSD card market was nascent at that point, and capacities were certainly not like they are today. The other cool thing was that this phone had Wi-Fi, which was omitted from the 6600 (you only had the CDMA network as an option). So you could sit on Wi-Fi at home, and switch it off when you went out, which was good, but a bit of a pain, as the networks never quite handed data off as seamlessly as you’d hope, and WinMo wasn’t exactly adept at toggling these settings easily. Unless you mapped something like that to a hardware button, you were yanking out the stylus to poke a tiny icon.

Oh – the camera was improved, too. I believe it was a 1.3 megapixel model, and it even had a little physical switch on the back so you could take something approximating macro shots. Again, a great idea that fell short, but you had to hand it to them for trying something like that. And by them, I mean HTC, who was still making a name for themselves in the public, as this was long before they started actually running ads on TV like the ones you see now for the Android phones they produce. The only people who even knew that name were nerds like me and people who wrote about tech, like the writers of Engadget, Gizmodo, et. al. It’s kind of interesting how that company’s grown, but that’s another post entirely. If anyone has stuck by WinMo longer than they had to, it’s that company, and if anyone’s done more for that operating system than Microsoft itself, it’s HTC. They even had better names for the devices (and still do) – this phone was known as the Apache before it became the 6700. It would have been a lot cooler with a moniker like that, for sure.

But as I said, that’s for another post. Next up: The Treo that wasn’t, and Palm gives up the goat.

Author: Seth Clifford

I'm here for the open bar.