Last week I showed you what happens when you shrink a laptop too far – and how it doesn’t really work. What happens when you reverse the process though? What happens when you take a phone and make it bigger?
People have always wanted their phones to do more. Make longer calls, receive text messages, emails, even faxes at one point. And what about answering these messages? We’ve grown accustomed to power users running with QWERTY smartphones, even if they’ve on to slate devices now. The stereotypical businessman’s image? Briefcase in one hand and BlackBerry Bold in another.
Tracing the QWERTY phone’s roots brings us to the Nokia 9000 Communicator. At first glance it looks like a normal 90s phone – T9 keypad on the front, small grayscale display above the keypad, and a small antenna nub up top. Flip the phone on its side, however, and open it up to reveal a full landscape QWERTY keyboard complete with a row of numbers and arrow keys. The topmost panel also contains a large grayscale display with a pretty high resolution (by 90s standards) of 640 by 200 pixels.
The Nokia 9000 Communicator’s Legacy
One direct relative of the 9000 was the insanely popular Nokia N97 and it’s smaller sibling, the N97 mini. For all intents and purposes it wasn’t a particularly brilliant device – it ran an already outdated OS on meagre specifications (and that damned resistive touchscreen) but everybody in Malta wanted one. Hell those things were built like a tank, too. Sure the device looked beat and had its fair share of wear and tear but it ran almost perfectly. Kudos to Nokia’s build quality.
The very last device in the Nokia 9000’s bloodline is the gorgeous E7, a phone I myself lusted after for a few months but then lost interest in (Symbian was a dealbreaker for me, even then).
Most companies these days have stopped production of QWERTY devices because the demand just isn’t there. Virtual multitouch keyboards coupled with increasingly smart autocorrect have killed the need for a hardware keyboard entirely, for better or for worse. Despite QWERTY’s death the 9000’s core principle of full connectivity lives on today. Speaking personally if you send me an email the chances are that I’ll read it and reply to it from my phone, not my PC. Same goes for social networking too.
Ultimately the Nokia 9000 Communicator was an impressive device for its time and spawned a niche of devices that at one point dominated the market and have since faded into obscurity. What’s next?