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20 Cellphones Every Filipino Went Through and Loved

Even if you didn't own one, you know someone who did.
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The love affair between Pinoys and their mobile phones started during the early nineties when telcos started offering call-only services on analog networks. With the introduction of the GSM standard, a new form of personal communication was now possible on a handset. SMS or texting becameto use a modern termviral in the mid-nineties. Voice calls were still rather expensive but texting, which was initially offered for free, was the true killer "app." It became the reason why every Pinoy wanted to have a cellphone. Here’s a look back at the handsets the Filipinos fell in love with.

Nokia 3210

The sleek candybar shape, thin profile, and flat keymat showed everyone that phones can be cool-looking devices instead of black plastic bricks. It could smoothly slide in and out of pockets quickly because of its best feature: an internal antenna that gave the phone a distinct unibody shape.

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Nokia 5110

For a lot of people, this was their first Nokia phone. The 5110 was one of the most ubiquitous phones of the late ‘90s to early 2000. With its tank-like build, the phone could withstand a lot of abuse while offering customization via changeable faceplates.

Nokia 3310

Not exactly a sequel of the legendary 3210, the 3310 offered a similar, albeit chunkier form factor. Aimed at more mass-market audience, the 3310 is reputed to be one of the most solid phones from its era. It has spawned its own meme which revolved around its legendary durability.

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Nokia 7110

Fresh on the heels of the 8110 featured in the Matrix movie, the 7110’s impressive party trick was the button-activated sliding keyboard cover. Answering a call meant an impressive spring-loaded deployment of the mouthpiece. Besides a full WAP mobile internet browser, the 7110 also allowed two-person multilplayer Snake via IR connection.

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Nokia 7650

This phone was a lot of first for Nokia. It was the first Nokia phone with a built-in camera, and the first to run the Symbian Series 60 smartphone OS. This camera and phone combo introduced a generation to multimedia messaging that went beyond texting.    

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Nokia 6600

The 6600 earned its nickname The Soap not just for its shape, but perhaps for its ability to slide on the floor unharmed. During its introduction, the 6600 was one of the most advanced smartphones in Nokia’s lineup. It’s also not unusual to see some models that are still in perfect running condition today.

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Nokia 9210 Communicator

Nicknamed The Brick, the Communicator comes from Nokia’s ultimate smartphone line. Outside, it’s a hefty candybar phone but open the case and it’s a full-featured mini-computer with a qwerty keyboard and full-color screen that could access email, documents, fax, spreadsheets, and web pages.

Motorola StarTAC

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As the first clamshell and flip phone, the StarTAC is science fiction come to life. Closely resembling the Communicator device in Star Trek, the StarTAC was ultra compact when folded and weighed only 88 grams. It was one of the first phones to have an extra lithium-ion battery and vibration alert.

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Motorola RAZR V3

Few phones have reached legendary status as the RAZR V3. Made from aluminum and magnesium, it was the thinnest and lightest phone of its time. As a sought after premium handset, it fast became a status symbol for the text generation.

Ericsson T10

During those days, if you didn’t own a Nokia, you probably had an Ericsson phone. Like the Finns, the Swedes made extremely durable phones and the T10 was no exception. A flip cover protected the keypad from accidental presses and pastel colors made the T10 quite appealing to a younger set.

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Ericsson/Sony Ericsson T68

The T68 holds the distinction of being Ericsson’s first phone with a color screen. The phone allowed users to receive colored MMS and photos via Bluetooth, IR, or mobile internet. Accessories such as a detachable camera module could be connected to the bottom port.

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Sony Ericsson K800

Built as phone with serious photographic chops, the K800 wore Sony’s Cyber-shot branding prominently. With emphasis on the camera, this camera phone took 3.2 megapixel shots with an advanced lens with auto-focus and separate xenon flash. This 3G-capable phone also had a front camera for voice chat making it pretty high-tech back in 2006.

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Sony Ericsson P800

The P800 was a flagship PDA-style smartphone that allowed two input styles: stylus and keypad. The flip up numeric keypad allowed the best of both worlds in terms of form factor. The phone could be used as a standard candybar phone and a PDA smartphone. The P800’s Symbian OS competed with Palm OS and Pocket PC smartphones at the time.

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Siemens SL45

As one of the most fully-featured candybar phone of its time, the SL45 had a dedicated MP3 player and removable storage. It also had a cool amber backlight instead the usual white or blue backlight in most phones.

Altcatel OT Easy

It may look like a Fisher-Price toy, but the OT Easy was a certified workhorse. The two-line LCD display looked like it came from an Easycall pager but it was for the early days of texting. Another unique feature of the OT Easy: it could work on AAA batteries.

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O2 Xda II

O2 ruled the roost when it comes to premium Windows Mobile-powered smartphones and the Xda II was top of the heap. After removing the antenna of the previous model, the Xda II has the iconic touchscreen form factor that’s present in current-generation phones. This specc’d out monster (for its time) had a 400Mhz Intel CPU, 3.5-inch touchscreen, and 128mb of RAM.

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Palm Treo 600

Once only just a PDA maker, Palm made its move into smartphone territory with its Treo line of phones. The Treo 600 had a dedicated qwerty keyboard and a 2.5-inch touchscreen. It ran Palm OS 5.2.1 and the keypad made the device much suited to composing lengthy emails.

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Blackberry 6230

Blackberry devices didn’t take off as much in the Philippines but there were dedicated followers of the phones. Their first Blackberry was probably the 6230 that had a monochrome screen. If you were into instant and group messaging, this was the phone to get.

Smart Amazing Phone

Released by Smart in 2002, this Windows Mobile candybar phone came out at time when most Windows phones were only available in a PDA form factor. It was a chunky piece of hardware that felt really good in the hands. The SAP also had other features that are now taken for granted such as a dedicated online store for apps and data back ups over the air.  

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Apple iPhone

The original iPhone is now a 10 years old. The much-awaited first model that came out only had 2G and a 3.5-inch screen but users flocked to it in millions anyway. Despite the premium price, the elegant user interface that didn’t need a stylus for poking the screen blew everyone away. The hardware, with its curved edges was a real technological beauty.

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Mobile Phone Companies in the Philippines

While the makers of these nostalgic mobile phone models are still around today, their standing in the leaderboards of the most popular or most esteemed phone providers have changed. No doubt, Apple remains a top choice with the iPhone, but Samsung has also proved to be worthy competition, providing a bevy of high-end choices, such as its S and Note series, for those seeking to get out of the Apple eco-system. The past years have also seen the rise of mobile phone companies from China such as Huawei, Oppp, Vivo, Lenovo, and more. There are also Filipino mobile phone companies like Cherry Mobile and Myphone. Take your pick.

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Ed Geronia Jr.
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