Counterclockwise is all about the history of mobile devices and this week we look at two noble bloodlines – the Xperia Z and HTC Legend. Also, health apps and smart bands and so on are very popular right now, but sporty phones have been around for years. Some even went green with solar power. Also, we look at the humble history of the SIM card and its attempt to stay relevant.
Sony unveiled the Xperia Z flagship at CES in January 2013, but the handset did not go on sale until early February. And then only in Japan for NTT DoCoMo, which quickly shipped units to everyone who pre-ordered the device.
The flagship sold 140,000 units in its home country in about 10 days before it reached Europe. There it and quickly sold out in France and a few days later became available in the UK, Germany and Russia. Sony France was promising more units coming in a week.
That's a positive launch for Sony's new flagship line that also began the design language still in use today, namely OmniBalance. It was easily recognizable by its metal frame, exposed around the sides of the device with the trademark round, aluminum Power button.
The Xperia Z also embraced the waterproof design that Sony has been toying with – the Xperia active we talked about last week, but also the Xperia V (aka the Bond phone). Ever since the Z series, which grew to encompass tablets and phablets, has been waterproof.
With the next iteration that came half a year later Sony added the other defining feature of an Xperia Z flagship phone, the whopping 20.7MP camera with a 1/2.3" sensor. The Xperia Z1 was replaced by the Z2, which added stereo speakers and 2160p video capture.
The Xperia Z2 came out at the MWC in February, not CES because the January event was taken up by the Xperia Z1 Compact – the first Android super mini and one of the best-loved minis to date. Again, half a year later the Xperia Z3 came out and this time the Compact version shared the spotlight.
The Z3 family had a third member, the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact, which joined the Xperia Z2 Tablet from the MWC earlier that year. Both had metal frames and waterproof bodies, stereo speakers too.
That's a lot of history for just 2 years and we're already expecting the Xperia Z4 family to show up, if not at the MWC in March then not too long after.
The metal frame of the Xperia Zs is one of their best features, but if they are dukes then metal unibodies are kings. The HTC One family has a rich history just like the Zs above, but it all started with a Legend.
The HTC Legend came to succeed the HTC Hero and had a body made out of a single block of aluminum. It still had a removable battery (take note, One designers) and packed a 3.2" AMOLED display with 320 x 480px resolution, pretty sweet for the time.
The phone kept the characteristic chin that HTC devices had back then and officially came out soon after it leaked in February 2010.
The epic naming scheme died off in favor of the Desire line, which launched at the same time and was the basis for the first Nexus, which also happens to be the first HTC device named "One". A Sensation line appeared for a short time, while the Desire was relegated to the mid-range as the HTC One family took over the flagship position.
In February 2009 Samsung decided to marry two popular movements – going green and the touchscreen. The Samsung Blue Earth name was a bit on the nose, but it had a solar cell on its back to provide additional charging.
The phone itself was made from recycled plastic from water bottles and was free from harmful materials. The box that it came in was made of recycled paper.
The Blue Earth had green software features too, based on the step counter (a rarity back then, on practically every phone now). The software calculated how much CO2 was not released into the atmosphere because you walked instead of driving. Instead of CO2 volumes, the numbers were given in trees saved.
Taking the step counter from the Blue Earth a step further (sorry), the PUMA PHONE featured a GPS receiver and a sailing compass. It could track your run or work as a bike speedometer. It had a music player and stopwatch, making it a complete workout package.
SIM cards are handy – they make is so easy to switch between phones. Back in the day they also carried your phonebook and your text messages with you, but as phones got more advanced they stopped using the SIM card as storage.
There were still problems to be solved though, Wi-Fi tethering wasn’t always so easy. In February 2010 the SIMFi card promised to bring tethering to all phones. It had a built-in Wi-Fi router that can share the 3G connection with other devices as well as the phone that the card is in.
Another attempt to make the SIM card more than just a physical representation your mobile number was the GPP SIM. In February 2012 it could unlock an iPhone 4S that was normally tied to AT&T without the need for a jailbreak.
In 2010 SK Telecom even showed off a SIM card prototype that ran Android – not worked on Android phones, ran Android on its own CPU, RAM and 1GB of storage. It would not only carry over your contacts but also your entire OS. That didn’t work out, it turns out cloud syncing is too convenient.
Recently the WhatSim offered to make WhatsApp chats free worldwide.