Counterclockwise allows us to recount smartphone lore from years past. This time we focus heavily on camera phones, take a quick tour through rugged phones, Nokia's attempts to save its platform, Android's fragmentation issues and finally a surprise appearance by HTC's CEO.
An ode to camera phones
Early February has been rife with rumors throughout the years and many of them promised the bleeding-edge in mobile photography. Back in 2009, the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD appeared in spy photos with an 8MP camera that records 720p video.
It was a Symbian-running device (with TouchWiz 2.0), unlike the Samsung Omnia, which was a Windows Mobile handset. That same week Samsung launched the Omnia Reloaded, which had a decent camera for the time – 5MP stills and D1 (720x480px) video.
Not quite as impressive as the Samsung T929 Memoir that went official the previous day though. A T-Mobile exclusive with an 8MP camera and D1 video. Despite its appearance it did not have optical zoom, but it did have a hardware shutter and xenon flash.
A couple of years later in 2009 LG had made the jump to Android (and flirting with Windows Phone). It was launching the LG Optimus 2X with an 8MP camera and 1080p video – the first one we experienced on a mobile phone.
Of course, no camera phone discussion is complete without Nokia. The Nokia 7650 was the first Symbian camera phone (not to mention one of the first phones with a camera in general). In 2011 the Nokia N8 ruled that segment with a large 12MP sensor (1/1.83"), Zeiss optics, ND filter and xenon flash.
A year later its successor was set to drop people's jaws but we heard the worrying rumors that it will be the last Symbian. It was, but the platform had a glorious run of camera phones – from the 7650 through the Omnia HD, the N8 and finally the 808 PureView.
Windows Phone took over with the Lumia 800 (based on the N9). It had an 8MP camera with Zeiss optics and 720p video. Not too impressive on paper, but it was a good quality camera and was selling great in Finland. The Lumia 900 had just gone on pre-order and offered the same basic camera.
Smartphones started looking too similar – rectangles with big screens, the lot of them – so manufacturers were looking for ways to stand out. Many tried to co-opt the cool of outdoor adventures, like Sony Ericsson and its Xperia active.
In February 2012 the company partnered with Billabong, a surf company that makes clothes, backpacks, watches, skateboards and snowboards. The Xperia active Billabong edition had stylized waves on its back and the words "Surf Snow Skate Wake."
While looking through mobile history we often encounter the death of Symbian, but did you know it was an open-source OS? Not always, but in February 2010 Nokia handed over the source code to the Symbian Foundation, which made it free for all to download. That was two years before the Nokia 808 PureView, the last Symbian.
The gambit didn’t pay out, but no one can blame Nokia for trying – Android has become the poster child for OS on mobile and it's more successful than Symbian ever was.
CEO, Chief Excitement Officer
CEOs of big companies are usually very secretive about their products until they announce them to great fanfare at a dedicated event. Sometimes though, the excitement gets the better of them and they pull out the new flagship out of their pocket and show it to the world.
In 2013 HTC CEO Peter Chou whipped out the HTC One during the company's end of the year party. He even confirmed the name of the One by chanting it excitedly, the phone was known with its M7 codename.
A few days later – the HTC One still unannounced – HTC released an infographic tracing the history of photography. The company promised a "new sound and camera experience," which turned out to be the One's UltraPixel camera and BoomSound speakers.