Five years ago a sixteen year-old me made a decision that would affect my life in ways I didn’t consider. At the time I was using an old Samsung Omnia Windows Phone. I don’t class it as a my first smartphone, it didn’t support the Wi-Fi bands that my area used, meaning I couldn’t download anything in addition to the pre-installed software. Additionally I was in a fracture boot for the foreseeable future and needed cheering up. I decided a new phone would be just the thing.
As is the case when making a purchase I set aside the time to research my options. Having no experience with either Android or iOS I didn’t particularly care which operating system I went with. After days of reading reviews and watching YouTube comparisons the frontrunners were the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S2. The iPhone was the “cool” phone that many were using, whereas the Galaxy packed better hardware in most aspects.
In the end it all came down to one thing: I keep a lot of music saved locally and take a lot of photos, so having plenty of storage is important. There were 32GB and 64GB options with the 4S, but the prices were extortionate. All things considered the Galaxy S2 with 16GB and a micro SD slot was the best option. My decision made, on April 1st 2012 I ordered an unlocked Galaxy S2 from Amazon. The wait began.
Just three days later it was delivered. I’d never been so excited about a delivery. Within seconds of arriving the box was open and the phone plugged in to charge. It sounds silly now, but at the time the 4.3” display felt massive. The Omnia was only 3” so it was a big adjustment for me. The screen wasn’t just massive, it was beautiful. Even then Samsung were using Super-AMOLED+ in their phones meaning deep blacks and vibrant colours. Watching YouTube and playing games was great fun, as was taking photos and editing them on-device.
The 1.2GHz Exynos 4210 and 1GB of RAM made it one of the fastest phones available. Back then TouchWiz was actually fun to use when compared to stock. Even on Gingerbread the S2 featured Settings toggles in the notification shade as well as special camera modes. It wasn’t the festival of lag that it became on the S3 either.
Although my S2 had Gingerbread when it arrived, within a month it was updated to Ice Cream Sandwich. There weren’t many changes visual changes made to TouchWiz, but the new features were nice. More camera modes were added as well as the ability to take screenshots.
Eighteen months later I decided to upgrade to the S4. I loved it at first. All of the good points from the S2 were improved upon in the S4. The 5” Full-HD display meant that once again Samsung had the best screen and performance was very good. Sadly that didn’t last.
The S4 took forever to get software updates and the last one it received, 5.0 Lollipop, slowed it right down. Trying to port software from the S5 wasn’t a good idea! It didn’t play well with my Moto 360 and after a year of using it the sim card reader died. My infatuation with Samsung products had ended.
In the two years that had passed since I purchased my beloved S2, I’d learnt a lot about how Android worked and had started writing for Little Green Dude. I was impressed by the Nexus 6 when it was unveiled and the Nexus 9 I bought made me fall in love with stock Android. So after the death of my S4 I knew what I needed to get.
The Nexus 6 isn’t an easy phone to use. It’s ridiculously massive and holding it against my face during a call looked comical. But I loved it. It got updates first, was included in the Marshmallow preview and had lovely front-facing speakers. The camera wasn’t the best, but I took some great shots with it.
I was hooked on Google hardware by this point. By the end of 2015, I had replaced the Nexus 6 and 9 with a 6P and Pixel C. I’d also strapped Android to my wrist in the form of a Moto 360. The 6P was more manageable in the hand and the camera was infinitely better than the Nexus 6. The addition of a fingerprint reader and USB-C was appreciated and the Pixel C was nothing like the ultimate disappointment of the Nexus 9. I’m still using the Pixel C every day, even writing this entire post on it!
Then we reach today. The Pixel C is still my main tablet and the Pixel XL is my daily driver. Sure, it doesn’t have front-facing speakers and it has more chin than Jay Leno, but everything else more than makes up for it.
Phones have come a long way since 2012. There’s no comparison between my S2 and Pixel XL, but the S2 feels so special. It was the starting point of a new obsession and hobby, something that led me to meet amazing people and go to new places. It gave me access to a whole new world. I’ve been to Google’s offices in London, started writing for an Android website and even went to a phone launch! These are experiences I would never have had otherwise.
The last five years have gone by so quickly. From Android 2.3.4 all the way to 7.1.1, it’s been a crazy time. Who knows where we’ll be in another five years? It’s possible that we’ll have moved on from Android by then. Whatever happens, one thing is certain;With Google at the wheel it will be one wild ride!