Most of us think of our old phones as obsolete tech, a gadget to be wiped then traded in, or stowed away in the back of a dusty cupboard.
But they are our most constant companions, sitting snug in our pockets all day and lying next to our heads at night. So, it’s only inevitable that they become a sort of waypoint -- a marker of the wheres and whens, a scaffold to hang our memories on.
Of course, not all phones are equal. Some skirt around the edges of my recollection, blurry technological afterimages: a black Siemens clamshell, a sliding red...HTC? But others left deeper impressions, like the Nokia N86 that I used to read fantasy books on, or the iPhone 3Gs with the metallic pink case that I accidentally left behind in a motel on a road trip across the United States.
My very first phone was the Nokia 8250. I remember my dad bringing me to the M1 shop to pick one out, and me fizzing with excitement at finally being old enough to have one. What sold me on the 8250 was it’s blue backlight, a novelty at that time, and for which we paid a premium. Leaving the shop, gadget in hand, I felt like I had grown up, and finally gained access to this hitherto unknown section of adulting.
After my faithful 8250 finally gave out after a few years, several forgettable phones accompanied me through secondary school and JC: a red-and-white Sony Ericsson, a burnt orange Nokia 6280.
The Nokia N86, which I got in university, was my very first smartphone. I still remember being impressed by its slim front buttons (so sleek!) and it’s inbuilt kickstand. The week I acquired my new companion, I went to East Coast Park, where I decided to rent a pair of Kangaroo jumping boots and ended up taking a nasty spill. I didn’t want to scratch the phone, so I refused to let go of it to break my fall even as I crashed to the ground. The N86 was fine, but I still have a shiny white scar on my right wrist from that tumble ages ago.
The N86 was also the phone that I first started reading on, lying in bed devouring Forgotten Realms novels on a 2.6-inch display so small that I had to flip pages every couple of sentences. The N86 and I went on to lead a long and happy life together, and I was sad to see it go.
After becoming a tech journalist a few years ago, life started to become an ever-changing carousel of phones. Samsung, LG, Asus, Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi phones would pass through my hands every few months, and I rarely used a single handset long enough to form any attachment to it.
The only phone that’s left a lasting impression on me in recent years is the Samsung Galaxy S7. I got it at my first overseas phone launch (the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona), where I ended up with an awful bout of food poisoning, the fault of some very delicious Spanish burgers. The next day, I missed a sightseeing trip to the Sagrada Familia, instead curling up on a bed in my hotel room, clutching my new S7 and nibbling on small pots of baby food.
I’m sure that not just for me, but for many of us, phones have become more than mere communication devices. They have become sources of entertainment, cameras for capturing fleeting moments, and yes, signposts for memories.
So who knows? The phone in your hand right now could be your 8250 or N86 of the future, something you’d look back on in the years to come with nostalgia and fond memories.