Giant, cartoon, Kaiju-style Nokia 6600 and Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra are battling in the midst of a derilict city scape. The 6600 has sparking energy bolts in its hands and is poised to fire them at the S24 Ultra. Meanwhile, the S24 Ultra is holding its stylus, which is surrounded by electric arcs, like a javelin which its about to launch at the 6600.

I needed a new phone and recently decided to treat myself to Samsung's latest Galaxy S24 Ultra. Like most smartphones today, it's mostly an incremental improvement over its predecessor - a slightly faster CPU, a slightly better camera, etc. - and yet, when I think back to my first ever smartphone, the Nokia 6600, it's quite amazing how far we've come.

Both phones were high-end models at the time of their release. The Nokia 6600 was released in October 2003. I don't remember exactly when I got mine, but I know it was sometime during 2004. The S24 Ultra was released in January 2024, and I got mine at launch. The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and Nokia 6600 are therefore about 20 years apart. An aeon in the tech world. Unsurprisingly, the new Samsung phone is vastly more powerful than the old Nokia:

Nokia 6600 vs Samsung Galaxy 24 Ultra spec comparison
Feature Nokia 6600 Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Change
  • single core
  • 104 MHz
  • 8-core
  • 3.39 GHz (1×)
  • 3.1 GHz (3×)
  • 2.9 GHz (2×)
  • 2.2 GHz (2×)
  • 8× number of cores
  • 32.6× max clock speed
RAM 16 MB 12 GB 750× increase
Internal storage 6 MB 1 TB 166,667× increase
Memory card slot Yes (MMC) No Lost the ability to expand storage
  • 176 × 208 pixels
  • 2.1"
  • 130 PPI density
  • 1440 × 3120 pixels
  • 6.8"
  • 505 PPI density
  • 122× amount of pixels
  • 3.2× size
  • 3.8× pixel density
  • 0.3 MP (640 × 480) fixed focus
  • 200 MP auto focus (12,240 × 16,320) (rear)
  • 50 MP auto focus, 5× optical zoom (rear)
  • 10 MP auto focus, 3× optical zoom (rear)
  • 12 MP auto focus (rear)
  • 12 MP auto focus (front)
  • 650× max resolution
  • 5× number of cameras
Video recording
  • 177 × 144 pixels
  • 15 fps
  • 7680 × 4320 pixels (aka 8K)
  • 30 fps
  • 1,300× max resolution
  • 2× framerate
  • GPRS (aka 2.5G)
  • 85.6 Kbps peak download
  • 5G
  • 10 Gbps peak download
116,822× peak download speed (in theory)
WiFi No Yes (WiFi 7) More ways to get online
Bluetooth 1.1 5.3 More features and faster data transfers
Positioning No GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, QZSS I don't need a separate SatNav
NFC No Yes I don't need to carry my credit/debit cards anymore
Infrared port Yes No No more TV remote apps 😜
  • 850 mAh
  • Removable
  • up to 240h standby time
  • 5,000 mAh
  • Non-removable
  • up to 110h standby time
  • 5.9× capacity
  • Can't easily replace battery (or carry spares)
  • 54% reduction in max standby time
OS Symbian OS 7.0 + Series 60 2nd Edition Android 14 Way more apps available now than back in the day!

And yet, despite the staggering increases for some specs, there have been a few regressions too:

  • Battery life has gone down. When you consider that the battery capacity has gone up, you realise how much more power-hungry the S24 Ultra is.
  • Removable storage has been, umm, removed. Not a huge issue, given that I've got 1TB of internal storage. But, considering how spacious and cheap microSD cards are, it's a pity not to have that option available.
  • No more IR port! To be honest, I'd forgotten all about that until I researched the Nokia 6600's specs for this. It did have its uses back in the day. My previous phone (which was not a smartphone) also had an IR port, so I could "beam" my address book contacts across to the 6600. I also had an app on the 6600 which let me use the phone as a TV remote. Mostly a gimmick, but I did have some fun with it messing with TVs in shop windows! I doubt it would be of any practical use nowadays though.

I also find it interesting how a lot of the fundamental features already existed 20 years ago. The Nokia 6600...

  • had a camera for taking photos and recording videos
  • could connect to the internet and browse the web (I don't remember if there was a web browser pre-installed, but you could definitely get the Opera browser for Series 60 and browse the actual, non-WAP web)
  • let you install native apps (we still called them "applications" back then though)
  • could multitask - you could switch between multiple, running apps just as you do on modern smartphones
  • could play music (though, you had to install a music player app IIRC. I remember I installed one to play Ogg Vorbis files!)
  • let you copy-paste text (people forget, but iOS didn't support that until about 5 years later, when it reached v3.0 in 2009)
  • customise the system's UI with background images and themes

Sure, the 6600's camera was not good enough to replace a dedicated still camera or camcorder, the mono sound output and meagre storage space weren't going to replace your MP3 player, and browsing the web (when mobile-optimized websites were extremely rare) over a GPRS connection was painfully slow. But it was a taste of things to come. It proved that you could pack all those functions into a single device.

That got me excited. That made me fall in love with smartphones, long before they became as ubiquitous as they are now. Every phone I've owned since has been a smartphone. And, sure enough, as the years went by I found myself reaching for dedicated devices less and less.

I wonder how things will look 20 years from now. I'm sure raw specs will continue to improve and make my shiny, new S24 Ultra look as dated then as it does my 6600 today. I'm also sure there'll be a lot of commonalities that will persist - we will probably still have some form of apps, a web browser, a means of taking photos, recording videos and so on. And yet, I can't help but wonder if we'll have moved on from phones as the form factor for our primary, converged devices to something else.

Perhaps mixed reality goggles will finally have evolved to be good enough to be always on and cheap enough to go mainstream? If user experiences along the lines of Keiichi Matsuda's Hyper Reality short film become possible and commonplace, would we still carry phone-like things around in our pockets? Are current XR headsets like Apple's Vision Pro the Nokia 6600s of today?

Or, maybe it'll be something new that doesn't even exist yet. Will we have Ghost-in-the-Shell-style cyberbrains by 2044? I'm probably way off and we'll still be carrying around slabs of plastic, metal and glass in our pockets. We shall see...

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