The first time I played a game on my phone was 2005, and it was before anyone would have called that tiny, dense machine “smart”. I was on a shuttle bus in Los Angeles, riding, groggy and bleary-eyed, to day two of E3 ‘05. Somewhere in a nearby seat, Certis was playing one of them-there newfangled Nintendo DS systems, occasionally making mocking and snide comments about my having nothing more to play with than my underwhelming Nokia phone. These were days where cell phones genuinely had only one purpose, and that was to provide communication wirelessly over distances. To be honest, that was still a sort of neat concept at the time.
The device in question was about half the size of your average DualShock controller, and its profile was dominated more by squishy number buttons than by screen. The game itself was a half-assed version of Jeopardy!, only the questions came up on your screen like a multiple choice test and you pressed numbers on your keys to make your guess. The screen had all the resolution of a TI-80 graphing calculator, with less functionality, and as I played, bored and disappointed, I remember having a hard time imagining how cell phones would ever be a platform for anything beyond getting phone calls in the car.
Ironically this was the E3 in which N-Gage talked openly about applying its underwhelming technology to a cell phone, which inspired the world to continue not buying them at all. It would be slightly more than 2 years until the iPhone launched and begin a tectonic shift in the geography of wireless applications. I would never have guessed that within the decade I would be carrying a machine in pocket the size of an X-box controller that could access the internet at broadband speeds, stream and play movies, provide high-resolution gaming and be loaded dense with applications that could do everything from tune my guitar to tell me how far I’ve run.