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Uniquely designed past phones with features that are nowhere to be found today

Uniquely designed past phones with features that are nowhere to be found today

Ah, the glorious and memorable past! Back then, it was pretty common for a phone to come distinctive design and features that set it miles away from its rivals in terms of individuality and uniqueness. These were exciting times, and the major phone manufacturers were not afraid to often experiment and push their design and R&D departments to the very limit. This usually led to the inception of devices that were quite peculiar and strange, yet flaunted so much individuality that they could put (almost) any of nowadays' smartphones to utter and thorough shame.

Back in the days, the form factor and the overall design of the idiosyncratic devices were defined by its most noteworthy features. Nowadays, however, we tend to witness that almost any smartphone wants to be a jack-of-all-trades. That was hardly the case during the previous decade, when certain curious devices were so specialized in a given feature that they usually adopted an odd shape, an additional, uncommon set of buttons, or even a quirky functionality that usually remained the highlight of the device.

Driven by our insatiable curiosity and quite probably a bit of nostalgia, we made a pick of some vintage phones that were either extremely specialized in a certain department or their design was excessively conformed to a given feature or functionality.

Nokia N93/N93i


It is highly probably that when it designed the N93 swivel/flip phone, Nokia first engineered its camera and snapped a Symbian smartphone around it after that. Jokes aside, the N93 was endowed with a 3.2MP camera with Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar optics that allowed photography aficionados to make use of 3x optical zoom. The successor of the Nokia N93, the N93i, came with the same peculiar design language, but exhibited improved camera software.



Samsung Serenata


Okay, the limited-edition Samsung Serenata looks nothing like a regular phone. It's the result of a collaboration between Samsung and Bang & Olufsen, and its main purpose was to provide its owner with the ultimate audio experience thanks to its large speaker. Another quirky feature of the Serenata was that its "keyboard" was, in fact, a wheel, situated above the display. Talk about bizarre.



Nokia N-Gage/N-Gage QD


The original N-Gage did not become the hit Nokia desired it would be, but this 2003's phone deserves a notable place in history. Its unique design resembles the layout of a handheld gaming console, but this was a full-blown Symbian smartphone, we kid you not! Nokia did it again a year later, in 2004, when the N-Gage QD came out. Despite its improved hardware internals, the device remained a curious, but rather unsuccessful experiment.



Sony Ericsson R306


One may argue that the R306 clamshell looks like a $10 pocket radio and this would be spot-on correct! When folded, it can be easily mistaken for an actual radio thanks to the several small buttons and the predominant stereo speakers on its front. The only thing that was missing was a protruding, dedicated radio antenna, which would have probably deceived even more people that the R306 is actually a radio. We guess Sony Ericsson did not want to push things so much back in the day.



Nokia 5700 XpressMusic


The Nokia 5700 XpressMusic was so music-centric that it had a rather unique twisting keyboard - on one of the sides, you could find the once-common keypad, whereas the other side of the keyboard came with a specialized set of buttons that controlled the music player. The phone came with superb (for its time) sound quality, but the swiveling keypad is its highlight, indeed. We don't get to see these around anymore, do we?



Sony Ericsson K850


Ah, the good ol' Sony Ericsson K850 cameraphone! It was among the first phones that employed a Xenon flash. The device even made use of three LED lights that aided it in its auto-focusing endeavors. Another noteworthy feature of the K850 was its set of navigation buttons, which intersected with the keypad. It was also devoid of the almost compulsory joystick that almost any Sony Ericsson device was endowed with before. What a classic!



Motorola MOTOFONE F3


The most noteworthy feature of the F3 is its display, which made use of a technology that is pretty exotic for a phone - e-ink. This was the first phone to employ this curious battery-friendly technology, which is generally adopted by 90% of all e-readers. The YotaPhone is one of the more recent devices that makes use of the display technology that this Motorola introduced to the world of mobile phones.


HTC Universal


You want to use the HTC Universal in landscape mode and input text with its full QWERTY keypad? Well, go ahead. You desire to use it in portrait mode and make use of its touchscreen? No problem. You want to protect the display from accidental scratches by flipping it over the keyboard? You can do that too! Thanks to its display, which swiveled 180 degrees, this HTC device from 2005 could fill a lot of roles.



LG GD910


This one looks pretty similar to the trendy smartwatches, right? Well, it is, in fact, a watch phone that LG developed back in 2009. It came with metal casing, a curved-glass touchscreen display, had waterproof capabilities, supported HSPA+, and had a VGA camera on board. The LG GD910 got released as a limited edition one and LG claims that it was the first market-ready device of its kind.


54 Comments
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posted on 08 Aug 2014, 22:32 4

1. Ceffmhico (Posts: 6; Member since: 17 Jul 2014)


I still love the nokia 5700! So cool! :D

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 23:51 3

10. neela_akaash (Posts: 153; Member since: 05 Aug 2014)


That 5700 expressmusic is still in my drawer. Awesome phone...

posted on 12 Aug 2014, 11:11

52. luis.aag90 (Posts: 5; Member since: 12 Aug 2014)


I used to have the 5700 XM. Its speakers were great, the screen was crisp and the Symbian OS was perfect for all my apps and needs. Too bad the swiveling mechanism on mine failed but that was after 2 years of service. Great phone but definitely not the best Nokia I had (I still keep an old E5 on my desk)

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 01:29 6

15. Ashoaib (Posts: 2283; Member since: 15 Nov 2013)


what happen to samsung's design team now? serenata looks like a toy from future... how come they cannot design uniquely designed phones?? all galaxies look pretty same, infact unappealing

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 22:58 6

2. Dr.Phil (Posts: 916; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)


I always thought one of the coolest designs was the Alias II by Samsung.

http://www.phonearena.com/phones/Samsung-Alias-2_id3428/photos?image=15651

It had this keypad that would change from numbers to a full keyboard when you flipped it up sideways and it employed dual speakers. It was a really cool phone and very compact. I wish they made something like it again.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 08:25 3

30. cc3493 (Posts: 155; Member since: 06 Jul 2013)


I find it funny how tech companies always employ these innovative features (e.g. like the front facing speakers on that phone)but then decide to go a few steps back right after -_-

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 23:03 3

3. mamadathu (Posts: 43; Member since: 01 Mar 2014)


the problem with the nokia flip phones was they love to be in service centres most of the time

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 00:39 5

13. Blazers (Posts: 224; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)


At least you had service centers. Here in the US, we had to ship our phones to Nokia USA for service.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 08:56 5

33. avalon2105 (Posts: 92; Member since: 12 Jul 2014)


I had Nokia N93 for almost 5 years and never had any problems that required service center. I've used it in shower, it got smacked out of my hand by a football and it never had any hardware issues. Some of the plastics on the bottom cracked but it was nothing a little bit of glue couldn't fix.

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 23:05 9

4. hassoups (Posts: 373; Member since: 06 Jun 2013)


Still have the sony Ericsson k850, I bet their camera software was better back then.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 01:23 2

14. Ashoaib (Posts: 2283; Member since: 15 Nov 2013)


k850 was the best camera phone of that time

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 04:50 2

24. Tsepz_GP (Posts: 822; Member since: 12 Apr 2012)


It was not. I had a K850i (still have it in my drawer), lovely phone but the Nokia N82 thrashed it in every way possible in both Still imagery and video.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 08:27 1

31. Ashoaib (Posts: 2283; Member since: 15 Nov 2013)


yeah I forgot N82, it was better than k850... infact way better, I used both... but k850 stayed with me for six months and N82 remain with me for more than 2 yrs until it was stolen

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 23:14 3

5. romeo1 (Posts: 242; Member since: 06 Jan 2012)


I really loved the k850i. What a phone it was back then.
Am really missing the fastport of sony ericsson.
Also the pure or pureview was something else back then. Very beautiful with the see trough screen.
Nokia also had really nice phones back then the 9xxx series or those weird fashion phones where beautiful.

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 23:16 7

6. peace247 (Posts: 91; Member since: 26 Apr 2014)


LG GD910 is looking better than g watch...

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 23:34 6

7. aayupanday (Posts: 518; Member since: 28 Jun 2012)


Indeed... in fact better than any of the current smart watches except the Moto 360.

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 23:42

9. na7noo7 (Posts: 263; Member since: 29 Mar 2014)


And the Kairos watch (round mechcanical sapphire glass smartwatch)

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 00:39 1

12. DONUT (Posts: 307; Member since: 27 Jun 2013)


the samsung gear watches kinda look like the LG GD910 dont u think so?

posted on 10 Aug 2014, 07:01

44. romeo1 (Posts: 242; Member since: 06 Jan 2012)


Imo the sony smartwatch is the best looking one

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 23:36 5

8. aayupanday (Posts: 518; Member since: 28 Jun 2012)


Great Article PA...
Enjoyed Reading :)

posted on 12 Aug 2014, 03:14

49. reckless562 (Posts: 851; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)


.........finally lols

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 23:55 4

11. N-fanboy (Posts: 538; Member since: 12 Jan 2013)


Wtf the lg watch phone looks better than EVERY smartwatch i've ever seen!

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 01:59

16. anupam.chopra (Posts: 17; Member since: 04 Dec 2012)


Maybe its me, but I owned all of them at one time......lol....even the F3......lmao

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 16:58 2

38. SamDroid (unregistered)


Press up to delete ;)

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 02:33

17. Penny (Posts: 1193; Member since: 04 Feb 2011)


I'd also like to suggest my Samsung SCH-A930 from long ago. It was built like a tank, had the OLED pager-style readout in the front, and had a camera on a swivel that you could either point forward or rotate and point toward yourself. Not sure if the rotating camera is unique only to that phone, but I certainly found it to be unique at the time.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 02:59

18. nodes (Posts: 55; Member since: 06 Mar 2014)


Those times really were exiciting, so many different mobile 'os'es,
Sadly, today the majority of the big dogs use the same OS.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 05:48 1

26. juandante (Posts: 301; Member since: 23 Apr 2013)


Actually all those phones except Nokia where expensive feature phones. Now we have real smartphones, but ugly ones, thanks to Apple.

posted on 11 Aug 2014, 06:38

47. romeo1 (Posts: 242; Member since: 06 Jan 2012)


And the htc.
But what makes a phone a smartphone? Install programs? Email? Internet? Cause the sony ericsson feature phones could also do that. ( im just asking cause im not sure anymore if its just marketing term or something real)

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 03:30 1

19. pubbaa (Posts: 21; Member since: 13 Mar 2012)


I loved my sony ericsson w550 . such unique formfactor
Those were some good days

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 03:34

20. xfire99 (Posts: 542; Member since: 14 Mar 2012)


Where i Motorola Aura, that really have UNIQUE Sapphire screen!
Not Apple or Kyocera that claimed to be first one with sapphire screen.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 03:44

21. AlbertAribe (Posts: 37; Member since: 21 Jun 2014)


Wow... I missed my Sony Ericsson W880i. Very Slim, Very Light, Walkman and 3 days battery life.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 04:17

22. mayur007 (Posts: 440; Member since: 10 Apr 2012)


sony 550i ???

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 04:21

23. NateAdam8 (Posts: 217; Member since: 17 Feb 2012)


They've just limited themselves to what they can do without getting sued.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 04:57

25. Tsepz_GP (Posts: 822; Member since: 12 Apr 2012)


Wow, I remember how much I wanted the Nokia N93i when i was just 15yearsold, I got a Nokia N80 a few months after, the N93i was simply too expensive down here.

I got the Sony Ericsson K850i just after it's release, it was a truly awesome phone, people thought it was an actual camera until they saw the front, but the K850 was so badly plagued with issues, mine had BROD three times even when I flashed it with unbranded FW.
I enjoyed modding the K850, had a ton of Flash themes in it, also added the W980 acoustics mod to it and some great camera drivers that stopped pics from looking washed out, which was a major K850 fault.
K850 had incredible battery life though, I mine could do a full day of very heavy usage or 2-3 full days of moderate usage with no problem.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 06:31

27. hameed1989 (Posts: 46; Member since: 29 Aug 2012)


I used the N-gage once. Great gaming phone of its time..Nokia 5700 was pretty average!!

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 07:09

28. HildyJ (Posts: 153; Member since: 11 Aug 2012)


Thinking about the features, I see three that might still have at least niche appeal.

Keyboards - The UTC Universal was cool but complicated. I wonder if a Lenovo Yoga style phone would appeal to heavy texters or if virtual swipe keyboards have made it obsolete?

Camera - A barrel shaped camera like the Nokia N93 (with the camera rather than the screen swiveling) would allow for better optics and optical zoom. However, phones have gotten so much slimmer that a lipstick camera on top might be too big.

Speakers - Yes. Please. A taller phone with good stereo speakers would still have a market. Even better, sell a shell with speakers on the top and bottom that protrude above the screen to function as a case and with Bluetooth to function as a standalone speaker when detached.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 08:18 3

29. aco96 (Posts: 204; Member since: 12 Oct 2012)


LG Prada should be mentioned. The first phone with capacitive touch screen. I really enjoyed using it :)

posted on 10 Aug 2014, 07:22 1

46. romeo1 (Posts: 242; Member since: 06 Jan 2012)


Shhht... Otherwise you'll wake the apple people

posted on 12 Aug 2014, 03:18

50. reckless562 (Posts: 851; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)


lols i wanted that phone!!!!! kuz i had prada (MENS) sun glasses at the time. (they broke :-{ )

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 08:45 3

32. edwebber (Posts: 3; Member since: 30 Jul 2014)


please don't tell me Apple invented all those phones features or those companies copied them.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 13:06 3

34. maxspecs (Posts: 32; Member since: 29 Aug 2012)


Most of these phones look attractive in my opinion. Not to mention they didn't waste our time :)

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 13:14 1

35. corporateJP (Posts: 1570; Member since: 28 Nov 2009)


I miss Nokia...the REAL Nokia, not this Microsoft sh*t being passed off as a Nokia.

The same could be said for Motorola. The F3 could go for an entire month without a charge...it was nothing special, but that thing could go for sure...

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 15:49

36. JakeH (Posts: 35; Member since: 01 May 2014)


these are the real innovative smartphones

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 16:13

37. sbw44 (Posts: 398; Member since: 04 Dec 2012)


I had a Nokia 3250 which was the one before the 5700 and boy oh boy that phone was awesome! I initially wanted Sony Ericsson W800 which was that walkman phone but after i heard the speaker on the 3250 i was blown away by it.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 17:21

39. plantman60 (Posts: 13; Member since: 02 Mar 2012)


Hitachi 1000! :)

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 17:23

40. SebasCvdB (Posts: 3; Member since: 18 Feb 2012)


I always thought the Siemens SL55 & SL65 were pretty akwardly designed... being so freakingly tiny.

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 18:10

41. sonisoe (Posts: 329; Member since: 06 May 2009)


i think i had a sony ericsson k850... changed phones too often then, can't remember...lol...

posted on 09 Aug 2014, 18:21

42. sonisoe (Posts: 329; Member since: 06 May 2009)


there are "old" features i still miss from these "classic" phones :
1. video ringtone (sure it can be done on android by downloading an app, but i think it was easier to set up on the old phone)
2. full song text tone... we could set a full song as a text notification, so when one comes the phone would play the whole song instead of just a couple of beeps we get now.... it was stupid but fun tho...
3. transferring files (picture/music) with bluetooth...so easy albeit might a bit slow...

a number of features were also quiet advanced like smart-dial and sony ericsson's track-id (today's sazham)

posted on 10 Aug 2014, 06:17 1

43. avalon2105 (Posts: 92; Member since: 12 Jul 2014)


First two can be done on Android phone without a hitch. I did it on both Xpeira S and G2 with nothing but a file manager. When pop-up asks you to chose between sound picker and all the other options, pick File Manager and choose any file containing audio stream.
And transferring files via Bluetooth is easier than ever before thanks to NFC.

posted on 10 Aug 2014, 07:18

45. romeo1 (Posts: 242; Member since: 06 Jan 2012)


With sony phones its pretty easy to do the last 2.
In the texting app you just tap the options key and go to settings then tap alert tone ( i just translated it from dutch but im not sure how its called in English) then tap the music note and you can set a full song.

Transfering bluetooth files is also pretty easy with almost all android phones

You just have to put time out to never in the bluetooth menu so that you can be found when you have bluetooth on. And just go to your album or music player and the picuture/song and tap share then tap bluetooth and it will search for other bluetooth devices tap the one you want. Accept it with the other phone and it begins

posted on 11 Aug 2014, 14:35

48. javy108 (Posts: 163; Member since: 27 Jul 2014)


I still love Sony Erikson K850 :3

posted on 12 Aug 2014, 08:28

51. yoeasie (Posts: 9; Member since: 24 Oct 2013)


Classic man

posted on 12 Aug 2014, 21:00

53. jgalvez21 (Posts: 21; Member since: 29 May 2014)


n91, is only phone with DAC + AMP

still best audio quality phone on the market.. i wish qualcom and samsung put AMP in their phones

posted on 14 Aug 2014, 14:30

54. cdgoin (Posts: 369; Member since: 28 Jul 2010)


I had a universal loved that thing.. The ONLY phone at the time with a 640x480 screen. At it was a 3.5" touch screen.. which was HUGE for the day. Ran Windows Mobile and worked great.. WAY ahead of its time. DId most what the iPhone did at launch much later down teh road. If MS and HTC had kept things going they could have beaten iPhone. instead they swung and missed a lot. Heck WM had a lot of nice features and skins at the time through XDA that made it Better than even the iPhone that hadn't come out yet. Instead of using the cooked ROMS, they went with theirs which were much lamer by comparison.

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