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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.

  • Options

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 22:32 4

1. Ceffmhico (Posts: 33; 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: 1229; 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: 20; 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: 3229; 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: 1639; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)

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


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: 158; 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: 48; 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: 467; 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: 311; 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: 473; 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: 3229; 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: 1042; 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: 3229; 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: 729; 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: 495; Member since: 26 Apr 2014)

LG GD910 is looking better than g watch...

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 23:34 6

7. aayupanday (Posts: 580; 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: 278; 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: 433; 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: 729; 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: 580; Member since: 28 Jun 2012)

Great Article PA...
Enjoyed Reading :)

posted on 12 Aug 2014, 03:14

49. reckless562 (banned) (Posts: 1153; Member since: 09 Sep 2013)

.........finally lols

posted on 08 Aug 2014, 23:55 4

11. N-fanboy (Posts: 543; 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: 1672; 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: 761; 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 (banned) (Posts: 679; 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: 729; 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: 25; 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: 939; 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.

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