The history of the cellphone and smartphone has been long and eventful. While there have been some iconic phones that we look back on fondly, there have been just as many weird cellphones that still cause us to shake our heads in disbelief. And not all of them were unveiled five or 10 years ago. Curious about the weirdest cellphones that most of us have forgotten about? The 12 ahead are strange devices that we still don’t quite understand.
1. BlackBerry Passport
The BlackBerry Passport was a clunky phone that was awkward to use thanks to its wide form factor, but was designed to offer extensive productivity features. The phone was wider than most phablets, but offered a smaller display. Some physical keyboard devotees were excited about the device, and reviewers noted that the build quality felt premium. But the app selection was disappointing and the integrated voice assistant slow, and many reviewers concluded that the phone was just too wide to be comfortable to carry and use.
2. HTC First, aka the Facebook Phone
The HTC First, known more widely as the Facebook Phone, integrated an Android skin that was dedicated to Facebook. But despite the device’s $99 price tag, this phone never really caught on. AT&T, the only carrier to stock the phone, even offered the phone for just $0.99 after it became clear that the phone wouldn’t be the blockbuster success that the companies hoped.
3. Garmin Nüvifone
When Garmin decided to launch a smartphone in 2009, it tried to market the device as the best map-equipped phone. But people already had access to apps like Google Maps on their existing smartphones, which made it unlikely that many consumers were going to buy a phone that offered navigation as its headlining feature. Because the Nüvifone didn’t have any other unique features, the line failed to catch on and was discontinued in 2010.
4. Haier P7 Pen
The Haier P7 Pen phone was an extraordinarily narrow phone that, despite the name, didn’t function as a pen. Despite the tiny form factor, Haier packed a camera, keypad, and TFT screen into the phone. Even though it looked like a concept phone, the device was actually produced — and plenty of people thought that it was a stylish device.
5. Microsoft KIN One
Launched in 2010, Microsoft KIN One was a smartphone platform designed for users who were big social media fans. The KIN One had a fun shape and a sliding screen, and the platform was equipped with some fun features like Spot and Loop. But Microsoft shut the platform down after just 48 days because the company realized too late that teens didn’t want phones designed for kids, but preferred the same iPhones, BlackBerry phones, and Android devices that adults were buying.
6. Motorola FlipOut
The Motorola FlipOut was a square slider phone with an interface designed around social networking capabilities. The “phonebook” feature eliminated any differentiation between your phone contacts and your online contacts, and even features like the music player integrated social networking functions. The phone featured a five-row QWERTY keyboard, but suffered from poor display quality, a limited choice of apps, performance issues with the camera, and the placement of the microSD card slot under the battery.
7. Motorola ROKR E1, aka the iTunes phone
Introduced in 2005, the Motorola ROKR E1, also known as the “iTunes phone,” was the product of a partnership between Apple and Motorola. The idea was to give customers a new way to access their iTunes libraries on their phones, but users couldn’t have more than 100 songs on the device at a time. Uploading songs was an incredibly slow process, and users quickly realized that the iPod Nano was a much better way to enjoy their music on the go.
8. Neo 1973
Launched in 2007, the Neo 1973 used open-source software and hardware. It was developed by the Openmoko project to run the Openmoko Linux platform, and was named after the first year of mobile telephone communication. (In 1973, mobile phone inventor Martin Cooper made the first mobile phone call.) Priced at $300 for a basic model or $450 for a kit that included tools for modifying the hardware, the initial release was delayed by supply shortages and development difficulties.
9. Nokia 7600
The Nokia 7600 put a unique form factor first, with an unusual teardrop shape and interchangeable covers. It was the company’s second 3G handset, but lagged behind most of the other phones being sold at the time in terms of specifications. Furthermore, the unusual shape of the phone necessitated placing the number keys around the screen. Texting or using the phone’s menu was a task that required both hands, which made the phone inconvenient and awkward to use.
10. Nokia N-Gage
Introduced in 2003, the Nokia N-Gage was a cross between a smartphone and a handheld gaming system. The idea was to convince gamers to choose Nokia’s device over the GameBoy Advance by adding the functions of a phone. But the buttons, which were designed for the device’s phone functionality, didn’t work well for gaming. Thanks to its shape, the device earned the infamous nickname “Taco phone,” and users disliked the way they had to remove the phone’s cover and remove the battery compartment in order to insert a game. Additionally, the speaker and microphone were located on the side of the phone, which made it clumsy to use.
11. Samsung and Bang & Olufsen Serenata
The Serenata from Samsung and Bang & Olufsen was a phone designed specifically for music fans. The device featured a stereo speaker system with a hi-fi speaker and bass system, which produced sound that was intended to mimic a home audio system. The phone could play various file formats, including MP3, WMA, and AAC, and offered a set of “sophisticated” ringtones. The phone featured an unusual form factor with an integrated stand and a click wheel for navigation.
12. Virgin Mobile Lobster
The Lobster was a TV-focused, Windows-based phone from Virgin Mobile. The idea behind this clunky, heavy phone was to broadcast live TV (from a select group of TV stations) to your mobile phone, and the odd shape made room for all of the internal components necessary for the device’s television and radio capabilities. The HTC-built device relied on microSD cards to expand its internal memory — but to swap out a microSD card, you had to find a slot that was placed not only under the battery but also under the SIM card.