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July 8, 2014

5 mobile phone ideas that never caught on

From before-their-time gamers to the phone shaped like a teardrop, here are five devices that just didn't work.

By Ben Sullivan

Most mobile phones look the same these days, and it turns out that’s really not such a bad thing. Before standardised forms and fucntions and the dominance of Android and iOS, manufacturers tried all sorts of crazy things to sell phones. If you had any of these devices listed below, applaud yourselves, as you were the brave guinea pigs that made sure these mobile misfits aren’t around today.

Nokia N-Gage gaming phone


A phone that was, put frankly, ahead of its time, the Nokia N-Gage attempted to create a handheld gaming phone that ended up not really being able to carry out either of its functions relatively well.

The device had an eight-way directional controller, and also acted as an MP3 player, FM tuner, and also had an email client.

But design flaws and lack of support let the phone flop, with users complaining that it was too awkwardly shaped to be comfortable to play games or use it as a phone.

The screen was also in portrait, with most games for it really designed to be played in landscape.

Even big name games such as Tony Hawks Pro Skater and Sega Rally failed to draw a solid user base. It is estimated that 3 million units were sold as of 2007.

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Microsoft Kin – a social media phone


Released and subsequently killed off by Microsoft, the Kin was targeted at teenagers who used social networking.

Around $1bn and two years of research went into the Kin phone, only to be pulled from shelves after two months in July 2010 because of poor sales. The phone didn’t even get released in Europe!

Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group, told eWeek magazine: "The Kin was a mistake from Day One. The extra time they took to convert the Kin from the Sidekick platform to Windows CE made it about a year-and-a-half late to market, and the merger likely added another year-and-a-half. That’s 1.5 to 3 years late depending on when you start the clock."

Various phones aimed at kids


A number of manufacturers attempted to successfully bring a ‘kids’ phone to market. LG’s Migo phone had just five speed dial buttons, and was aimed at 5 to 9-year-olds. The speed dial buttons were programmable via the Internet or on the handset.

Mobiles2go i-Kids came a few years before this, with a similar four-buttoned toy-like phone. Oh how naïve they were. If only they knew that nowadays 5 to 9-year-olds would be down the park with their iPhones filming their mate Dave m falling off a scooter for Instagram whilst remembering fondly the phase of happy slapping.

Motorola Rokr – an iPod replacement?


For this, we head to the wonderful world of Amazon reviews:

"I have never reviewed any item I have bought, but am so disgusted with this phone that I feel like I need to warn people about its quality. The first phone I had of this kind literally started falling apart. The center button fell off because it is just glued on. I live in a humid climate that seems to make it not want to stick. Also, many of the buttons on the phone work only when they want to. My phone also randomly calls people in my phonebook. I am now on my second phone because Motorola did honor the original warranty. Apparently these problems are very common in this phone. I am on my second one, and the same problems are starting to happen again. This is a very good phone for about 2 months. After that, it falls apart. DO NOT BUY!!"

Yes, apart from the whole buttons falling off thing, the Motorla Rokr E1 also had Apple’s iTunes built in, but could only store around 50 songs. It was released the same year as the iPod Nano, which could store 4GB of music. You see where Motorola went wrong here?

Nokia 7600 – for the fashionable crowd


Why was it shaped like that? Nobody knows, but it needed two hands to operate as the number keys were situated either side of the screen in the middle.

The Nokia 7600 was aimed at the ‘fashion’ market with a ‘unique’ teardrop design, but even the VGA camera and the polyphonic ringtone support couldn’t save this one. Well if you can say anything at all, it’s that Nokia was never boring.

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