Smartphones these days seem to all follow the same basic design format. They have a huge touchscreen that takes up the whole front, a slick minimalist design, a rectangular shape, smooth rounded edges – I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.
And indeed, it seems that this formula works.
There must be a good reason for this design, as phones like the iPhone X which embody all these features have seen huge success. It may be the case that modern smartphone designs have now reached perfection. Perhaps we’ve simply reached the pinnacle of mobile phone design, and all modern phones have achieved the ideal of exactly what a smartphone should be.
However, it does mean that the current mobile marketplace is a little less colorful. Currently, there’s very little variety when it comes to smartphone design. it’s all gotten rather boring.
But let’s not forget that it wasn’t always like this.
Once upon a time, mobile brands which sought to innovate and stand out in a saturated marketplace frequently ventured into weird and wonderful territories. This led to some mobile phone releases which probably seemed a little weird back then, but now… they seem downright crazy.
So, in the interests of indulging our nostalgia, let’s look back at some of the wackiest cell phones of all time. Get ready for a blast from the past!
1. Siemens Xelibri 6
Remember back in 2003, before the selfie revolution, when people still used compact mirrors to check their appearance rather than their smartphone front-camera?
Well, you’ll just have to take my word for it. Compact mirrors were still very much a thing, so it’s only natural that Siemens thought, “hey, let’s make a smartphone that looks exactly like a compact mirror”. And this, the Xelibri 6 was born.
This phone was totally round, just like a mirror, and of course, had a flip screen. It also had two mirrors inside it so that you could do your makeup and text at the same time. However, it also meant that the keypad was weird and round, and the display was absolutely tiny so that it could be crammed right into the center of what was essentially a mirror.
It seemed more like a mirror and less like a phone, but there’s no denying it was interesting. It was also aimed almost exclusively at women, something which I can’t help but feel might be considered a little sexist now, 15 years later.
2. Nokia 7280
The Nokia 7280 is another fashion-centric design intended to appeal to women. Sticking with the makeup theme, this phone was meant to resemble a stick of lipstick – and it kind of did.
The best description I can give you to help you visualize it is to imagine a USB stick. But not one of those modern, slick, thin USB sticks. No, imagine a chunky, heavy, clunky USB stick. Now stick a tiny screen on one side of it, and a touch-spinner on the other side. You’ve probably got a pretty good image of what this phone looked like.
Just like lipstick, you could slide the end out to reveal the display. It also had some of what were – at the time – cutting-edge features, like FM radio and Bluetooth.
It was weird, it was pretty impractical, but boy was it interesting.
3. BlackBerry Passport
Blackberry’s day may have passed, but let’s not forget that a few years ago it was one of the most popular brands on the market.
Most of us associate Blackberry with models like the Curve. However, a much more interesting creation was the lesser known BlackBerry Passport.
The Passport, true to its namesake, looked a lot like a passport. It was as short and as squat, for sure, and was probably one of the widest, shortest phones of all time. It was somewhere between a square and a rectangle and, as you might expect, was difficult to operate one-handed.
You needed two hands to use it successfully, but it was still pretty difficult on account of its laggy performance and square touchscreen which didn’t run videos very well. However, what it lacked in substance it made up for in style – a certain kind of style at least.
4. Nokia N-Gage
Personally, I’d say the design of this phone was more awesome than it was wacky, but it was so out there that it definitely deserves a place on this list.
The N-Gage was designed to compete with the main handheld game consoles of the moment, such as the Game Boy Advance, and took a lot of inspiration for its design elements from such consoles.
It was wide and meant to be held the same way you’d hold a Game Boy Advance, with two hands. On the left was the multi-directional buttons and the call button, on the right was the keypad and the end call button, and in the middle was the display screen.
Unfortunately, while it might have looked a lot like a game console, it really couldn’t match them for gaming performance, and as such, it had a pretty short lifespan on the mobile market. Still, it was, and still is, an interesting and wacky mobile phone design that deserves our number 4 spot.
What Did We Miss?
We know this list is definitely not exhaustive. There’s plenty more wacky and wonderful mobile phones out there, but we just don’t have the time to cover them all, so we had to pick our favorites.
What wacky mobile phones do you think we missed? Let us know!
Thanks for reading!