Can you remember your first cellphone? I do; it was a Nokia 5110 (okay, this was my first personal cellphone — we had a family one before that was so obscure its name escapes me). I was able to call people on it, and once I had all the message-centre numbers set up correctly I could text on it too. As there were limited text characters, we had to invent ways of saying as much as possible in a single text message, so we didn’t have to pay an additional charge for multiple messages. Yes, I’m ashamed to say that once upon a time I used “txt spk”. Its biggest feature? The front cover clipped off and I could change the colour — how awesome was that?
Thankfully, technology is now at a point where things that were inconceivable to many of us when cellphones first became popular, are now commonplace. Touchscreens, apps, customised ringtones, cellphone banking — we wouldn’t have dreamed of these things on a Nokia 5110, or even its descendant, the Nokia 6110 (two player Snake!).
We all know it hasn’t been smooth sailing. There have been first prize winners, and some real duds. Strangely enough, many of these have materialised in the name of innovation. Attempts to introduce new features and quirky designs were often hit-or-miss, resulting in some of the most weird and wonderful mobile phone products around.
Welcome to the Worst Phones in the World Show!
Nokia N-Gage (2003)
In many ways, Nokia was ahead of its time with the N-Gage. The aim, oddly, was to lure gamers away from Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance. Why a phone manufacturer suddenly decided it wanted to compete with a handheld console manufacturer is beyond me. Quite obviously, this wasn’t successful, because the buttons on the N-Gage are badly designed and not very intuitive for gaming, and when used as a phone it was just awkward and bulky. Even though it was released in 2003, by 2005 Nokia announced it was migrating its capabilities to Symbian smartphone devices, and the entire N-Gage service was discontinued in 2010. Thank goodness.
Motorola Rokr E1 (2005)
Apart from the weird name, the Rokr E1 was also innovative as it was one of the first phones to jump on the media player bandwagon with an officially licensed iTunes music player. On the fail side, it only allowed you to store a maximum of 100 songs. Seriously? This phone was released in 2005, as was the iPod Nano, which was not only smaller than the Rokr’s rather ugly, plasticky looking build, but also stored up to 4GB of music. It was eventually replaced by the E2 which lacked iTunes support, probably because of rising tensions between Apple and Motorola.
Nokia 7280 (2004)
The Nokia 7280 is actually a really cool and innovative product, but there’s a reason that phones generally have keypads, or at least digital representations of them. The 7280 has a dial or “Navi-Spinner” in place of a keypad but its failure lay in the fact that it’s tedious and unintuitive to navigate. Had Nokia been winning an award for innovative design only, then there would have been a big thumbs up all round. Sadly for them, phones are predominantly about functionality combined with good design. This doesn’t cut it.
Motorola Razr2 Ferrari Special Edition (2008)
Casio G’zOne Commando (2011)
Worst. Phone Name. Ever. Did you know Casio made phones? Me neither. Apart from the fact that this phone is butt-ugly and carries a really old version of Android, at least it has been “ruggedized” so that it can be battered around a bit without shattering. Okay, that is a pretty good feature, and apparently the battery life is excellent, but according to Engadget, “what it boasts in battery life and sheer fortitude, it lacks in call quality, core Google apps, and a responsive touch experience”. If you work on a construction site and need something durable that can bounce and makes calls, then awesome. Otherwise avoid.
Honorary “Damn that’s ugly category”
Lastly, just a quick honorary mentions of a couple of phones that I have no idea what they’re like to use, but if I was going on looks alone, I would have walked the other way.
Nokia 7600 (2003) – only really good for playing Snake. If it was an iPod I might have said yeah, okay.
Conclusion? Stop bitching (this applies to me too) about how much you hate your current mobile phone. It could be worse – you could be holding rainbow flavoured vomit to your ear.