Mobile phone evolution: Story of shapes and sizes

GSMArena team, 15 July 2010.
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Tags: Misc

Dead-end experiments

They wanted to make a difference - they were famous for being famous. Today they are relegated to the less than glorious category of dead-ends.

Every once in a while, designers were let off the leash to give us gadgets out of this world. The honorable mention goes to all those rebels without a cause that - from the distance of time - look more like rebels without a clue. Almost every company has a few of those and none of them managed to sustain any kind of long-term success.

With little popularity and near non-existent fan base to provide cushion against temporary crisis, those extravagant solutions were immediately forgotten as soon as less inventive and more practical models appeared.

Siemens probably deserve credit for contributing to the ranks of one-hit-wonders with their Xelibri line. Still in or near their prime, the company wanted to make a difference and obviously didn't mind taking the risk of bringing something new and very different to the market. It all backfired spectacularly and probably contributed to the Siemens downfall.

Siemens Xelibri 6 Siemens Xelibri 5 Siemens Xelibri 4 Siemens Xelibri 1
Siemens Xelibri 1 • Siemens Xelibri 4 • Siemens Xelibri 5 • Siemens Xelibri 6

Another couple of popular weird form-factor devices are the Samsung's Serene and Serenata. The Serenata even had the Bang & Olufsen seal of approval but that came with a price tag that doomed the concept from the very start.

Samsung Serene Samsung Serenata
Samsung Serene • Samsung Serenata (Bang&Olufsen)

For a company that cemented their market leading spot with neat candy bars, Nokia are known for sudden - sometimes dramatic - creative outbursts. We wonder if anyone remembers their first N-gage devices. Or the pen-shaped 7280 and 7380? How about the square-ish 7600? OK, they were too much we guess.

Nokia N-Gage Nokia 7600 Nokia 7280 Nokia 7380
Nokia N-gage • Nokia 7600 • Nokia 7280 • Nokia 7380

Today Motorola seem to have a thing for extravagant designs. The BACKFLIP and the FlipOut are perhaps the modern equivalents of the Aura or the RIZR Z8. Oh, and beware - the Motocubo and the Charm (they didn't have to state the obvious) seduce without warning.

Motorola BACKFLIP Motorola FlipOut
Motorola BACKFLIP • Motorola FLIPOUT

In the end though, people like simple and functional designs and makers know that. Experiments are more of a publicity stunt, than actual attempts at earning millions.

Unusual devices will probably always appear a few times a year and fuel hot debates before quietly fading into oblivion, when users realize a simple bar does the job just as well, if not better.

Wristwatch phone

All those spy movies have certainly placed the wristwatch phones at a pedestal in the geek's heart. Doing the James Bond thing, talking to your wrist has been a dream to many generations, so understandably when such a device is announced it's greeted with quite a lot of excitement.

And when there's a large company involved there's always great hope that it will be done right and won't just be all about compromises. Alas, even the ridiculously-priced LG GD910 and the temptingly slim Samsung S9110 weren't good enough to replace a watch (or a phone) properly.

Samsung Watch Phone Samsung S9110 LG GD910
Samsung WatchPhone • Samsung S9110 • LG GD910

Dual face bar

There were those two Samsung handsets that were trying to do the two-in-one-slim-body thing. You get the regular keypad with a tiny display on one side and a larger screen with a bunch of music controls on the other. Surely the convenience of a few millimeters shoved off each side didn't fully compensate the fact that you couldn't use the normal keypad and the large screen at the same time so they understandably failed to make an impact.

Samsung F300 Samsung F500
Samsung F300 • Samsung F500


This one, we really don't know what to say about. The Toshiba G450 was such an extravagant device that we cannot even figure out what it was trying to do. Was it trying to prove a concept or was it going for the big sales, hoping to get some extra publicity with its peculiar design? Either way, there wasn't a second device like it so we will consider the experiment unsuccessful.

Toshiba G450
Toshiba G450

Well that's about all the noteworthy form factors that we could think of. We are now about to check out some of the other aspects of the phone evolution where we noticed some interesting trends shaping up.

Did you know how much the average phone in 2000 weighed? Or how thick it was? When were matchbox-sized handsets most popular? Well if you don't but want to learn all the nitty-gritty details, stay with us after the break.

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