6th November 2013
We recently covered the ten
best and most influential 3G and GSM devices ever, but not every
handset is destined for greatness, and it turns out that there have
been more than a handful of disasters and catastrophes along the
way. This list is our top ten handset disasters, but there are many
more to come.
And despite being failures, some of these handsets are quite
collectable, so we have included a buyers guide in some cases as
Microsoft KIN (2010)
In our view the most disastrous mobile phone product
launch ever, the Microsoft
KIN was the wrong product at the wrong time,
but that was only half the story.
While the world was waiting for Windows Phone 7 to
come along and do battle with the iPhone and Android
handsets, Microsoft were also working on the KIN feature
phone. Part of the problem was that feature phones were
dying off, and the KIN was just too limited to be accepted
by consumers. But what was worse is that the software
was slow and buggy, so even if you did buy one (and
hardly anyone did) the chances were that they'd send
But the KIN was a double disaster. The team that
created it were largely from a Microsoft subsidiary
called Danger who developed the
T-Mobile Sidekick. Because of the drain of talent
and resources, Danger suffered a catastrophic
systems failure which was an early example
of what happens when cloud storage goes wrong. Effectively,
this mess-up killed the successful Sidekick line.
It rapidly became clear that the KIN product was
not selling and the whole thing was cancelled. And then
for good measure, Microsoft
closed down the entire division responsible
for the fiasco. Just to be on the safe side.
Motorola ROKR E1 (2005)
ROKR E1 is the phone that Apple would like
you to forget. Why? Because the ROKR was a failed collaboration
between Motorola and Apple and was designed to bring
iTunes to a mobile phone.
The device was hotly anticipated, with many rumours
of iPod style phones and other exotic creations circulating.
But when the ROKR leaked out it was almost crushingly
boring, being a twice warmed-over version of a handset
called the E390. Worse still, it was limited to just
100 tracks and it only had a slow USB 1.1 connector,
making it a pain to transfer music to the handset.
Despite a significant marketing campaign, the ROKR
was a FLOPR and got a lot of negative publicity, although
in reality it's quite a nice device to look at and the
music playback is not bad. But Apple learned from their
mistakes and came back a couple of years later with
the world-changing Apple
Buyers guide: if you collect esoteric Apple-related
devices, these can be had for about €30 but they
don't come up for sale very often.
BlackBerry Z10 (2013)
Not all product disasters are because of bad products.
The problem with the BlackBerry
Z10 was that it was at least two years too
late, and although it was a polished product with a
lot of nice features there was basically no market, leading
to a nearly billion-dollar
stock writeoff and the firing
of their CEO.
It had taken BlackBerry over five years to
come up with a product that was in any way competitive
with the iPhone and other similar smartphones. These
delays weren't an isolated incident, as we were pointing
out the dangers for BlackBerry all the way back in 2009.
Had the Z10 been launched in 2010 or 2011 perhaps
it would have been in with a chance, but the Z10's 2013
launch was far too late to salvage BlackBerry's fortunes.
Apple iPhone 4 (2010)
Despite the name, the Apple
iPhone 4 was really the start of the second
distinct generation of iPhones and it was a major improvement
over previous generations.
But a basic flaw
in the antenna design led to widespread complaints
which it took a while for Apple to acknowledge, and
for a long time the iPhone 4 struggled under the weight
of negative publicity.
Apple fans are quick to forgive though, and although
the iPhone brand quickly recovered this is still another bodged
product launch that Apple would like you all to forget.
Nokia 7600 (2003)
7600 was Nokia's second 3G phone, but it was
the first one to be widely available. But the weird
lozenge-shape and difficult to use keypad were completely
nuts. Customers stayed away in droves.
In any case, the market wasn't really ready for 3G
and the Nokia 7600 wasn't alone in failing to set the
market alight. It took another four years or so for
the technology in 3G phones to match up with their promises.
Buyers guide: these are pretty common, prices
typically range from €20 to €50.
6. Siemens Xelibri series (2003 - 2004)
Xelibri range consisted of eight highly unusual
fashion phones that were designed specifically to be
used as secondary devices that you could take with you
on a night out. Designed more for style than function,
the Xelibri range never really caught on (despite a
massive marketing campaign) and was canned after just
Perhaps one of the key problems was price.. they
were no cheaper than a standard phone of the time. But
in these days of incredibly expensive and brittle smartphones,
the idea of having a high-fashion secondary phone doesn't
seem such a daft idea after all.
Buyers guide: the Xelibri 1 is the rarest,
the Xelibri 6 is the most widely available. Prices range
from €20 to €50.
Siemens SX1 (2003)
Both Siemens and Nokia were companies that could
produce a weird looking handset. Although at first glance
SX1 Symbian smartphone looked normal, a closer
inspection showed that the number keys were arranged
up the side, making it rather awkward to use for any
kind of text input.
There have only been a few successful non-Nokia Symbian
devices. The SX1 was not one of them, but it was at
least a good looking mobile phone.
Buyers guide: the SX1 never sold very well,
but does come up for sale sometimes. Price range is
BlackBerry Storm 9500 (2008)
BlackBerry's first attempt to counter the iPhone
was the BlackBerry
Storm, launched in 2008. But it had a poor screen
and buggy software. Early negative reviews proved a
major embarrassment and the product bombed.
Despite the failure of the Storm, BlackBerry posted
impressive growth figures over the next couple of years,
but it could never match the iPhone which led to the
Motorola RAZR2 (2007)
The original Motorola RAZR had been a massive hit
(despite its awful software), but it was strictly a
fashion phone.. and fashions change. However, Motorola
kept pumping out RAZR variants in an attempt to regain
some of the old magic and the Motorola
RAZR2 was a high-profile attempt that failed.
Despite the name "RAZR2", there had been
a dozen or so variants of the original RAZR by the time
this came out, and even more afterwards. But while Motorola
were warming over the same old formula, Apple was busy
redefining mobile handsets with the iPhone.
Palm Pre (2009)
The rise and fall of Palm over the years is a complicated
story of an early innovator being outpaced by upstart
rivals. By 2009 it was in terminal decline, and is a
last ditch-attempt to reverse its fortunes it piled
all of its resources into the WebOS-based Palm
Pre, an interesting touchscreen device that could
have been a world leader if they'd announced it a couple
of years beforehand.
Sales weren't very great, and eventually the company
was taken over by HP leading to the failed Pre
3 in 2011. Cutting their losses, HP killed the entire
WebOS product line and effectively killed Palm's legacy