Three phones that changed the world,
and three phones that didn't
19th November 2008
As you may know, Mobile
Gazette is five years old. As part of our Retro
season, we look back at what we think are the three
most influential.. and three most disappointing
phones in the past five years.
The three most influential phones in
the past 5 years..
It's a familiar sight these days, but
back in 2004 the Motorola
RAZR V3 was nothing like anything that had gone
before. At only 14mm thick, the RAZR was the slimmest
phone around, and the use of anodized aluminium
in the design made it look amazing. In fact, the RAZR
had so much "wow factor", it regularly
It wasn't the first handset to be called
a "fashion phone", but it is certainly one
of the most memorable.. and the RAZR V3 sold millions
of units. You can still buy them new today for about
$100, which is quite a bit cheaper than the original
$600 asking price.
The RAZR had some drawbacks.. the main
one was that it was actually a pretty poor mobile phone
underneath the pretty exterior. The user interface was
horrible, the phone was slow and the phone didn't have
a media player or expandable memory. Really much all
the Motorola engineers had done was take the old Motorola
V600 (from 2003) and squashed it down into a new case.
Motorola could never repeat the success
of the original RAZR, despite coming up with dozens
of variations. We caused a stir last year by saying
that the RAZR
was killing Motorola, and that Motorola's strategy
had gone badly wrong.
Regardless of these ups and downs, we
think that the Motorola RAZR stands out as one of the
three most influential phones of the past five years,
because it made other manufacturers take a long, hard
look at their designs in order to make them more appealing.
Nobody could ever accuse the Nokia
N95 of being a fashion phone.. announced
in 2006, the N95 defined an entirely new class of handsets
that were stuffed with just about every feature you
could think of.
Featuring 3.5G support, WiFi, GPS, a
superb 5 megapixel camera, a large screen, powerful
multimedia player and a clever two-way slider, the N95
was the most advanced phone that we had ever seen.
The N95 demonstrated that there was
a market for high-end and expensive mobile phones, and
it became the benchmark to beat. Even two years after
launch, the N95 is still a very popular phone and there
are only a tiny handful of devices that can beat it.
iPhone was announced early in 2007, and it's a love-it-or-hate-it
device. But there's no doubting that it is a highly
influential device that has inspired competitors to
come out with a raft of "me too" devices.
The original iPhone lacked 3G or GPS,
had a pretty poor camera and a number of other disappointments..
but it was the most polished phone to date with a fantastic
user interface that won admiring glances.. even from
those who claimed not to like the thing.
One simple measure of how these three
phones compare in terms of popularity is a Google search.
Looking up "RAZR"
gives 28.6 million matches, N95
gives 64 million matches, and iPhone
gives an astonishing 337 million matches. Does that
make the iPhone more influential than the others? Possibly
not.. but it has definitely created the biggest media
We didn't count the Nokia
6310i as that is actually six years old..
a phone that was pretty much perfect for its target
market. The Sharp
902 defined the modern 3G phone, but was about two
years ahead of everyone else. The Sony
Ericsson W800 redefined the mobile phone as a serious
media player. The Samsung
D500 popularised the now common "slider"
..and the three most disappointing
The phone that both Motorola and Apple
hope you had forgotten.. the Motorola
ROKR E1 was announced in 2005, following months
of speculation about an iTunes-capable phone.
Public expectations were high, with
all sorts of snazzy conceptual designs combining iPod
elements in a mobile phone.. more or less the same concepts
that emerged before the iPhone was launched.
The reality was hugely disappointing.
The Motorola ROKR E1 was a slightly tweaked version
of the Motorola
E398 from the previous year. The ROKR E1 could only
store 100 tracks, regardless of the size of memory card,
and it just didn't look the part.
It was a huge flop, despite the fact
that it was actually quite a good music phone despite
its limitations. The ROKR range still soldiers on today
with handsets such as the ROKR
E8, but the ROKR has always been a FLOPR
compared to the original RAZR.
Back in 2003, several years before the
iPhone, Nokia showed off the Nokia
7700 which featured a large touch-sensitive screen
with a specially designed user interface, a multimedia
player, camera, email client and pretty much everything
that you would expect from a modern touchscreen
..except the 7700 was made with technology
from 2003, so it was bulky, lacked memory and was slow.
Eventually the 7700 was cancelled and replaced with
which fared little better.
Along with the Nokia 6708, these three
devices were Nokia's
first touchscreen phones, but they spectacularly
failed to make any impact on the market whatsover. Perhaps
if the 7700 had an Apple badge on, things might have
If you are going to make a phone that
looks like a digital camcorder, then you would expect
it to live up to its looks when it came to taking pictures
and video clips.
But although the Panasonic
X300 looked fantastic with a flip-out screen and
side-mounted camera, the truth was that it was utterly
rubbish.. even for 2004 when it was launched. When
Panasonic's rival Sharp had just launched the first
camera phone in Europe, the X300 was stuck
at 0.3 megapixels. Video capture resolution was approximately
120 x 160 pixels and the X300 couldn't even record sound.
The X300 didn't have any type of expandable memory and
the 3MB available internally was completely inadequate.
The only way to get pictures off was an optional and
highly proprietary USB cable. On top of that, the pokey
128 x 128 pixel display was utterly inadequate.. and
poor quality construction meant that it tended to break.
We admit that plenty of other phones
from that time period had similar shortcomings, but
none were as utterly disappointing as the Panasonic
X300, although Panasonic continued to churn out uncompetitive
handsets in Europe until the end of 2005 when they gave
up. Although Panasonic's other products are excellent,
and Panasonic's Japanese phones are quite impressive,
their efforts in the European market were surprisingly
poor and nobody really misses them.
Ericsson P990 looked good on paper, but bugs and
a lack of interest from its manufacturer meant that
this promising device never achieved what it could have
done. The Siemens
Xelibri 6 (and the whole Siemens Xelibri range)
was an interesting idea that is still waiting for the
right moment. The Motorola
MPx220 failed to popularise Windows on ordinary
phones. The Nokia
3200 allowed you to make your own covers.. but we're
not sure if anyone ever did. The Nokia
N91 tried to introduce the hard disk to mobile phones,
but failed. The Motorola
ZINE ZN5 is one of 2008's most disappointing phones
because it comes with a first class camera, but no 3G
Who knows what will be memorable in
another five years or so.. we hope that we are still
around to share!