Six smartphones we hardly knew: In photos
Alcatel OneTouch Hero 2+ with a chip on its shoulder
The Alcatel OneTouch Hero 2+ was to be the next Cyanogen OS smartphone to be launched, after the OnePlus One and Micromax’s Yureka.
However, its planned summer release for the North American market was called off this week.
According to Alcatel and Cyanogen, the device didn’t have a clear Android 5.1 upgrade path, reportedly due to its MediaTek chipset.
Compared to lower-end Cyanogen OS phones, the Hero 2+ could have appealed to more high-spending US consumers with its six-inch display, aluminium body, LTE connectivity, and 13.1 megapixel main camera and five-megapixel rear camera. It was set to launch with Cyanogen 11.0 on Android 4.4.4. For now, however, it looks like it's been permanently put on ice.
Microsoft’s Kin for teens: dead on arrival
Before Android took the world by storm and Microsoft struck its deal with Nokia, Redmond ploughed $1bn into the Kin One and Kin Two, two handsets aim at teens.
It was a curious dead end in Microsoft’s mobile journey. The company surveyed over 50,000 people in its target audience before writing Kin’s code, resulting in a device aimed at teens that ran on elements of Windows Phone 7. Oddly in hindsight, it lacked apps but did however ship with the Zune music player and relied on Kin services to connect with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and KinStudio.
The Kin was the product of a partnership with Sharp, Verizon in the US, and Vodafone in Europe.
Nokia N9 and the MeeGo misadventure
The N9 went down in history as the only device from Nokia that ran MeeGo, the Linux-based OS born out of a union between Nokia’s Maemo and Intel’s Moblin.
The N9 arrived during the turmoil of October 2011 when Nokia, then under CEO Stephen Elop, was in the middle of resetting its smartphone strategy by moving to Microsoft’s Windows Phone and phasing out Symbian and with it MeeGo.
Elop said that even if the N9 was a hit with consumers, Nokia wouldn’t follow it up with a successor. The device didn't reach the US, but costing €480 and €560 for the 16GB and 64GB models, it may have been too expensive given the exchange rates at the time.
The N9 shipped with MeeGo 1.2, codenamed Harmattan, offering an eight-megapixel wide-angle Carl Zeiss lens, NFC, 1GB RAM and 1 GHz Cortex A8 processor. Nokia ditched physical buttons and instead made swiping the main way to interact with the UI.
The Nokia X2, Microsoft’s first Android handset
The mobile world is no stranger to odd pairings but the Nokia-branded X2 was one of the most perplexing of the lot.
One of Nokia’s final acts before Microsoft formally took over its devices business was to release the Android-based X in February 2014.
Some thought Microsoft would surely kill off Nokia's Android effort immediately after the acquisition. Others saw it as a chance for Microsoft to lure Android developers who wanted to reach emerging markets.
Microsoft in June last year followed up the original X with the X2, new hardware that ran the Nokia Z Software Platform 2.0, which was basically a version of Android that replaced Google’s bundled services with Microsoft’s. As such, Microsoft pitched the second generation device as "a gateway to Microsoft services” and a budget range aimed at the "next billion" smartphone users in emerging markets.
The Nokia X2 was available for €99, featuring a 4.3-inch ClearBlack display and five-megapixel rear camera with autofocus and flash. It ran on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor and a dual core 1.2Ghz CPU with 1GB of RAM.
A month later Microsoft, along with a massive round of layoffs, announced it would end production of the X2 and merge future models into Windows Phone devices.
Ubuntu Edge, a phone ahead of its time
Hopes were high for Canonical’s Ubuntu-powered Edge phone, which back in 2013 was envisioned to have PC-like 128GB SSD storage and 4GB of RAM. Canonical boss Mark Shuttleworth put the device's future in the hands of crowdfunders, promising to build the device if a Kickstarter campagin could raise $32m.
The campaign fell $20m short of its target and the Edge never saw the light of day, but it still demonstrated there was an appetite for something different to what the iPhone and Android OEMs were offering, though perhaps for a lower cost.
Had it been built, consumers could have bought a smartphone dual-boot Ubuntu/Android handset with enough grunt to become a PC when docked. It also promised a 4.5-inch 1,280 x 720 HD display with a pure sapphire crystal screen and eight megapixel and two megapixel dual camera setup.
Samsung Z, the Tizen phone
Samsung earlier this year finally launched its first Tizen-powered phone, the Z1 in India. But the device many were waiting for was the higher end Z that was announced last June but later indefinitely delayed.
As CNET noted when Samsung took the wraps off the Z, the handset’s specs put it in the upper midrange, with the Galaxy S5’s heart rate monitor and the Note 3’s faux stitched leather. It had a squarer profile than either device, capped by a silver trim, sporting a 4.8 inch 720p HD AMOLED display, eight-megapixel main camera and 2.1 megapixel front camera. Besides this, it ran on a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and would come with 16GB storage with an SD slot and a fair sized 2,6000 mAh battery.
The Samsung Z may still see the light of day with sales of the Z1 reportedly impressive enough for Samsung to confirm that new midrange models are in the pipeline.