The strangest Nokia phones ever designed (gallery)

Nowadays, you have the choice of only one prominent phone design: the 'patented' slate-like touch-screen smartphone. But ten years ago, Nokia mobile devices were diverse, innovative and in some cases downright strange in order to meet consumer demand.
Topic: Microsoft
1 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 7600

First announced in 2003, the Nokia 7600 was a daring teardrop design. At the time its capabilities were modest. It had a 128 x 160 pixel screen with 65,000 colors, but only ran on the 2G GPRS network.

But holding the device in one hand was almost impossible. Square in size, it was about the size and thickness of a packet of cigarettes. One had to carefully hold the device with the edges of both fingers, but the menu-scrolling pad at the bottom of the device was awkwardly placed, making it difficult to navigate with one hand. And calling people meant holding the device at a 45-degree angle, and made anyone using the phone look silly, frankly.

2 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 6800

A unique device for its time, the Nokia 6800, released in 2003, brought the QWERTY physical keyboard to a whole new level by bridging the gap between the dial keypad phones at the turn of the millennium and the BlackBerry-like devices we have today.

The phone was relatively thin for the time and about the same size as a standard phone during the early 2000's, but the phone hinged in the middle and flipped out to a 90-degree fully-fledged keyboard. The screen would also rotate 90-degrees to accommodate for the prolific texter or emailer. Besides that, it was a fairly unremarkable phone in terms of features.

3 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 5510

A unique design for the Finnish phone giant, the Nokia 5510 was a dedicated music and multimedia device, despite its monochrome screen, that featured the firm's first hardware QWERTY-keyboard. Multimedia -- at least back then -- was texting and communicating with friends. As email had not really appeared on a phone by this point in late-2001 when the device was released, the keyboard was a novelty.

 MP3 playback was included, allowing owners to listen to their music as they typed away to their friends. Users would call others by holding the device flat to their face as the handset's ear-speaker was embedded in the bottom-right of the device when held in landscape mode. Still, it was a chunky piece of kit that resembles the size of a standard television remote control.

4 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 8910i

One of Nokia's first 'business' phones, the Nokia 8910i was housed in a titanium shell. Back then, a strong device meant it was designed for business use -- and it was marked as one of the most expensive devices at the time. Released in 2003, it was tiny, thick in depth, but surprisingly light. The case underneath the screen slid out to reveal a thin-button keypad and protected the device from scratches and bumps.

But one of the major problems with an all-metal device, particularly for those in northern and eastern Europe, was that making a call would almost-always result in high-pitched squeals and yelps because the titanium shell would retain almost no heat. As a result, it was like holding something frozen to your head each time you wanted to call someone.

5 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 3650

Considered at the time to be a 'business' phone, the Nokia 3650 was a game-changer to Nokia's device principles. The phone was heavy to accommodate a larger battery, but was sleek in design and thinner than most of the other phones on the market at the time. The rounded bottom fit comfortably in the palm of one's hand, but the keypad layout was strange and resembled a 1950's rotary phone dial. It took those who were used to the traditional texting principles a while to adjust to the new layout.

Released in 2003, this was the phone everyone wanted but could scarcely afford. Running the Symbian Series 60 software, it included document editing, mobile Web browsing -- which back then was still in its infancy -- and a large 176 x 206 pixel thin-film transistor (TFT) display.

6 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia N93

Released in 2006, the Nokia N93 was one of the first N-series devices announced by the Finnish phone giant. A flip phone, it contorted to different positions and twisted into almost any layout. One could flip it around to play games like a handheld game console in a 90-degree sideways angle, or flip it open and twist the screen to take the perfect image.

The camera, which was only 3.15-megapixels, was housed on the side of the device facing outward. However, despite its consumer appeal and ability to play games with its dedicated 3D graphics processor, it ran the Symbian Series 60 operating system allowing business users to email and send instant messages.

7 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 7370

Nokia for a time developed swivel phones that would spin 180-degrees uncovering the keypad underneath. The Nokia 7370 had a flowery, contemporary design, specifically for those who were fashion conscious and wanted to make a statement with their handset choice.

Despite the odd visual aesthetic, the phone itself was relatively ordinary otherwise. The keypad was standard and the portrait 240 x 320 pixel screen resolution was fairly common for advanced consumer Series 40 devices at the time.

8 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 7210

One of the slimmest-width phones Nokia had made, the Nokia 7210 was also one of the first devices with a color screen. Released in 2002, the daring design of the keypad brought in many customers who wanted to upgrade from the older handsets.

The phone itself wasn't too groundbreaking but featured a fully square 128 x 128 pixel resolution screen. One of the great benefits of the device was its weight; a considerably lighter 83g compared to the common 133g weight of the Nokia 3310 due to its thinner and more efficient battery.

9 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 5210

Released in 2002, it was a major design twist up from the original Nokia 3210 and 3310/3330 devices that were commonplace among all early-adopter phone users. It was rugged in design and allowed for bumps and scrapes. With a rubber shell, it was designed solely for those who were outdoors and in the thick of it with nature, and included a thermometer for no good or apparent reason except that Nokia simply could.

10 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 2300

One of the 'dullest' looking phones in the gallery, the Nokia 2300 had a similar shell to the best-selling Nokia 3210 but included an odd, almost unthinkable keypad that was frankly downright ugly.

The keypad looked like a mish-mash of a child playing with Spirograph, and half like a convoluted set of Venn diagrams. Half pink and half purple, the handset can be left to discontinuation pasture as one of the simplest yet strangest devices Nokia has ever developed.

11 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 3220

The Nokia 3220 was a simple device -- released in 2004 -- that quite literally lit up the lives of those who used it. While it did not have much in terms of software or features -- it had a basic camera, a 128 x 128 pixel screen, and basic messaging -- the LEDs fixed to the side of the phone would flash different colors based on different activities.

 While the physical design of the phone wasn't too shocking, the key feature of the phone was a vertical strip of LEDs at the back. When a message was programmed into the phone, waving the back of the device in the air would produce letters, words and symbols spelled out in lights. It was a gimmick and nothing more; nonetheless, it was a unique selling point for the phone.

12 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 3200

Sporting a similar candy-bar slim design to the Nokia 7210, the Nokia 3200 included a strange keypad design to anything that had been seen up to this point. While the keypad layout was standard in that the numbers are laid out in a square sequence, the buttons were joined up giving a droplet-like effect. The interchangeable covers also allowed for extreme customizability, giving each and every device a unique and individual theme.

The Nokia 3200, released towards the end of 2003, was one of the first international Nokia phones, designed to work in the U.S., Africa, and most of Europe, including the U.K., which was still a strong market for the Finnish phone maker.

13 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 5700

Released in 2007, the 'XpressMusic' branded phone came with in-built music and video playback, despite the small screen, but housed a powerful loudspeaker. It was also one of the first Nokia phones that came with a joystick-like menu control -- a 'feature' that wore out after only a few months of using it.

But for no apparent reason, it seems, this candy-bar design phone had a spinning lower half. The camera was embedded in the bottom-right hand side of the phone facing to the right. Holding the device in your right hand and you would forever be taking photos of your wrist. But holding the phone horizontally and spinning the lower half of the phone would 'enable' the point-and-shoot mode. It would've simply made more sense to include a camera at the back of the device, but the back-facing camera technology was still a work in progress -- so we can't criticize Nokia for that.

14 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 7900 Prism

One of the first Nokia devices with the breakthrough 'prism' design, the Nokia 7900 Prism led to a range of devices following the same triangular pattern. The device range was not a major hit among consumers but they were innovative and inventive in their aesthetics ideals.

Released just before Christmas 2007, the striking feature was the device's keypad design, which also allowed users to change the keypad's backlight color. It included 2.5G EDGE speeds for faster WAP browsing, and the color screen boasted a 200 pixel-per-inch (ppi) density allowing for a sharper image. Strangely, the top of the device was completely flat -- quite an ugly 'ending' to the device -- that made marketing the product tricky. It does, in fact, look as though the top of the phone was sliced off through an over-zealous image cropping exercise.

15 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 7070 Prism

Released in 2008, the Nokia 7070 Prism was a design feat over anything else. Stuck on the 2G GPRS network, its main feature was a jagged, prism-like design on its outer casing and a similar designed yet standard layout keypad. The flip phone was simple: it didn't include a 3.5mm headphone jack nor did it include a USB port unlike many other Nokia phones at the time. This was, however, before Nokia signed an agreement to partner with other phone makers to include the micro-USB port as part of a wider European Union push for device charging standards.

16 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 7280

Another daring design for Nokia, this fashionista's phone was one of the first devices on the market that had no dialing pad. It didn't even have a touch-screen display, so how would it work? Through sheer hard work, most users found.

On the market in 2004, the thin-film transistor (TFT) screen with 65,000 colors may have had a thin and bright, colorful display, a slim and sleek design, and a VGA camera -- which was rare for the time -- it had to be operated by an iPod-like wheel. But it wasn't touch-sensitive; one physically had to spin the navigation dial which resulted in sore thumbs. Just imagine sending a text message by having to scroll through each and every letter; it's hard work and the phone barely took off.

17 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 7260

Launched by Nokia in fall 2004, the physical device itself was not dashing or game changing, but the design of the keypad was swish and elegant. The Nokia 7260 was a candy-bar phone with curved upper-left and lower-right corners that felt comfortable to hold in one's right hand, but the phone's designers forgot that 15 percent of the global left-handed population found the device difficult to hold and 'sharp' to feel.

But the main buying factor for the phone was its beautiful design. The phone itself was not particularly strong or stable, but the spiraling keypad remains simple and sleek, but beautiful by its sheer simplicity.

18 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 9210i Communicator

Nokia's second attempt at a flip-open QWERTY-keyboard device was released in 2002. When the device was snapped shut, it was like an old school brick-like device that was almost eclipsed the side of a person's face. But when flipped open horizontally, the keyboard would emerge and a separate screen would appear above, similar to how a laptop works but with a much smaller screen.

A true business and enterprise-focused phone, it was powered by an 52 MHz ARM 9 processor and operated Symbian 6.0 on a Series 80 user interface -- a design unique to the Communicator range of phones. But it was thick, heavy, and if dropped could probably register somewhere albeit low on the Richter scale.

19 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia X3-02

This was Nokia's first dual touch-and-type device, designed primarily to bridge the gap between the two kinds of devices that were emerging at the time of its launch in 2010. But it didn't come with multi-touch capabilities and the screen resolution was the same as the old Nokia Series 40 devices -- 240 x 320 pixels. However, the device came with Facebook and Twitter applications and boasted a 5-megapixel camera -- at the time it was rare among low- to mid-end smartphones -- and contained powerful for-the-time hardware to keep the device ticking over.

While many devices with a physical keyboard nowadays offer the touch-and-type capability, such as the BlackBerry Bold 9780, at the time many found it confusing, as you would have to literally touch-and-type. You couldn't use one or the other, and many found this too complex. Plus, Nokia's implementation of the dual-input methods left little to be desired.

20 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia N-Gage

Nokia's first dedicated gaming phone, released in 2003, sported a brand new design that allowed users to navigate menus and play games in landscape mode. Able to play at the time groundbreaking games such as the original Tomb Raider, the device's 176 x 208 pixel screen was one of the brightest and color-dense displays seen on a mobile device at the time. It also included an MP3 player, downloadable content and a USB port. It was the first Generation Y-focused phone for those who wanted to show off to their friends.

The drawback was that the device had to be held vertically and on its 90-degree edge -- which made anyone actually phoning anyone look like an idiot, frankly. (I can say that: I owned one, and was regularly called an "idiot" at school for looking ridiculous calling people... at least I hope that was why.)

21 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia N-Gage QD

A significant upgrade to the original Nokia N-Gage, it was released in 2004, about six monthsafter its predecessor. The design was smaller and the keys were easier to play games with -- such as moving around in first-person mode. The phone included faster hardware but the same display resolution and color range to maintain backwards compatibility. The headset speaker also shifted to the top-right of the device, so dialing a number in one's right hand and placing it flat to one's ear made the owner look less like a 'pillock.'

Why QD? It was as though random letters attached to the end made the device somewhat more appealing. According to a Nokia spokesperson at the time, the "QD" didn't actually stand for anything.

22 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 7700

The phone that never was, designed, developed and announced in 2003, the Nokia 7700 was a failed all-inclusive, multimedia, and business-focused smartphone that unfortunately was never released. With its strange curved shell, it felt more like a digital camera than a phone.

The touchscreen thin-film transistor (TFT) display with 65,000 colors included a fully-fledged Web browser, office suite -- including word processor, spreadsheet program and PowerPoint viewer -- and would have been the Symbian Series 90 phone on the market. Alas, good things don't always come to those who wait. The device never made it to the market.

23 of 23 Zack Whittaker/ZDNet

Nokia 7710

Nokia finally developed a touchscreen phone -- one of the first on the market -- and released the Nokia 7710, the successor to the never-released Nokia 7700, around the time the discontinued phone was due to hit the market. Designed for use in the landscape mode -- one held the phone in portrait mode to make calls -- it was the closest phone that Nokia came to the Lumia but arrived on the market almost a decade earlier. Design wise, it was more like a slimmed-down tablet than a phone as such, but considering the only 'tablets' on the market were 180-degree screen-spinning laptops, it wasn't considered anything but a very clever phone.

With a 640 x 320 pixel screen in a 3.5-inch display, it was a heavy device but fit snugly -- if not a little bulky -- in one's jeans pocket. It also ran Symbian Series 90, a breakthrough in design for the Finnish phone maker, and even included Flash support in the in-built browser.

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