In the realm of high technology, few industries move faster or burn through ideas more quickly than the mobile phone industry. Within the span of a couple of years, billions of us had switched from using flip phones with enough storage space for three songs to using the first iPhone, a full touchscreen device with space for thousands of songs and hundreds of apps.

While we always tend to remember the mobile phone ideas that revolutionised the way we communicate, work and play, we often tend to forget those ideas that seemed promising at the time but never really caught on.

The history of the mobile phone industry is paved with a litany of expensive failures that only with hindsight can we see that they never could have worked. As a tribute to the retro phones of yore, here are five weird, wonderful and inexplicable phone features that, for better or worse, never quite caught on. 

1. ‘Luxury’ Phones 
One thing we can all agree on is that the brief phase of ‘luxury’ phones was a regrettable moment that was all too emblematic of the early 2000s excess and consumerism. There are too many terrible examples of these that it is difficult to know where to start. There was the 18-karat gold plated Motorola Razr released in collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana, which retailed at $4000. There was the hideous Vertu Signature Touch, which started at $11,500 a pop. Then there’s the still-running Swiss luxury phone retailer Goldvish, which made a name for itself in 2003 by selling $15,000 diamond-encrusted phones that could barely send a text message. Just conspicuous consumption at its very worst. 

2. Social Media Phones 
At the tail-end of the previous decade, smartphone manufacturers could tell that social media was going to be a huge part of the future digital landscape, but they couldn’t quite figure out how they could capitalise on it. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the short-lived attempts to sell ‘social media’ phones which were completely designed around one or two popular apps. There was the ill-fated HTC First, widely derided as ‘the Facebook phone’. The First had a Facebook-themed skin, and the homepage was essentially just the Facebook app, which could not be deleted and was pretty much the only thing you could use the phone for. Similar attempts include the short-lived Microsoft Kin, which had an OS shaped completed around Facebook, Twitter and, for some reason, MySpace (that reason being the year 2010). Microsoft, perhaps unsurprisingly, pulled the Kin from the shelves after just 48 days. 

3. Dedicated Gaming Phones
Granted, we all play games on our phones now – often, games that can offer similar experiences to what you might find on a console. In fact, mobile gaming is now so advanced that virtually every kind of gaming experience can be had seamlessly on a mobile device, and often even comes with conveniences that are exclusive to mobiles. Thanks to the advent of pay by phone casino platforms, for instance, those who wish to play casino games or place bets on their phone device can set up payments via their phone bills instead of having to use a bank card, something that’s not possible on desktop or laptop. What’s more, in many cases, you don’t even need to download an app to play this kind of gaming on any modern mobile device. However, this was not always the case, which is why some well-intentioned phone companies really tried to create mobile phones that had exclusive game releases, which you actually had to buy in a physical form and plug in to your phone in order to play. The Nokia N-Gage stands out as the quintessential example of this short-lived phone genre, as does the shockingly dysfunctional Gizmondo device by Tiger Telematics.

4. TV Phones 
Remember television? Before the advent of streaming technology, few people could have predicted the rapid social and cultural decline of the tube. That’s why, in the middle of the noughties, some phone companies thought that what people really wanted was a mobile phone that was basically a tiny TV that could (sometimes) make calls. Enter the Lobster 700TV, a bizarrely shaped phone that was designed to broadcast live TV from a select number of television channels. The Lobster was heavy and almost impossible to hold in one hand, while the functionality barely stretched beyond flicking through the same five or six TV channels on a screen that was obviously too small. The device relied on an SD card to expand its internal memory, but in order to change this card, you would have to find it underneath the battery and underneath the SIM card. 

5. Unnecessary Flip Design Phones
Finally, there is the fascinating sub-genre of flip phones that made no sense whatsoever. There are many stellar examples to choose from. There is the Kyocera Echo, a phone which opened up sideways to reveal… another identical screen with the exact same interface. There was the LG DoublePlay, which had one screen on top and another tiny screen embedded in the middle of the physical keyboard below. Then there was the Motorola FlipOut, a tiny square-shaped phone with an incomplete QWERTY keyboard squeezed into 2.8 inches of space. The list goes on. 

While the mobile phone industry is full of weird and wonderful creations such as these, we have to admire the perseverance and unwavering self-confidence of the companies that created them. After all, only by experimenting can you eventually make something brilliant. It’s just a shame that some of these units were ever considered promising and thus actually released.