13 Phones That Once Ruled The World (But Now Just Gather Dust)

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Remember those trusty old bricks we used to call phones?

The ones with the tiny green screens, the buttons that beeped so loud it would wake up your whole family at night, the antennas you could swing around for fun? Yeah, those dinosaurs. If you're like me, just thinking about your old Nokia or Motorola Razr probably sparks some warm nostalgia deep down.

I feel you - even though we've traded them in for sleek smartphones that can practically read our minds, part of us misses how simple and sturdy they were.

But let's be real - when it comes to actually using our phones today, we don't want to go back to playing Snake in blurry black and green. We like having access to the whole dang internet in our pockets, being able to watch TV on our commutes, and taking crystal clear pictures of our brunch to make everyone jealous.

I get it - and I'm right there with you.

But maybe we can still feel a little wistful every once in a while about the good ol' days of phones gone by. Come take a walk down memory lane with me as we remember 13 vintage mobiles that paved the way.

You may just find yourself thankful for how far we've come...while secretly hoping your old Nokia still worked so you could sling it across the room without fear.

Let's press on...

Motorola DynaTAC 8000X

The Motorola DynaTAC 8000X launched in 1983 with an astounding $3,995 price tag, equivalent to over $10,000 today! This chunky gray phone was the first handheld commercial cell phone made available to the general public.

The DynaTAC turned heads with its giant size - it was 13 inches long and weighed almost 2 pounds! It featured a red LED screen that only displayed the number you dialed. And talk time? A measly 30 minutes before you needed 10 hours to recharge the hefty battery.

But in the early days of mobile phones, the DynaTAC was a revolutionary technology. It made phone calls portable instead of car-mounted for the first time. The brick phone status symbol became a pop culture icon when Michael Douglas wielded it in the movie Wall Street. And even though most people couldn’t realistically afford the 8000X, its novelty paved the way for more compact and affordable mobiles down the line.

Of course, the limitations of the DynaTAC make our smartphones today seem like magical gadgets in comparison. But next time your iPhone battery dies too quickly, think back to only having 30 minutes before your 8000X shut off! I’d say we’ve come a long way.

Nokia 3310

Now that was a phone! Released in 2000, this sleek and durable brick etched its name into mobile history.
Its subtly curved silhouette looked like something out of The Matrix compared to the chunky Nokias before it. Sure, its tiny monochrome screen couldn't compare to today's high-def displays. But Snakeblew our minds back then! Who needed apps when you could waste hours guiding that little pixel snake to chow down on pixels shaped like mice?

And remember swapping out the shell for new colored faceplates?

I had the same 3310 transformed into five different colors over the years - talk about versatility! But really, this bad boy earned its reputation for indestructibility above all. Didn't we all hear stories about it being run over by trucks or dropped down the toilet and living to tell the tale? I know mine took a beating in my backpack pocket for years and never cracked. Meanwhile today, one tiny bump and my iPhone screen shatters instantly. Lame!

The 3310 was a true survivor - and it still holds a special spot in our hearts and memories 20+ years later. No smartphone today could withstand our lives like that tank of a Nokia did back in the day. Am I right? So next time I fumble my iPhone, you bet I'll be wishing for the good ol’ indestructible days of the 3310 to come back!

Motorola Razr

Flip phones may seem outdated now, but back in 2004, the Motorola Razr was the height of mobile fashion and technology. When it launched to the world, its impossibly thin stainless steel body and slick clamshell form factor screamed sleek and futuristic.
Remember the satisfaction of snapping the Razr shut to end calls? That crisp flip was so much more gratifying than lightly tapping an iPhone screen. And the Razr delivered on substance too - its sharp 2.2 inch screen and VGA camera made other phones seem clunky. External music controls and voice commands let you feel like you had the future in your pocket.

Nearly every teenager and young professional worth their salt carried the Razr back then. It became the must-have gadget to flip out at parties or on dates. And Motorola sold over 130 million units - not too shabby! We really thought the Razr was as good as phones could possibly get.

Of course, when Apple launched the iPhone just a few years later, it soon became clear that touchscreens would dominate mobile tech. The Razr couldn't compete with smartphone capability. But we'll always have fond memories of the slim flip phone that kicked off the 2000s mobile revolution! I bet plenty of people still have their trusty old Razr tucked away in a drawer somewhere as a symbol of peak 2000's innovation. Even if its prime ended faster than that satisfying snap shut.

Sony Ericsson W800

Remember when phones doubling as music players blew our minds? Enter the Sony Ericsson W800 in 2005. This slick flip phone was the first in the Walkman series that let you bring your tunes wherever you went.
While Apple was still perfecting the iPod, the W800 mini music machine could store up to 2 GB in external memory - enough for 500 songs! We could finally cycle through playlists and feel that glorious CD-like sound quality right from our phones. And the swivel form factor with glowing orange music buttons made this far more than your average flip phone – it was a statement.

When everyone still carried both a phone and an MP3 player, being able to combine them felt like the future. The W800 sold over 30 million units globally and inspired a wave of music phones to follow. And many even preferred the Sony Ericsson’s sound quality over early iPods!

But flash forward just a few years, and Apple soon dominated mobile music with the iPhone and Spotify. Standalone MP3 players went extinct along with the Walkman phone. But for a while there in 2005, the W800 felt leagues ahead - like we were calling and listening to music in futuristic fashion! Maybe phone manufacturers will take another page from the Sony Ericsson book soon and bring back awesome audio.

Nokia N95

When the Nokia N95 hit the scene in 2007, its 2-way sliding form factor felt slick and futuristic. Packed with a 5MP camera, GPS, Wi-Fi, web browsing, and a folder system for organizing media files, we thought this thing could do it all!
The N95 featured cutting-edge specs we take for granted today - like mapping software and a landscape QVGA display. Its metallic body screamed high-tech compared to the plastic Nokias that came before. This Swiss army knife phone actually wowed the crowds at tech shows when it debuted.

Nokia sold millions globally, marketing the N95 as the only gadget you needed. For a moment, it seemed like the pinnacle of mobile innovation - rather than having multiple devices, the N95 consolidated our digital lives into one futuristic phone.

But just a few months later...

Apple dropped the first iPhone, and the rest was history. Its full touchscreen instantly made the N95’s specs and keyboard seem dated. iOS multitouch put Nokia’s Symbian software to shame. And while Apple stuck with a simple iPhone model each year, Nokia flooded the market with countless confusing iterations of the N and E series. The N95 set the stage for the modern smartphone – only to be instantly outplayed by Apple.

But for Nokia fans, the N95 shined bright, if only for a moment. Its ambitious attempt at making phones smarter showed just how much mobiles could transform. Even if it couldn’t keep up with the lightning pace of iPhone innovation after 2007. Poor Nokia - so close, yet so far to smartphone domination!

BlackBerry Bold 9000

Remember when having a BlackBerry was a status symbol?
The Bold 9000 had businesspeople and celebrities alike glued to those tiny screens in the late 2000s. Launched in 2008, the 9000 had a sophisticated black exterior with chrome accents and a signature trackball that let you cruise through emails and messages. Its curved QWERTY keyboard stood out at a time when flip phones still dominated.

The Bold took BlackBerry’s corporate cred up a notch with strong encryption, productivity apps, and seamless Outlook syncing. But let’s be honest - most people loved showing off that keyboard clack and flashing that glowing red notification light. The Bold turned the phrases “Sent from my BlackBerry” and BBM ping noises into cultural phenomena.

At its peak, over 20 million people used BlackBerries worldwide despite high prices and limited features compared to alternatives. Why switch devices when the Bold made you feel so official and well-connected?

But RIM soon fell behind touchscreen competitors, sticking too long with physical keyboards and a dated software ecosystem. When iPhone and Android offered similar business features with a sleeker style and better entertainment, BlackBerry’s reign ended abruptly.

Still, the Bold 9000 takes us back to days when glancing at a flashing red light and churning out quick responses ruled our lives. The BlackBerry badge may not hold power anymore, but boy, did it define mobile communication in the late 2000s for workaholics and keyboard addicts alike. Thanks for the memories, Bold! Those noisy plastic keys deserve some nostalgia.

Nokia N-Gage

Nokia tried to merge gaming and phones back in 2003 with the N-Gage...and failed spectacularly.

This device was literally shaped like a flattened taco — rounded sides tapered into a janky point where the speaker and keypad faced out at odd angles. To use it as a phone, you had to hold that awkward shape up to your face sideways. An actual functional handle and buttons screamed “video game console.”
The N-Gage aimed to compete with Nintendo’s GameBoyAdvance by pairing mobile calling with gaming. But poor ergonomics plagued the design, like having to remove the battery to swap game cartridges. Gamers saw right through the gimmick, flocking instead to dedicated devices like Nintendo DS.

Marketed as the “phone of the future,” Nokia only sold around 3 million N-Gage units by early 2005. Within a year of its launch, retailers slashed prices from $299 to as low as $99 just to get rid of unsold inventory. Ouch! The public failure soon led Nokia to discontinue its gaming phone venture altogether.

Today, the half baked N-Gage seems comical compared to smartphones with massive app stores that put mobile entertainment center stage. But you have to admit - despite its awkward shape and buggy features, part of you respects Nokia for actually trying to mash up gaming, SMS, and calls in daring (if failed) fashion. Maybe one day we’ll see a modern phone pull off that elusive gamer-phone combo the N-Gage dreamed of!

HTC Legend

Remember when phone design first started rivaling Apple's minimalist aesthetic?
Enter the HTC Legend in 2010. This sharp Android device made major waves with its singular aluminum unibody and polished UI.

The trademark HTC chin on the Legend housed touch-sensitive controls under smooth curved glass. Its compact body felt seamless and high-end in an era of bulky plastic phones. Legend also debuted HTC's Sense UI skin over Android, enhancing animations and third party apps integration.

Suddenly a competitor emerged to make Android feel just as premium as iOS for the first time. By 2010 standards, Legend's 3.2 inch AMOLED screen rendered stunning colors that made iPhone displays appear washed out. Its 600MHz processor ran smoothly despite limited RAM. Plus fun perks like animated wallpapers brought whimsy to Android productivity.

The Legend didn't have all the Answer Man bells and whistles, selling under 5 million units during its lifespan. But that meticulously machined aluminum body made Android users feel like they finally had an answer for iPhone superiority. The Legend made it cool to be open source. Its total package proved Android could be both capable and beautiful.

These days skinny metal slabs are a dime a dozen. But back then, the HTC Legend made “iPhone killer” more than a pipe dream headline for Android fanboys. Sleek unibody designs may seem obvious now, but this sharp little phone pioneered top-notch craftsmanship for underdog Android.

And for that - Legend deserves a trophy.

Samsung Galaxy Note

When the Galaxy Note debuted in 2011, we thought Samsung lost their minds making a 5.3-inch phone. Isn't that...a tablet? But the Note series paved the way for today's big-screened phablets.
That monstrous display and skinny 1280 x 800 panel introduced the masses to hi-def video watching and split screen multitasking on a phone. And it actually fit in pockets thanks to slim bezels! Pair that real estate with Note's speedy dual-core processor and ability to use a stylus for precision work, and our perception of productivity on mobiles changed overnight.

Suddenly business people and creatives saw bigger screens not as ridiculous, but useful canvas. And the Note series kept on growing - eventually hitting 6, even 7 inches. With each release outselling the last and garnering waitlists, Samsung normalized massive displays for wider audiences despite initial shock.

Of course, Apple and others raced to match screen sizes soon after, worrying about one-handed use later. But remember - Sammy's gamble on phablet form factors helped birth today's 6-to-7-inch industry standard.

And they can thank the outrageous Galaxy Note for cracking that ceiling!

It's hilarious to look back on tech blogs dragging the Note's weirdly huge size a decade ago - only for 5+ inches to become the coveted norm across flagships now. I guess Samsung deserves credit for pushing boundaries. After all, with folding displays en route, who knows what we'll carry in our pockets in another ten years!

Nokia 1100

Sometimes the most successful phone isn't the flashiest - it's the most practical and affordable. Enter Nokia's humble 1100, the world's best-selling phone ever - yes, even surpassing the iPhone.
Launched in 2003, this boxy basic phone seems utterly archaic by today's standards. Tiny monochrome screen? Check. No camera, apps, or even 3G data? Check. But for developing countries just adopting mobile networks then, the 1100 brought connectivity within reach for the masses.

This classic candybar phone sold over 250 million units worldwide thanks to reliability, simplicity, and low cost. For context - only the iPhone and Galaxy S series come even remotely close in lifetime volumes, yet still trail the 1100. Its sheer global ubiquity in the mid 2000s made the 1100 the de facto "people's phone” for first-time owners everywhere from Brazil to Botswana.

While we obsessed over flip phones with cameras and MP3 players back then, the hardy, signal-grabbing, flashlight-bearing 1100 focused purely on core utilities that still matter. And it only cost $100! Is it any wonder why basic Nokias succeeded and lifted millions worldwide out of disconnected poverty?

Obviously nostalgia for MP3 players and slim Razrs persists loudest among younger generations today. But here's to that ugly ducking 1100 for connecting the masses earlier this century better than most high-tech gadgets could. Long live the people's phone!

iPhone 4

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4 in 2010, its slick industrial design and Retina display set the blueprint for modern smartphones.
Sandwiched between glass and stainless steel, the phone simply oozed premium style. And that punishingly fragile glass back looked so gorgeous...before smashing into oblivion at the slightest drop. But we gladly bought bumpers to protect our iPhones and show off that iconic antenna band.

The 3.5-inch Retina screen burst with 326 pixels per inch - effectively doubling the sharpness of past iPhones. And Apple finally added a front facing camera with FaceTime video calling! Features we take for granted today brought awe in 2010.

Of course antenna gate plagued early models. And the glass back only survived so many scratches before replacement. But make no mistake - the iPhone 4 inspired ten years of familiar squared off glass slab designs and hi-res displays for countless flagships since.

Over 50 million units sold and the iPhone 4 revolutionized mobile imaging as well - with its back illuminated sensor and first legit smartphone camera. No more grainy flip phone shots - this ushered in an era of photography magic in our pockets. And for that alone, we owe the iPhone 4 some reverence.

The original model seems quaint now - no Siri, no LTE speeds, no jet black finish. But that iconic white bordered body catapulted Apple design and engineering ahead by lightyears...and left competitors fumbling. The blueprint began right here.

Samsung Galaxy S3

When the Galaxy S3 launched in 2012, it catapulted Samsung from underdog to heavyweight champion of Android. This slick phone set records with over 70 million units sold in its first year alone.
That curved pebble-like design felt uniquely Samsung, standing out from stale iPhone knockoffs flooding the Android market then. Thin and light despite its 4.8 inch screen and durable plastic body, the S3 introduced masses to big displays done beautifully.

New features like Smart Stay eye tracking, S Beam tap file transfers between devices, and camera burst mode felt futuristic and fun. But most impressively - S Voice gave Samsung anAnswer Manlternative for the first time. Why just search Google when your phone can talk back?

With Apple only fielding modest upgrades for the iPhone 4S then, the lighter, faster, feature-packed Galaxy S3 devoured market share. It resonated across demographics from young Gen Z to Baby Boomers won over by its bigger screen and voice assistant. No longer was Samsung an understudy.

The Galaxy S3 set the blueprint for massive global adoption of Android and Samsung's industrial might thereafter. And it sparked an arms race between iOS and Android with each trying to one up the other every year after. Safe to say the S3 shaped phone innovation for the next decade in my book.

The original may seem dated today - but remember, this thing moved voice control, big screens, and powerful cameras mainstream overnight.

Bow down to the former king.

Motorola StarTAC

Before flip phones, Motorola’s StarTAC pioneered the clamshell design when it launched in 1996. Its tiny folded silhouette looked radically futuristic then – like a miniature Star Trek communicator brought to life.
Weighing only 3.1 oz, the petite StarTAC fit effortlessly into pockets when competitors like the Motorola MicroTAC still required hefty holsters. And it pioneered an iconic flip open and closed shape that defined mobiles for the next decade.

But besides its trendsetting design, the StarTAC packed features like vibrate mode and illuminated keypad into a futuristic body you could finally fathom carrying everywhere. Its 96-hour standby battery life and 30 minutes of talk time obliterated limitations of hefty car phone predecessors too.

While its plastic body and external antenna seem hilariously archaic now, the StarTAC made mobility feel modern in the 90s. And it was hugely successful for its time – selling over 60 million units by the early 2000s. Not too shabby!

These days every smartphone is a glass and metal clamshell thin enough to disappear in pockets. But in 1996, the glamorous StarTAC kickstarted a mobile revolution in style and portability that feels obvious today. Everything from Razrs to flip VoIPs trace DNA back to this tiny ancestral clam.

Looking Back Fondly

I feel you, friend.

Thinking back on all those phones we loved, lost, dropped in the toilet, decorated with wild faceplates or tatty stickers - it sparks a warm rush of nostalgia, doesn't it?

Reminds me of carefree days when our biggest worry was picking the perfect ringtone.

Remember when we used to line up outside stores for hours before midnight releases of the latest flashy Nokia or Moto Razr? We'd battle other fanboys and fangirls, fueled on adrenaline and dreams of a cooler mobile life just beyond our impatient grasp. The memories take me back to the excitement we all felt stepping into the future with those bad boys in hand. Tell me I'm not alone!

And you know what?

It's okay to miss the simplicity. Times when we weren't distracted by infinite scrolling and notifications so much as happily hypnotized by a pixelsnake gobbling dots on tiny green screens. Sure, we may have annoyed everyone around us by clacking BlackBerry keyboards or blasting tinny MP3s from our Walkman phones for all to hear. But dang, it felt so good to show off our high-tech style back then!

So let yourself smile as the memories wash over you like a warm wave of wistful nostalgia. We had good mobile times, you and I! And just because sleek smartphones rule today doesn't negate all those fun, wild innovation days gone by.

Take pride in how far we've come...while fondly looking back just once more with longing at those trusty old friends we called phones. The past paved this path - so let your memories enjoy that last sweet stroll down retro mobile lane, my friend.

The best is yet to come! But we'll always have our glory days...how lucky are we?

What was your first phone? Comment here below and give us a juicy story about it. Do you still have it?
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