Phones look kind of boring these days, but it wasn’t always this way. In the early 2000s, wacky designs were all the rage and it often felt like no two phones looked the same. Now, in 2020, many are hoping that foldables will once again put the fun back into smartphone design.
With all the recent attention on retro-style clamshell foldable phones like the Motorola Razr and Galaxy Z Flip, it begs the question: could we also see the return of some of the more out-of-the-box designs from the pre-smartphone mobile era? With the improvement of foldable and dual-screen technology, it’s definitely possible!
With that in mind, here are five quirky retro phones which could be transformed into fascinating foldables. Some of these phones would still be ludicrously impractical, but that just makes us want them even more.
1. Nokia 7380
Known as the mascara or the pen phone, the Nokia 7380 is hard to beat when it comes to unusual design. This phone was just as unique as it was impractical when it was released in 2005. Its tiny display was a chore to navigate with the buttons, while texting was as painful as trying to type on a PlayStation Portable. It was more of a fashion statement than it ever was a functional product. However, the Nokia 7380 is one of the few retro phones that would probably be more usable as a foldable than it ever was in its original form.
The Nokia 7380 is the perfect candidate for a foldable comeback.
A foldable version could fold out once in the middle to reveal a normal-sized display. On the outside, the foldable Nokia 7280 could keep its old colorful design with some minor changes. There’s also plenty of space for cameras on the front and back. Of course, any Nokia 7380 reboot would still be an incredibly niche phone, but it would definitely be less frustrating to use than its predecessor.
2. Nokia 7370
Don’t be surprised to see another Nokia on the list. In the 2000s, the Finnish company was the king of creative designs. The Nokia 7370 was certainly among them, with its rotating display which flipped to reveal a keyboard. Unlike its 7380 cousin, however, this flipping device was a functional phone and had a stylish exterior to boot. But how could it make a return today when phone keyboards are practically obsolete? How about as a pocket-sized dual-screen phone.
A number of dual-screen-toting devices like the LG G8X already exist on the market, but none make your phone smaller when not in use. This is what the Nokia 7370 design could add to the equation. With a second screen replacing its keyboard, it could be used much like the Galaxy Z Flip — for multitasking, video calls and more. Of course, if the potential dual-screen Nokia 7370 retains its old shape and size, it won’t be terribly practical, and it might be a bit too thick by today’s standards. However, it’s still a funky and fashionable retro phone that would be a fun alternative to traditional clamshell foldables.
3. Motorola Flipout
The Razr was Motorola’s most iconic phone, so it was no surprise the company chose it for its first attempt at a retro-inspired foldable. However, Motorola has another much quirkier device that could make a dual-screen comeback: the Motorola Flipout. Unlike others on this list, it is a bit more recent and featured a capacitive touchscreen plus good old Android Froyo when it came out in 2010. What made it so cool was its titular “flipout” keyboard, which turned (or should we say flipped) heads with its design.
Today, Motorola could recreate this device by replacing the keyboard with a second screen. As more and more apps and games adapt to dual displays, the bottom screen could be used as a keyboard, for gaming controls, video calls, and more. A dual-screen Flipout would have one advantage over the giant glass rectangle phones of today — its tiny square form factor. We are far from certain that it will be a smash hit, but it’s a retro design that would definitely draw some attention.
4. Nokia N93
Camera phones are not a recent invention or obsession. In 2006, the Nokia N93 was paving the way for the smartphones of today. This little brick was among the first phones with serious video capabilities. Its rotating screen and cleverly positioned camera allowed it to transform into a portable camcorder. But even if its design is far from sleek, the Nokia N93 is an old dog that can learn some new tricks. With some imagination, the N93 could make a unique foldable too.
Some design changes would be in order, of course. Although ugly camera modules are not uncommon nowadays either, the Nokia N93’s chunky sensor definitely needs a trim. It still might not be the most appealing phone on the market, but the N93 is a retro pioneer we’d love to see make a foldable return.
5. Any ultra-small phone of yesteryear
Believe it or not, in the late 90s and early 2000s, most people thought phones would keep getting smaller, not bigger. This, of course, was before smartphones became the perfect distraction devices that they are today. But while we might not miss tiny flip phones with minuscule keyboards, it’s hard to deny that current handsets might be getting too big to handle. What could solve the problem? A retro foldable inspired by all the small phones of old.
It’s true that the current foldable tech is far from perfect, but we could still dream of what the future could have in store. If ultra-thin glass or other materials improve enough to allow for multiple folds without damage and scratches, a phone which folds twice into a tiny square could be a bit hit among those tired of giant phones. Samsung claims it can already make such foldables, but it could be a while before one appears on the market. Nevertheless, if a tiny retro-inspired foldable does materialize soon, we’ll be first in line to give it a spin.
Those were our picks for some of the quirkiest retro phones that could get a second chance at life as a foldable or dual-screen comeback. Did we miss some great candidates? Which retro phone would you like to see transformed into a foldable? Let us know in the comments.