Smartphones have been around for over a decade now. In fact, the first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1, debuted 10 years ago today. It's not surprising that the category has seen some pretty horrible trends in that amount of time. We've compiled seven of the worst ones we could think of in this post, a couple of which are (unfortunately) still ongoing.
When you think "3D phone," your head probably goes straight to 2011's HTC EVO 3D, and maybe the LG Optimus 3D that debuted shortly after. You might be surprised to learn that the first phone with any sort of 3D capabilities, the Japan-only Sharp mova SH251iS, actually came out back in 2002, though the EVO 3D was the first to be sold outside of Asia. Both the EVO 3D and Optimus 3D utilized parallax barrier tech, which meant that no 3D glasses were needed.
The EVO 3D.
At the time, both phones were actually pretty well-liked, with the 3D effect acting as a fun novelty, but the concept was quickly left in the dust. There have been a couple of others over the years, the vast majority of which you've almost certainly never heard of, with the only prominent one being the Amazon Fire Phone. This wildly unsuccessful phone from Bezos and friends didn't use a 3D screen, instead using four front-facing cameras to track the user's face to create a 3D-looking UI, dubbed "Dynamic Perspective." I personally own one of these gems, having purchased it for the princely sum of $25 about a year and a half after it was released. It's a nice piece of history, but not much more.
In theory, this was a great idea. A phone with a four-inch screen capable of showing a picture up to 50" in size sounds pretty good, no? Enter the Galaxy Beam, which debuted at MWC 2012. In reality, though, these projector phones never really caught on for a multitude of reasons. Cost and availability were factors, but projectors also made phones bulky, made them hot, and drained their batteries quite easily.
The Galaxy Beam.
The Galaxy Beam wasn't the only projector-equipped phone, but there aren't many more out there. Motorola released a $200 projector Moto Mod, the Insta-Share Projector, but those can't even be given away. Most recently, a company called MOVI began selling a phone with a relatively incognito projector, but with a MediaTek processor, a $599 price tag, and zero marketing, it's not surprising that its eBay account has 0 feedback and there are only two Amazon reviews. In other words, we don't think projector phones will be coming back in fashion any time soon.
Here's a fact: Smartphones only need one screen. Regardless of how you spin it, there's a reason why dual-screen phones haven't been commercially successful. The Kyocera Echo was the first to bring this wacky idea to fruition, and ZTE attempted to revive it last year with the Axon M. Second screens just add way too much cost and complexity for very little gain. That's not to mention the bezel that inevitably gets in the way of a true "larger screen" experience.
The Axon M.
We've also seen some candybar phones with a traditional screen on the front, and a second one out back. The YotaPhones immediately come to mind with their secondary e-ink displays, but none have ever made it stateside (the YotaPhone 2 almost did). In fact, we saw ZTE try this design out with the Nubia Z18S just a few days ago with a secondary OLED screen. It seemed pretty unnecessary to us, but it looks like many of you in the comments actually liked the idea of it, as it rid the front screen of a notch. Of course, that's something else we'll get into in a bit.
Remember Project Ara and Phonebloks? Those were concepts for truly modular phones in which you could swap out cameras, storage modules, batteries, and more. Unfortunately, those never made it far past the drawing board. Instead, we got severely-crippled versions like LG Friends and Motorola's Moto Mods. The LG Friends system was so bad that it was abandoned after just one phone - the LG G5. There were only two attachments available, one of which was never released in the US.
The LG G5's two Friends modules. The B&O one never made it here.
Moto Mods have fared better, but not by much. If you see someone using a Moto Z-series phone with a Moto Mod, chances are that it was included for free in some sort of promotion. I will admit that I did use the battery mod quite often when I had my Moto Z, but that wouldn't have been necessary had Motorola not tried to make the phone as thin as humanly possible (5.19mm!). Essential also tried its hand at this game, but with only one 360-degree camera add-on - one that's been discounted to $19 - that hasn't been entirely successful either. Where's the headphone jack add-on that was promised, Rubin? And that brings us to our next trend...
Removal of headphone jacks
The death of the headphone jack is something that I truly do not understand. The iPhone 7 debuted 3.5mm-less, and just like that, so did nearly every Android-powered flagship. Yes, we know that the Moto Z and some Chinese phones got rid of it beforehand, but let's be real - Apple dictates the market.
You might say that this trend started to make phones thinner, but they really haven't gotten much slimmer. And if the 4.75mm-thick VIVO X5Max could have a 3.5mm jack, there's no excuse for anyone else. You might also say that this was done so that manufacturers could make more money on dongles, but I have a hard time imagining that much money is being made in that market. I can see how this strategy might be working out for Apple, whose AirPods are wildly popular, but we doubt that Google's lost sales from a missing Pixel 2 headphone jack were made up by Pixel Buds sales. Thankfully, Samsung and LG's phones still have headphone jacks. It must be nice to not have to choose between charging and listening to music. We can only hope that the 3.5mm will make its way back in due time, but it's not looking likely.
This is another example of something that an Android phone technically introduced first, but was really spearheaded by Apple and its iPhone X. Sharp narrowly beat Essential to the punch with its Aquos S2, and now phones from LG, Huawei, OnePlus, ASUS, and more all have this beloved design feature. Unfortunately, Google is also going this route with the Pixel 3 XL (but not the Pixel 3).
People keep complaining about the notch robbing more space from the screen, primarily the notification bar, though it's actually just getting rid of some bezel from the top left and right corners when you think about it. The negative stigma surrounding the notch would probably go away if more manufacturers would offer the option of filling in the top of the screen with black, effectively erasing the notch. It'll be interesting to see if the pop-up front-facing camera catches on and replaces the notch, though we have our doubts about that.
This last one is directed at Samsung. We applaud your self-control in not giving into the notch craze and retaining the headphone jack on your phones, but the Bixby button is a massive pain in the ass. I can't even imagine how many times I accidentally launched Bixby when I had my Galaxy S8+, but for some reason, Samsung simply refuses to allow this button to be outright disabled. In fact, there was actually a mini-war between Samsung and the dev community about this. A couple of days ago, Samsung added a setting that makes Bixby launch only when the button is double-pressed, but that's still kind of a cop-out.
The Galaxy S8 and its Bixby button.
We miss the programmable key on Galaxy Active phones of yesteryear. If Samsung (or any other manufacturer) could bring that back, that'd be great.
That's all we've got. If there's anything you think we've missed, let us know. You may now commence the notch hate in the comments below.