Return of the kings: 7 classic phones that need to be rebooted

Forget Nokia’s bananaphone, these are the classics we want to see reborn…

07 March 2018
by Stuff Staff

For the second year running, Nokia has gone all retro on us. Not content with relaunching the 3310 at last year’s Mobile World Congress, it’s now refreshed the 8110 bananaphone, complete with 4G.

Which is all well and good. But it wasn’t top of our list of iconic phones that needed a reboot. Others, like the seven below, brought genuinely useful ideas and flourishes that we’d still like in our lives today.

Here are our favourite mobiles are worthy of another bite of the cherry…

NOKIA N93 (2006)

Why bring it back? Because it’s more versatile than Jess Ennis-Hill

Let’s face it: modern smartphones are a bit boring. They’re all dull black slabs that look identical. Sure, they’re more powerful than ever before, and infinitely more usable. But where’s the versatility?

In 2006, the N93 was a veritable Transformer – it could be used as a flip phone for calls, in camcorder mode for videoing, or you could slide the screen up in landscape orientation to watch a film or play a game. Which is the kind of skillset we want from a mobile.

That 3.2MP camera would need beefing up, mind. Break it out and watch the crowds gather.

LG KG800 (2006)

Why bring it back? For those Knight Rider-esque red lights

Its official name was the KG800, but it was branded as the LG Chocolate Phone. Why? No idea. Nothing about it had anything to do with chocolate – there was no foil wrapper, no sugary bits. It didn’t even come encased in a chocolate egg, which we would’ve liked.

But it was two years before Android launched, and started naming each version after a sweet treat, so maybe LG was onto something. We loved those glowing red lights – they were very Knight Rider. Again, nothing to do with chocolate. But definitely sweet.


Why bring it back? It’d be our pocketable, distraction-free writing gadget

OK, so it’s not technically a phone. But it wouldn’t take much to shove some 4G guts into a 21st century reboot of this 1995 PDA and make it the perfect, portable writing gadget.

Weighing just a third of a kilo, and small enough to fit in a jeans pocket (and not just those East 17-style baggy jeans that were so popular in the mid-90s), this was the first true pocket computer, preceding the age of smartphones by some 15 years.

It even came with a stylus, an idea which has been catching on lately. Reboot it now, and show Blackberry how QWERTY is done.

NOKIA LUMIA 920 (2012)

Before Nokia sold its phone business to Microsoft (who subsequently flogged it to HMD Global) it had a nice little run of phones, culminating with 2012’s Lumia 920.

This was widely seen as the first true rival to the Androids and iPhones of the day. And it had a nice colourful back to boot. The following year, Apple launched the iPhone 5C, which came in a range of similarly bright colours.

But with both lines discontinued, the smartphone world is a pretty grey place to be. Bringing the 920 back would add a much-need splash of colour.


Why bring it back? Because sometimes we still yearn for that secret QWERTY keyboard

The Communicator range of bidniss-focussed smartphones launched in 1996, and lasted over a decade, finally winding down in 2007.

On the outside, they looked just like normal mobile phones, albeit rather large ones. But they were actually clamshells: once opened, they revealed a full QWERTY keyboard and second screen that was almost as big as the device’s entire footprint.

In that sense, they were like the Tardis of the smartphone world. We take email and web browsing for granted on our phones nowadays, but the Communicator was one of the first to take both seriously. And for that reason alone, it’s due a return.

PALM PRE (2009)

Why bring it back? Because we need some true originals

Another one that was way ahead of its time, the Pre packed wireless charging, a swipe-based user interface that replaced on-screen buttons with a gesture area, a universal search function that you could email or tweet directly from, and a settings dashboard that you swiped down to access.

This was way back in 2009, before people had started saying “there’s an app for that”. The Pre almost had too much innovation, which is exactly why we need to see it again. It’d breathe new life into a smartphone market where the different operating systems all use the same ideas.


Why bring it back? To turn the smartphone world on its head

The iPhone wasn’t the only smartphone to launch in 2007. We also had the Serenata, the lovechild of a fling between Samsung and high-end hi-fi brand Bang & Olufsen.

Unsurprisingly, it was focussed on music, with built-in hi-fi-quality speakers and a pair of B&O headphones bundled in the box. But the real draw? The iPod-style click wheel that you used to scroll through songs.

Unfortunately, this made it look like it was designed upside down. But it was definitely different. And with hi-res audio available on more smartphones, isn’t it time B&O got back into mobiles?



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