Mobile Innovation

Crazy and Weird Phones From Around the World

Nowadays, it seems like we have settled into an era of normalcy for the mobile phone industry. While we still see innovation from companies such as Apple and Samsung—the next iPhone model will supposedly be quite a bit different in look and feel than everything that’s come before it—most modern cell phones tend to look similar. Apple set us on that course ten years ago, with the unveiling of the iPhone, which established what a smartphone could be. However, even in the last decade, a few crazy and weird phones have made it to the marketplace.

Of those “wacky and crazy phones,” which ones are the most worth remembering? From a $15,000 Android phone to something that looks like it belongs in a fantasy novel, here are our favorites.

Our Favorite Weird Phones from the Past Ten Years

The Sirin Labs Solarin

You thought your iPhone 7 Plus was expensive? Try not to think about what the Solarin smartphone from Sirin Labs would do to your bank account or credit rating. The Solarin was one of the biggest and most fun stories in tech in 2016. Sirin Labs billed the phone as “the world’s first truly smart phone,” got celebrities like Tom Hardy and Leonardo DiCaprio to endorse it, and built a website that looks like part of a Metroid video game.

The phone itself looks pretty fascinating, with a sleek design, a 23.8-megapixel camera, and a 2K LED display. The main selling point is privacy, as the encryption of the Solarin supposedly makes it the most secure phone on the market. The wacky part, though, is the price. On the Sirin Labs website, the phone ranges from $14,900 to $17,400—before taxes. Given how quickly mobile technology has evolved in the past 15 years, it’s insane that any company expects customers to spend that much on a smartphone.

The Buddha Phone C91

If you were shopping for a cell phone in 2009 that wasn’t the iPhone 3GS, then maybe you laid eyes on the Buddha Phone C91. Geared toward Buddhists, the flip phone was garish gold, bejeweled, and based around the design concept of a lotus flower.

Looking at the phone now, it seems like something out of a fantasy novel or science fiction film. It’s not difficult to imagine a few characters in the Star Trek universe communicating with one another on devices like these.

In fact, if you’ve read Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, you might notice similarities between this phone and that book’s titular instrument.

The THL 5000

Just from looking at the THL 5000, you would hardly feel inclined to label it a “wacky phone.” It doesn’t have the bizarre design of the Buddha Phone or the luxury car feel of the Solarin. In fact, it looks like a standard issue non-Samsung Android phone. The wacky part is the battery, a 5000mAh workhorse that can supposedly deliver up to 47 hours of battery life. For comparison’s sake, tests for recent phones have put the HTC 10’s battery life at about 30 hours and the iPhone 7’s at 12 hours.

The Fujitsu Chamelephone

From the looks of it, this one never even made it to the marketplace. The prototype for Fujitsu’s Chamelephone did spark a bit of chatter in 2009, though, and for a good reason. This phone had a body that could mimic the look of the surface on which it was placed.

The technology seems like the stuff of a James Bond film and is incredibly cool to watch, but it’s hard to imagine that it would have made a great consumer product. If you’re someone who tends to misplace their phone and spend hours tearing apart the house or car looking for it, imagine a phone that legitimately had the power to hide in plain view.

Cool as it is in theory, there is probably a good reason that this wacky phone concept never paved the way for a widely released mobile device.

The Nokia Soda Phone

This one might be our favorite wacky phone idea of all time. Like the Chamelephone, the Nokia Soda Phone was never actually officially released. It was just another phone concept that was probably too weird for mass production and distribution. However, that fact doesn’t change just how fascinating and out-of-left-field this crazy phone really The idea was to create a phone that would be more ecologically friendly than the average device. The designer behind it, Daizi Zheng, found that batteries not only posed a significant expense to phone developers but were also difficult to dispose of and therefore harmful to the environment. His suggestion was a “bio battery”—a battery that would use enzymes to generate electricity from carbohydrates. The source of the carbohydrates? Coca-Cola. The phone had a tubular shape and a cap, and users would have been able to remove the cap and pour Coke into the tube. The bio battery would then have used the soda to generate electricity and power the phone. It’s a fascinating, innovative idea—though the average consumer probably prefers being able to plug their phone in for a charge rather than carry Coca-Cola around as an energy source. After all, most of the time, we’re trying to keep soda far away from our phones.

As you can see, the cell phone has taken a lot of different directions and left turns over the years—even in its relatively brief history. While most of us seem to own iPhones or Samsung Galaxy devices, it took going through these crazy innovations and conceptualizations to achieve the technology that we have today.

Have you ever owned a phone that passed the “crazy” or “wacky” test—whether due to how it looked, a one-of-a-kind feature, an extreme price, or some other factor? We’d love to hear what constitutes a “crazy phone” for you, so share your picks and recollections in the replies