Motorola FLIPOUT and Nokia X5-01.
Announced June 2010. These days, almost every smartphone looks
the same. But five years ago this month both Nokia and Motorola were experimenting with
square smartphones with physical keyboards. Motorola’s take on the idea was the Motorola
FLIPOUT, an Android smartphone with a little 2.8″ 320 x 240 pixel display and a QWERTY
keyboard that rotated out. Measuring 67 x 67 mm, the FLIPOUT was almost perfectly square
apart from the rounded edges. Although it was a fully-featured Android device with GPS,
3.5G and WiFi, the small screen must have been severely limiting, and physical keyboards
have since gone the way of the Dodo on most smartphones. The quirky FLIPOUT was a bit of a flop at
the time, but if this esoteric design appeals to you then new ones can still be had for
less than €200 with used ones in various conditions coming in at about €70 or less. In the same month, Nokia announced the Nokia
X5-01 slider phone which wasn’t as square as the Motorola and featured a 2.4″ screen
with the same resolution as the FLIPOUT. Unlike the Motorola, the X5-01 was a Symbian device.
Symbian was a operating system much more suited to smaller displays, and overall specifications
were very similar to its rival except the X5-01 lacked WiFi but had a better camera. Unusual Nokia devices are always collectible,
but the rareness of the Nokia X5-01 makes it very hard to obtain. In the end, smartphones with tiny screens
fell out of favour and on-screen keyboards such as SwiftKey and Swype meant that most
people didn’t want an actual keyboard. But perhaps the time is right for manufacturers
to experiment with different form factors again?