5 Smartphone Features That Eventually Got Phased Out

I miss those crazy days


You may have notice this, but nowadays all phones look exactly the same. Every smartphone that comes out has a large touchscreen at the front and primary cameras at the back. In 2018, most new phones came with a notch, which has become a controversial issue and we can blame the iPhone X for being too cool for everyone to follow its aesthetic.

However, this was not the case a decade ago. Phones back then came in all shapes and sizes and frankly it was a golden time. Nokia for example had so many different design choices (some even questionable), it would warrant a different article to cover them all.

Design aside, phones also had features that were systematically phased off to this homogeneous future that we are living in. OEMs used to have features that you could only see only on their phones and it is sad that they got phased out for notches. Here are some of these features.

FM Transmitter

via allaboutsymbian

This was one of my favourite features about old Nokia phones and it was available on a select few.

This feature allowed you to broadcast your music on an FM frequency of your choice and frankly, it was super cool. All you had to do was enable the feature under settings and broadcast the music saved on your phone to an FM receiver in your car or at home.

It was a great alternative to Bluetooth and I was sad it got phased out later on. It had a major drawback, its range was limited so you had to be close to the FM receiver.

Xenon flash

Nokia N82 with a Xenon Flash

In photography, lighting is very important and it affects how your photos look in the long run. One way we light up our subjects is by using artificial lighting equipment like flashes and you’ll see them on dedicated cameras as well as on phones.

We generally have two kinds of lighting: Xenon flashes and LED lights. Most smartphones have LED lights next to the camera which help in filling light across the subject.

However, Xenon flashes are WAY better than LEDs in this aspect since they are brighter and that is why they are used in professional camera flashes. We saw the first Xenon flash on a phone in the Nokia N82 and we thought that would be the case then but sadly it wasn’t the case.

Other past smartphones that had a Xenon  included the Nokia 808 Pureview, Lumia 1020, Nokia N8, Samsung Galaxy K-Zoom and the Galaxy S4 Zoom. These were photography oriented smartphones and I’d love to see this being implemented in future smartphones because LED flashes are still inferior to Xenon flashes.

DVB-H receivers

Nokia 5330 Xpress Music

This was another feature that used to be featured on Nokia phones. Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld or DVB-H in short was a technology used to bring broadcasting services to mobile handsets.

This technology allowed you to watch satellite TV like DStv on your mobile phones, which at the time was really cool. You could find this feature on phones like the Nokia N96, Nokia N8, Samsung P940, Samsung P960. LG U960 and even the aptly named Nokia 5330 Xpress Music.

Now we are living on the golden age of streaming and people nowadays prefer to stream Netflix, Amazon Video or Showmax instead of using DVB-H receivers to watch TV. This has even prompted DStv to discontinue the service after 8 years.

Physical keyboards

Nokia N900 and Blackberry Bold 9900

The original iPhone back in 2007 signaled the impending death of physical keyboards. Before the iPhone, most phones had a T9 keyboard which I miss since I could type a text without actually looking at the keyboard.

However after the release of the original iPhone, we still had smartphones with physical keyboards. Blackberries stuck to their tried and tested QWERTY keyboards and we started seeing other manufacturers like Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Samsung and more.

Although I was not a fan of QWERTY keyboards, there were some who were big fans of the form factor, especially those people who were Blackberry owners. Physical keyboards on smartphones are still there in this age of all touchscreen phones and you can see them from the latest Blackberry phones. They are not as popular as they were back in the day but you can bet they will go extinct.

Varied form-factors

can you name these phones?

Our smartphones are very powerful but they have rather boring designs when you compare them to phones back then.

Currently, smartphones are forced into a rather limited design where you have a massive touchscreen at the front, a design choice called slate.

Back then we had all sorts of form-factors: Sliders, flip phones, swivel, classic bars, keyboard bars and whatever the Nokia 7280 was trying to be. Nokia was notorious for trying so many design concepts for their phones and it was a glorious time.