We’ve seen an insane number of phones released in the last 20 years. Some of these devices have fundamentally changed society, while others… not so much. Let’s shine a light on some of those ugly ducklings.
It would be pretty easy to make a long list of ugly phones, but I wanted to narrow it down a bit. For this list, I stuck with smartphones, though there are a lot of ugly feature phones. None of the iPhone models have really been ugly, so that means we’re looking at Android phones. Sorry, diehards.
It should be noted that design is extremely subjective. What I find ugly may not be ugly to you. I’m sure there are also plenty of phones I overlooked. This is not an exact science, let’s just have some fun!
Sharp Aquos R2 Compact
Back in 2017-18, phones with notches were becoming more prevalent. People had a lot of opinions about this design choice—and many still do. Some people point to the Pixel 3 XL as the worst offender, but that phone only had one notch.
The Sharp Aquos R2 Compact grabbed headlines for having two notches. There was the typical notch at the top for the front-facing camera, but it was joined by a second notch at the bottom for the fingerprint sensor.
You can make an argument that a top notch gives you more screen space since the status icons can go around it. However, there wasn’t much of a benefit for the bottom notch. It just looked weird.
Okay, this may be a bit of a hot take. People have a soft spot for the T-Mobile G1 since it was the very first Android phone, but let’s be honest, it’s pretty ugly.
Just look at that massive bottom section. There are four physical buttons and a trackball. It’s all plastic and it looks like plastic. There’s almost a toy-ish quality to it. The mechanism to slide open the screen was pretty cool, but it often looked slightly crooked.
I know this was very early in the smartphone era, but look at what Apple was making at the time. Sure, the original iPhone is dated too, but it looked so much more refined and premium.
Samsung Galaxy S5 in “Gold”
The Galaxy S5 Gold, or what I call the Galaxy S5 Band-Aid pic.twitter.com/xU5fzvWrvz
— Joanna Stern (@JoannaStern) February 24, 2014
The Galaxy S5 was a fairly straightforward device from Samsung. It wasn’t a huge departure from the design of the Galaxy S4, but Samsung made one choice that didn’t go over well. The back of the phone featured a rubberized dimple texture.
This dimpled texture looked okay in white and black, but the “gold” color was immediately the butt of a lot of jokes. Samsung tried to make it look like shiny gold in product shots. However, in real life, it looked more like beige and the pattern made it resemble a Band-Aid.
The Galaxy S5 is the perfect example of how a seemingly innocuous design decision—a rubberized back with dimples for extra grip—can go south in a hurry. Once it was pointed out how much it looked like a Band-Aid, that was all anyone could see.
The Doogee S70 is a member of the “rugged” genre of smartphones. Doogee didn’t simply design a phone with tough materials and high IP and MIL ratings. It went over the top to make sure it also looks tough.
There’s so much going on with this phone. The aggressive sharp corners and angular shape, the fake screws around the cameras, the leather texture on the back, and the big “IP-68” stamp. It’s just too much.
There are quite a few “rugged” phones I could list here that all suffer from the same problems. It’s not enough for a phone to be tough, it also has to look like an armored vehicle. Some people dig that design, but I think it’s ugly.
I have saved the best (worst) for last. Every once in a while, a high-end car maker will license its name out for a crazy smartphone. These devices are usually pretty garish, but the Lamborghini TL700 takes the cake.
For starters, it’s plated in bold gold on all sides. The Lamborghini logo is front and center acting as a pretty large home button. If that wasn’t enough, “Tonino Lamborghini” is printed above the home button as well.
The sides of the TL700 feature a knurled texture and the back is covered in fake crocodile skin. The Lamborghini logo appears on the back as well along with more gold accents and fake gold screws. It’s… a lot.
These types of phones are strange because I’m not really sure who actually buys them. The Lamborghini TL700 was released in 2012 and it cost a staggering $2,758. It’s certainly a status symbol, but not a very pretty one.
There you have it, some truly ugly phones. Thankfully, most of the “ugly” devices I found are from the earlier days of smartphones. Modern phones are typically much nicer looking. Even software has come a long way in terms of design. You never know when the next eyesore could be unleashed, though.
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