20 Iconic Smartphones of the Decade Past

Apple, BlackBerry, Samsung, HTC, and Nokia were the initial smartphone companies that set some benchmarks for young contenders.

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20 Iconic Smartphones of the Decade Past

Here are what you could call the best smartphones of the past decade.

Highlights
  • iPhone 4 introduced glass-sandwich design to the mainstream
  • BlackBerry Priv brought Android and BlackBerry worlds under one roof
  • Samsung Galaxy S gave a tough fight to the iPhone family

Smartphones have become a vital part of life for most of us. We spend most of our day with a smartphone -- even more than what we devote to our loved ones. But what makes them important for us? Is it the mobility that we get from them? Or is it the smartness that they provide to us while on-the-move? Well, answers to such questions depend on how you use the smartphones. But one thing is quite clear that smartphones have evolved a lot from what we had in the past. They've got new designs, vivid display panels, multiple cameras, and more powerful processors than workstations of yesterday. But which were the best smartphones of the decade past?

Apple, BlackBerry, Samsung, HTC, and Nokia were the initial smartphone companies that set some benchmarks for young contenders such as OnePlus, Vivo, and Xiaomi. Chipmakers largely including Qualcomm and MediaTek have also helped the market grow faster than ever predicted with processors supporting newer tasks and enhanced performance experiences. Both Apple and Google have also significantly improved their respective mobile operating systems, iOS and Android, which are running on all smartphones nowadays.

Having said that, there were some smartphones that tickled the public's fancy and set the trend in the market. We here cover all those iconic smartphones that have made history in the last 10 years and influenced the market to keep up the pace. Here are the best mobile phones of the decade past.

Apple iPhone 4

Apple back in June 2010 brought the iPhone 4 as its distinctly designed smartphone over the previous iPhone models. The iPhone 4 had a glass-sandwich design along with a metal frame that was copied by a large number of smartphone companies, including some Indian vendors such as Lava and Karbonn. The fourth-generation iPhone model also offered a slim waistline and an optimised software experience along with a list of apps and iOS 4. However, Apple faced the infamous “Antennagate” issue thanks to the glitch in designing the antenna gap. The company did try to fix it by offering bumpers and overhauling the antenna structure on the iPhone 4s.

Release year- 2010

 

Samsung Galaxy S

In 2010, when Apple was flourishing with huge domination in the smartphone market, Samsung brought the Galaxy S as its flagship phone to closely compete against the iPhone. The Samsung Galaxy S, which precisely debuted in March 2010, ticked all the boxes that the market set for a top-notch smartphone. It had a Super AMOLED display, Samsung Exynos (Hummingbird) SoC, and as much as 16GB of onboard storage to take on the iPhone. Samsung also provided a Corning Gorilla Glass protection that later became usual for all mid-range and premium smartphones. The Galaxy S ran Android 2.1 Eclair out-of-the-box along with Samsung's TouchWiz UI on top.

Release year- 2010

 

Nokia 808 PureView

Nokia, much before the era of its brand licensee HMD Global -- exactly in February 2012, unveiled the Nokia 808 PureView as its masterpiece. The phone didn't include a lightning fast processor or desktop-sized RAM, but what it had was a 41-megapixel camera sensor that had used an interpolation technique to pack five distinct pixels into one. It set the benchmark for today's smartphones that have cameras with a megapixel count of 48, 64, or 108 -- thanks to similar pixel binning techniques. The Nokia 808 PureView also had a Xenon flash instead of merely including an LED flash model. However, it ran Nokia Belle that was based on Symbian OS 10.1 over Android.

Release year- 2012

 

Google Nexus 4

Google tied up with LG to launch the Nexus 4 in October 2012. The smartphone offered flagship-like specifications at a mid-range price point. It also provided stock Android 4.2 Jelly Bean along with guaranteed updates for some time. The Google Nexus 4 also include wireless charging support and features such as active noise cancellation and a polarised glass with a 3D pattern finish. All those highlights made the Nexus 4 a compelling Android smartphone against the competition.

Release year- 2012

 

HTC One

HTC One was unveiled back in February 2013 to counter the likes of the Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III. The smartphone that debuted with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean had an aluminium unibody construction that made it an eye-catching option against its competitors. Also, HTC offered stereo front-mounted speakers that were equipped with BoomSound technology. The curved back design of the HTC One aided ergonomics and provided a good grip in the hand. There were also white polycarbonate bands to give room to the integrated antennas. Overall, the design of the HTC One made it a trendsetter, and its aesthetics were clearly featured later on models such as the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T. Apple also offered a similar antenna design on the iPhone 6.

Release year- 2013

 

Xiaomi Mi 3

Xiaomi Mi 3 debuted in September 2013. It was designed initially for China, but the phone reached markets including India that helped make the Beijing-based company a household name. The Mi 3 offered top-of-the-line specifications of its time that included a 5-inch full-HD display and a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC -- all at an affordable price. It also had an attractive design that was made through a unibody shell that became an example for newer smartphones by not just Xiaomi but also many of its competitors. The smartphone also had Android 4.4.2 KitKat at the time of its launch along with MIUI.

Release year- 2013

 

LG G Flex

LG G Flex had a flexible display and battery along with a self-healing coating at the back that all made it to our list of iconic smartphones of the decade past. Launched in October 2013, the LG G Flex had a curved P-OLED display that was equipped along with the flexible lithium polymer battery to provide a curved design. The smartphone ran Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with LG's Optimus UI that brought features such as Dual Window and QSlide to distinguished the experience.

Release year- 2013

 

Moto G

Motorola back in November 2013 launched the Moto G as its budget smartphone targeted at emerging markets. The smartphone helped Motorola gained huge popularity in growing markets including India and Brazil years after its comeback following a split into two separate entities -- with Motorola Mobility serving the consumer market and Motorola Solutions deliver enterprise offerings. The Moto G had a simple and sober design that appealed to the masses. Similarly, the stock Android experience that was initially based on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean provided fair enough convenience. The affordable price of the Moto G also made it amongst the early smartphones to kick off the budget wars in the market.

Release year- 2013

 

OnePlus One

OnePlus, the Shenzhen-based company that is amongst the top-five premium smartphone brands in markets such as India, started its journey in the smartphone world with the OnePlus One back in April 2014. Titled as the “Flagship Killer”, the phone had Android 4.4 KitKat-based CyanogenMod (CM11S). It was one of the highly acclaimed smartphones among app developers -- thanks to the openness provided by CyanogenMod to customise the experience. The OnePlus One also brought the trend of limited availability through its invite-only system. It was later transformed into flash sales that companies such as Xiaomi adopted to create enough hype of their new offerings.

Release year- 2014

 

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge was launched in March 2015 with a dual-edge curved display. It made the trend of using curved glass panels that we saw not only on some of the recent Galaxy Note-series models but also on phones such as the BlackBerry Priv and OnePlus 7 Pro. The Galaxy S6 Edge featured a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display with a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection. The handset also had a heart-rate sensor and wireless charging support. It ran Android 5.0.2 Lollipop.

Release year- March 2015

 

BlackBerry Priv

After facing many ups and downs, BlackBerry brought the BlackBerry Priv as its pure Android smartphone in September 2015. The smartphone also retained the company's legacy of offering a physical QWERTY keyboard -- but in a slide-out design. The keyboard made it a promising option for professionals and business users. Running on Android 5.1.1, the BlackBerry Priv offered a full-fledged Android experience along with Android for Work support of enterprise users. The device also had a curved-edge display. Since it wasn't based on BlackBerry 10 OS aka BB10, the Priv didn't have a gesture controls. Instead, the phone had on-screen navigation keys.

Release year- 2015

 

Lenovo Phab 2 Pro

Lenovo tied up with Google and unveiled the Phab 2 Pro in June 2016 as the world's first smartphone based on Project Tango platform, which was aimed augmented reality (AR) computing to mobile devices. The smartphone had a unique camera setup that offered motion tracking, depth perception, and area learning. In addition to its AR features, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro had Dolby Audio 5.1 Capture technology for recording 3D surround sound experiences. The smartphone also had a large, 6.4-inch QHD IPS display and came with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow.

Release year- 2016

 

Xiaomi Mi MIX

A large number of smartphone vendors the days claim to offer a full-screen experience. But if we need to find out the trailblazer of that segment, it is none other than the Xiaomi Mi MIX. The smartphone was launched back in October 2016 as a concept phone along with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. But shortly after its initial preview, it went on sale in China. The near bezel-less display of the Mi MIX was its USP, though it also had a piezoelectric acoustic earpiece speaker as well as an ultrasonic proximity sensor as the two key highlights. The selfie camera of the Mi MIX was also claimed to be 50 percent smaller in size over the conventional sensors and was placed at the bottom right corner of the phone to give enough space for the display.

Release year- 2016

 

Apple iPhone X

In September 2017, Apple revamped its iPhone family by unveiling the iPhone X. The new iPhone model, which was the tenth anniversary iPhone, was completely different in looks and design from what we saw earlier. With a display notch, it housed facial recognition sensors, bringing the tech to the mainstream and introducing Face ID as an upgrade to the existing fingerprint recognition technology that the Cupertino company called Touch ID. Also, the iPhone X -- originally based on iOS 11 -- was amongst the first successful smartphones with a completely button-less front panel. Apple also provided a vertically-placed dual camera setup that made a trend in itself.

Release year- 2017

 

Razer Phone

Razer, the company that's popular for developing gaming peripherals, launched the Razer Phone back in November 2017. The smartphone, which was the predecessor to the Razer Phone 2, had IGZO IPS display panel with 120Hz refresh rate to deliver immersive gaming experiences. There was also a wide colour gamut to impress mobile gamers. The Razer Phone had a dual front-firing speakers along with THX-certified amplifiers and Dolby Atmos integration to deliver a surround sound experience. The phone came with Android 7.1.1 Nougat at the time of its launch. It all-in-all set a benchmark for gaming phones.

Release year- 2017

 

Vivo X20 Plus UD

Vivo launched the X20 Plus UD in January 2018 as the world's first smartphone to carry an under-display fingerprint sensor. It included the Synaptics-made under-display fingerprint sensor that was touted to detect a fingerprint in few milliseconds. The presence of the under-display fingerprint sensor, which later became the new normal among Chinese smartphones and widely called in-display fingerprint sensor, replaced the requirement of having a physical fingerprint sensor. The Vivo X20 Plus UD that was based on Android 7.1 Nougat also came with a matte back panel that just had the dual rear camera setup along with an LED flash.

Release year- 2018

 

Huawei P20 Pro

Huawei unveiled the P20 Pro in March 2018 as the world's first smartphone with a triple rear camera setup. The Huawei P20 Pro had a camera setup that included an 8-megapixel sensor with 3x optical zoom thanks to a Leica telephoto lens and a 40-megapixel RGB sensor. The third sensor was placed next to the dual camera setup that had 20-megapixel resolution. It was a monochrome sensor -- meant to enhance sharpness. Further, the P20 Pro included 4D Predictive Focus and six-axis image stabilisation. The smartphone was launched with Android 8.1 Oreo.

Release year- 2018

 

Vivo Nex

Vivo Nex was unveiled in June 2018 as the world's first smartphone with a pop-up selfie camera. The company used an elevating mechanism that was later adopted by its homegrown competitors such as Huawei and Xiaomi. The Vivo Nex also included Vivo's Screen SoundCasting technology that replaced the earpiece from the front side and provides a nearly bezel-less display. Further, the smartphone had the in-display fingerprint sensor that was different from the sensor available on the Vivo X20 UD. The smartphone came with Android 8.1 Oreo.

Release year- 2018

 

Samsung Galaxy A8s

Samsung launched the Galaxy A8s in December 2018 as the world's first smartphone with a hole-punch display panel. The South Korean company called the panel the Infinity-O Display that reached various newer Galaxy-series models, including the Galaxy S10e and Galaxy Note 10 family. The Samsung Galaxy A8s based on Android 9 Pie also had a triple rear camera setup and an aluminium frame. Nevertheless, the hole-punch display was the USP of the Galaxy A8s that set the stage of many other similar-looking smartphones.

Release year- 2018

 

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Samsung Galaxy Fold is arguably the world's first foldable smartphone for the masses. Launched in February this year, the phone comes with a flexible display that measures 7.3 inches and can deliver a tablet-like experience. There is also a secondary display that comes into force once the handset is folded. Although Samsung saw some criticism over the flimsy design of the Galaxy Fold, it made some improvements and fixed the initial design flaws to make the smartphone ready for the global markets. The Galaxy Fold runs Android 9 Pie so far, though it is likely to receive an update to Android 10 sometime next year.

Release year- 2019

 

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Jagmeet Singh Tech journalist by profession, tech explorer by passion. Budding philomath. More
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