Modular phones, dual screens, 3D anything. Risky designs are there to gain an edge. But, uh, they don't always work.

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The modular dream

Take modularity, for instance. LG's G5 and its snap-on parts sold so poorly, the LG G6 goes back to basics.

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The modular dream

Google also effectively shuttered its Ara project for modular phones in September 2016. This prototype from phone maker Yezz illustrated how the swappable parts would work.

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The modular dream

Another Yezz concept highlighted how customizable Ara was meant to be.

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The modular dream

That leaves Lenovo's Moto Z line, which uses magnets to snap on additional parts, like this camera Mod.

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The modular dream

While Lenovo is promising up to 12 new Mods a year, it's the last modular effort standing. This trend isn't looking too successful so far.

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Smaller is not better

Before phones took growth pills, the trend went the other way. Microsoft's embarrassingly short-lived Kin One was just too damn small.

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Smaller is not better

Palm, and later its HP owner, also got the memo too late. The HP Veer 4G's 2.6-inch display made e-mail impossible to read.

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Dual screens

The Kyocera Echo folded like a book to double your screen size, but had a rangy seam down the middle. Oh, and full-screen mode only worked for some apps.

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Dual screens

LG tried putting a screen within a screen in the LG Doubleplay, but breaking up the keyboard flustered and confused us.

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Dual screens

We didn't mind the Samsung DoubleTime's thickness, and the inner screen was useful. Too bad it started life with dated, low-end specs.

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Dual screens

YotaPhone took a different approach by putting an e-ink display on the back. Cool in theory, but the phone had too many flaws.

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Dual screens

The modern adaptation, seen in the LG V20, puts a small, slim second display on top of the first. It works fine, but isn't especially helpful.

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Dual screens

HTC's upcoming U Ultra follows suit. We won't know if its AI-triggered notifications screen helps or hinders until we can test the phone.

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3D anything

Like HTC, LG's Thrill 4G tried to introduce 3D games that nobody wound up playing.

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3D anything

3D photos, videos and screens had the briefest spark, but never caught. The HTC Evo 4G's rear-facing camera shot 3D HD video.

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3D anything

Amazon's ill-fated Fire Phone had tons of front cameras to help make a more advanced (but still gimmicky) 3D screen.

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This isn't 3D

Dual cameras don't necessarily mean 3D. Double lenses help add depth to 2D photography, which is why they're becoming a take-off trend.

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Kickstands

The sad truth is that kickstands never really caught on. They were there for a while, and then they weren't. Which is too bad. They're functional, but kept falling flat. (P.S. This is the HTC Evo 4G LTE.)

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Kickstands

That said, we're happy when they pop up from time to time, like in this recent snap-on JBL speaker Mod for the Moto Z phones.

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A Facebook phone

Did buyers "like" the HTC Status (globally known as the Cha Cha)? They did not.

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A Facebook phone

Two years later, the midrange HTC First targeted the your market with Facebook Home's skin. It went on a huge sale shortly after.

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Smartphone convertibles

In 2011, the Motorola Atrix 4G was a powerful phone you could connect to an expensive and limited laptop dock.

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Smartphone convertibles

Essentially, the phone becomes the dock's CPU. Motorola's rig also supported the Droid Bionic.

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Smartphone convertibles

Asus did something similar with its Padfone family, like this Padfone X. This had a better slotting system for its tablet portion.

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Smartphone convertibles

You could turn the phone into a tablet and a tablet into a laptop -- of sorts. The Padfone just couldn't compete against rival phones.

WiMax

You probably don't remember WiMax, but it was the first 4G of any kind in the US, and Sprint used it first. It quickly lost out to LTE on a global scale.

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A Facebook phone

"Facebook phones" with dedicated buttons and skins -- like the HTC Salsa -- failed to make a dent.

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Smartphone convertibles

You could also use it on a monitor alone. It was laggy and buggy.

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Smartphone convertibles

Microsoft's Lumia 950 used a different dock setup to create a mobile workstation using mobile social and productivity apps.

Photo by: James Martin/CNET
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