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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.

Published:Caption:Photo:Josh Miller/CNET
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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.

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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.

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