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The modular dream

The modular dream

The modular dream

The modular dream

The modular dream

Smaller is not better

Smaller is not better

Dual screens

Dual screens

Dual screens

Dual screens

Dual screens

Dual screens

3D anything

3D anything

3D anything

This isn't 3D

Kickstands

Kickstands

A Facebook phone

A Facebook phone

Smartphone convertibles

Smartphone convertibles

Smartphone convertibles

Smartphone convertibles

WiMax

A Facebook phone

Smartphone convertibles

Smartphone convertibles

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

Caption by / Photo by CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Jason Cipriani/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Lynn La/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller

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

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Andrew Hoyle/CNET

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.)

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by CNET

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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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.

Caption by / Photo by CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Bonnie Cha/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by James Martin/CNET
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