I do miss the Wild West days of cell phones, before we'd all settled on glass rectangles. It's always fun to watch competing manufacturers trying to figure out the ideal form for a new thing, and it's not the home runs as much as the swing-and-a-miss designs that I find the most interesting. In particular, that five-year span just before the first iPhone came out is when designers seemed to have a lot of latitude to experiment.
You can now revisit this phone design frenzy, online and for free, at the Mobile Phone Museum website. Started in 2004 by London-based phone collector Ben Wood, and augmented in 2019 by fellow collector Matt Chatterley, the MPM has over 2,000 models from over 200 brands in their collection.
They've uploaded crisp shots of the phones and grouped them in categories like "Luxury," "Fashion," "Best Selling," "James Bond Phones," "Firsts" (i.e. first SMS-capable phone) and more. The two categories I found the most fun to browse were "Ugliest" and "Japan," and yes, there's some overlap between the two.
Wood and Chatterley are still on the lookout for some elusive models. "There are still many iconic phones we are searching for," they write. "If you have any devices shown below or others not in the catalogue, we'd love to hear from you."
If you've got any of the following kicking around in a drawer, consider dropping them a line: