I’ve been using and reviewing Android smartphones for at least a decade, and during that time, I’ve spent time with a wide variety of devices that mostly fall into three distinct categories: good, passable, and bad. But what about the ones that have really stirred my emotions in a negative way? The phones that have provoked a guttural, visceral response? I’m not talking about the ones I love, but the ones I’ve frankly hated.
Here are the six models that have annoyed me the most over the last 10 years of smartphone use and review, and the reasons why they’re on this list.
Google Pixel 4
I might as well start with the phone that a lot of people really like, but I don’t really like. Released in 2019, the Pixel 4 did a lot of things right, especially the excellent camera and 90Hz display. These aspects, and the power of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, helped people get past the pathetic battery usage time of the Pixel 4. 2800 mAh battery, which typically lasted less than a day.
However, this is not the reason I hate him. I hate the Pixel 4 for its looks. It’s easily one of the dullest and least attractive phones I’ve ever seen, with almost no design creativity. Flat on the back, flat on the front, and with massive bezels around the screen. Google even managed to make the glass back feel cheap and unpleasant. The names given to the colors (Clearly White, Just Black, and Oh So Orange) by a team of marketers who thought they were funny still give me the creeps.
The fact that the Pixel 4 is so hopelessly boring to look at ruined the phone for me. He’s hiding his light under a bushel, and then he’s digging a six-foot hole under the bushel, burying the light, and then taking the bushel with him, too. The Pixel 4 was a great performer, so why not put in a little effort to make it look good too? Fortunately, Google realized this when it launched the Pixel 6 series and continued the trend with the Pixel 7. We carry these phones all day, every day. Making them look decent is just as important as having good battery life, and the Pixel 4 failed on both.
What a complicated history BlackBerry had with Android. The interesting BlackBerry Priv was the first Android phone from the brand and tried to combine what made BlackBerry phones special, the physical keyboard, with a large screen. By 2015, when the Priv came out, that big screen was essential on any smartphone. But in 2017, the BlackBerry KeyOne didn’t even begin to try. With a tiny screen and a physical keyboard, it was an obnoxious throwback to when times were different. BlackBerry tried to appeal to the grumpy fans who hated modern phones that were gone, and it really showed in the KeyOne.
The fact that it was too expensive at launch was not the problem. It was the keyboard, and considering the brand we are talking about, this was a crime. Ergonomics was clearly a forbidden word when designing this hideous phone; it was poorly balanced, heavy, and poorly designed. Combine this with the keyboard’s tiny, sticky keys and tall separator bars between them, and it was all awkward and unrewarding to type on. The learning curve was ridiculous for anyone coming from a touch screen.
What might have sparked a revival of interest in a phone with a physical keyboard turned out to be the opposite. It was a relic made at a time when the excellent Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus existed, and only those who regularly complained under their breath “things were better back in my day” would have thought differently. BlackBerry knew this too, as evidenced by the vastly improved BlackBerry Key2 with its redesigned and more modern physical keyboard. They KeyOne was a crushing disappointment at the time, championed only by rude BlackBerry stalwarts.
Planet Computers Astronomical Slide
While we’re on the subject of phones with awful, nostalgic keyboards, it’s time to talk about the 2022 Planet Computers Astro Slide. Simply put, it was such a bad phone that I couldn’t spend the time and effort to fully review it. Resembling the PDA-style devices of yesteryear, it tries to appeal to people who fondly remember the good old days and then disappoints with a poor keyboard, horrible design, poor build quality, and old buggy software.
I hated the other phones mentioned so far because they could have been so much more, but I hated the Astro Slide because it was really terrible. Planet Computers is a small manufacturer, so you will always have some leeway. And if it was a prototype or a work in progress, I would have been more forgiving, but apparently it was the phone that people who paid for it would get. I still feel very sorry for all of them.
Huawei Mate 30 Pro
The Huawei Mate 30 Pro 2019 should have been an amazing smartphone. It came after the gorgeous Mate 20 Pro and the amazing Huawei P30 Pro, and it looked great. But it was the first device to be really affected by Huawei’s addition to the US government’s “entity list.” As a result, it didn’t come with Google Mobile Services. This immediately hurt the user experience, but perhaps worse is that because Huawei’s phones and software had reached such a high level of polish, it was a shock to find that the Mate 30 Pro looked unfinished, indicating that the final development had stopped unexpectedly.
He didn’t specifically hate the phone. He hated that it had been so cruelly hampered, that what could have been was not going to happen and that it heralded a difficult time for the brand outside of China. I remember trying to get used to the new world he was forcing me to live in, but I couldn’t. The Huawei Mate 30 Pro was full of potential, but it felt undercooked and uncomfortable, and the company itself went into damage control around it, which means I don’t remember it fondly. I hated getting what could have been one of the best phones of the year stolen from us.
Cheap doesn’t have to mean appalling, but the Nokia G11 2022 is close to just as bad. It’s another phone on this list that I couldn’t fully review. This wasn’t just because of the awful screen, creaky processor, or outdated and buggy software, but because it didn’t really deliver on its one big selling point: three-day battery life.
I tried, I really did, but I managed two days of battery life with just general use. That’s not bad I guess, but when the phone with three days of battery life is hyped a lot, it’s not good at all. Take away that promise and the Nokia G11 was just a disappointing budget phone. I used the G11 garbage and all its bugs for a week, only to have the battery fail repeatedly and last more than a couple of days, and that made me despise it.
I’ve saved the “best” for last. I didn’t review it, but our single-star review of the Palm (2018) was absolutely accurate, and though I used it for only brief stints, that was enough. I called it the “stupidest product of the year,” which was probably too kind. Initially released as a companion phone to its main phone, it didn’t make any sense as a product. And that’s before you consider its small screen, pitiful battery life, and weak camera.
I hated that Palm’s once-great name had been placed on a ridiculous device in an effort to appeal to those who remembered the brand. He hated that it was marketed as a phone for prevent you from using your phone a lot. I hated that the name was essentially Palm Palm, and I hated that the company had the nerve to charge $350 for it. Making it work on its own at a later date didn’t stop it from being laughable either. The Palm Palm is still such a brainless product that I still can’t believe it’s gone from being a lazy scribble on a blackboard.
Enough is enough, I can’t go on. I’m going to sit quietly with the Galaxy S23 Ultra to clear my mind and get my blood pressure under control.