Before selling most of its phone business to Microsoft in 2014, Nokia was working on a few different products that the company hoped would help it remain relevant in the smartphone space that was already becoming dominated by Android and iOS. But some of those products never saw the light of day… until prototypes surfaced on eBay in 2019.

Now Dimitrios Vlachos has posted hands-on pictures and videos giving us a closer look at two never-released Nokia phones, the Nokia Ion Mini 2 and the Nokia Kataya.

Left: Nokia Kataya / Right: Nokia Ion Mini 2

Nokia Ion Mini 2

The Nokia Ion Mini 2 is a tiny phone with a small display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor (1.2 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7), and an Android-based operating system called nauOS.

While the operating system was based on Android 4.4 KitKat, it had a customer launcher that arranged apps in the app drawer in a list format rather than a grid. You could also navigate by drawing a letter on the screen with a fingertip to jump to apps with names starting with that letter of the alphabet.

The phone had no physical keys for home, back, or recents on the front and instead relied on gesture navigation.

Interestingly, the phone also has a wedge-shaped design. It’s thicker near the top of the phone than the bottom, possibly making it easier to view when placed flat on a table and/or providing a little extra space for the battery.

Nokia Kataya

This prototype has a boxy design with square corners, a single button at the bottom of the screen, and a small display (although it appears to be larger than the Ion Mini 2).

The most interesting thing about Kataya is that it runs a unique operating system and it’s unclear if it’s a fork of Android or the Linux-based “Meltemi” operating system that was allegedly under development for entry-level smartphones or feature phones.

Dimitrios Vlachos / @ileios

Anyway, Vlachos runs through the phone’s settings and some apps in a series of hands-on videos. While it appears to have many of the features of a modern smartphone including a touchscreen display, support for WiFi, mobile data, and accessibility features, the user interface is pretty basic and the list of included apps is pretty short.

There’s a calculator, calendar, and clock app (with support for night mode), plus an email app with support for Exchange and Gmail accounts, a Messages app, and a photo album app. Other features include an on-screen virtual keyboard and a phone dialer. You know, foundational stuff for a modern smartphone with a touchscreen display.

While there’s no way to know whether either of these phones would have been successful if they were actually released, there was a time when Nokia was the biggest mobile phone maker in the world. The company dominated the space from around 1998 through 2008. But as smartphones began to supplant regular cellphones, Nokia struggled to keep up and eventually started to take a try-anything-and-everything approach that involved developing its own Linux-based operating systems and shipping phones powered by Android or Windows.

These days the Nokia name lives on in the mobile space… but only because a startup called HMD that was founded by former Nokia executives eventually acquired the rights to use the Nokia brand name on their Android phones after Microsoft gave up its dream of making Windows phones.

The Nokia Ion Mini 2 and Nokia Kataya prototypes provide a glimpse of what might have happened if Nokia had continued experimenting. While the phones themselves aren’t all that impressive, I can’t help but wonder where these evolutionary paths might have led if they had continued. Maybe Nokia would be launching an Ion 12 with the latest custom version of Android soon, or a Kataya 9 phone with the latest iteration of its custom operating system and a new coat of modern polish.

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