Last year Samsung made a splash with the Galaxy S20+ 5G BTS Edition (and Galaxy Buds+ BTS Edition), but that’s no surprise – BTS is one of the best-known music acts around the world right now and everything they touch draws in crowds of fans (even if it’s a McDonalds meal). But this was far from the company’s first attempt to use music superstars to promote its gadgets.
Back in 2007 Samsung (and Sprint) released the Beyonce-themed B’Phone, a limited edition version of the Samsung UpStage M620. The phone had two sides – a simple-looking feature phone and a media player with a music controls and a larger 2.1” 176 x 220 px display (well, larger than the line display that was on the other side).
The B’Phone promoted by Beyonce • A regular Samsung UpStage, back and front
The exterior was changed to a gold-and-burgundy color palette (designed by singer herself) and offered exclusive downloadable content, including a song called “632-5792” (a phone number) that Beyonce wrote when she was 10. That was it, though, if you wanted more songs, you had to load them on a microSD card yourself (the UpStage supported cards up to 2 GB).
Nokia knew the value of celebrity promotion too, but instead of going to any one celeb, the Finns decided to cast a wide net and in 2004 (in partnership with AT&T) released the Nokia 3200 and Nokia 3300 American Idol limited edition phones. They were priced $50 to $70 and sold through multiple music stores (e.g. Sam Goody, Media Play, Suncoast).
The simple 3200 got nothing but branding – with no card slot, barely any memory and no music player, there was little hope for it. The 3300 was a different story, however. Regular readers of Flashback will remember it as a sequel to the QWERTY-packing 5510 and as the “Black Phone”, a Jay-Z branded special edition.
Years later the company tried something similar with the Nokia 5228 X-Factor (in some regions the phone was known as the 5233). This Symbian-powered (resistive) touch phone was a cheaper version of the 5800 XpressMusic, Nokia’s first attempt to fight the iPhone.
The Nokia 5228 X-Factor edition: yes, it looks the same, but it has some pre-loaded content
Thankfully, it was 2010, so the phone came with a standard 3.5mm headphones jack and microSD slot (not MMC like the 3300). However, all you got with this special edition was the X-Factor app pre-loaded along with some wallpapers and ringtones from the show.
Also in 2010 T-Mobile partnered with legendary guitarist Eric Clapton to reveal the myTouch 3G Fender limited edition. The Android 1.6 smartphone by HTC was given a fake wood grain exterior with the trademark Fender sunburst finish (even the included headphones were customized).
A 16GB microSD was preload with some of Clapton’s best-known classics including “Layla,” “My Father’s Eyes,” “Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart” and “Wonderful Tonight”. Also, two apps came pre-installed: Guitar: Solo and Musical Light.
The (HTC) T-Mobile myTouch 3G Fender Limited Edition with the trademark Fender sunburst finish
T-Mobile also offered ways to spruce up the device, including more Fender-branded backs, a Fender carrying case and the Rock Dock, a docking station with built-in speakers. The carrier also debuted a multimedia sync solution that allowed users to sync music, video and photos between their Windows or Mac computers and their phone (it’s obvious that T-Mo was looking for an alternative to iTunes).
The T-Mobile myTouch 3G Fender edition was available in T-Mobile retail stores (and online) at $180 (plus taxes and fees) with a 2-year contract.
Over the years there have been other phones promoted by famous musical acts. A more recent example is the Galaxy A80 Blackpink special edition from 2019 (BTS wasn’t the first K-pop band that Samsung has tapped for promotional purposes).
What’s your favorite music-themed limited edition phone?