As if having the Nokia brand back wasn't enough of a nostalgia hit for mobile lovers, new owners HMD Global have also brought back one of the most beloved phones of the past: the Nokia 3310. New Atlas got some hands-on time with it at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
If you're of a certain age, you might remember the first time the Nokia 3310 came around – it was one of the coolest phones you could have around the turn of the millennium – but if you're too young to have experienced that phase of tech pop culture, you may be wondering what made it such a hit.
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A mobile phone that's limited to texts and calls seems very basic today, but in 2000 the market was a lot different: To have a wireless phone that was so compact (with no aerial antenna), so robust, and so light and ergonomic for its time really made the 3310 (and indeed the 3210 that preceded it) stand out. Excellent battery life didn't do it any harm either.
The layout of the keys and the moulded shape of the phone made multi-tap typing very fast indeed, and in Snake II it had a game that was actually entertaining even on a monochrome, 84 x 48 pixel screen. The age of digital distraction had begun.
These qualities help explain why HMD Global has decided to bring it back. The 2017 edition of the phone has some modern extras, like a camera, but it mostly sticks to the original formula in terms of look and feel. Even the original ringtone is back.
And having a play around with it at MWC, we feel it embodies an excellent balance between retro cool and modern functionality. The color screen is basic but bright, while the tweaked physical buttons mean you won't miss a touchscreen too much. It's also remarkable how quickly the muscle memory of typing on nine keys returns.
The phone fits snugly in the hand and feels as sturdy as the original – perhaps even more so. We even had a quick game of Snake – which is now in color – and the old addiction started to creep back again.
It's a perfect bit of tech nostalgia (see also the NES Classic Edition) but is anyone actually going to buy one?
Those who need a second phone perhaps, or who can live without Snapchatting and Instagramming. Considering these phones are only capable of connecting to 2G speeds (networks that are in the process of being shut off in countries like the US and UK) the real target market seems to be the developing world.
The Nokia 3310 stand here in Barcelona has been packed out all week with interested observers, the HMD reps confirmed to me, but really this seems destined to be nothing more than a retro curio in parts of the world where smartphones are commonplace.
HMD has done a commendable job at updating the classic 3310 for 2017 though, even if it is a marketing stunt, and I'm glad I had a chance to give it a try. If you want to claim one for yourself, it's going on sale for €49 (about US$52) in the near future.
Product page: Nokia 3310