Ben Hutton: This is not the Nokia you're looking for

There's been a lot of coverage about the triumphant return of the Nokia 3310 '“ unveiled at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) where I got my hands on one.

Ben Hutton gives his verdict on the retro Nokia 3310 handset. Picture: Martin Landi/PA Wire
Ben Hutton gives his verdict on the retro Nokia 3310 handset. Picture: Martin Landi/PA Wire

Well, I had a Nokia 3310 when they first came out in 2000 and here are three reasons why this thing I held in my hand ain’t that.

Not a Nokia

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Firstly, and this is arguably the least important of the reasons, It’s not built by Nokia. Not unlike the route Kodak and Polaroid have taken before them, “Nokia” is merely the brand, a word to emblazon at the top of the handset.

HMD Global now owns the brand – the second-largest manufacturer of “feature phones” in the world. Even the Snake of old is a horrible new version, produced by Gameloft.

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Secondly, the new 3310 doesn’t look the same as the original. The screen is colour, and an entirely different dimension – a 2.4 inch 240x320 colour LCD versus the original’s 1.5 inch, 84x48 pixels available in glorious monochrome. The menu keys are structured and placed differently, as are the number keys.

Physically it’s much reduced – a slippy 79.6g versus the original’s hefty 133g – which it largely achieves by being half as thick and slightly wider and taller. Essentially, if the original was a Mars Bar, this is a Mars Bar someone sat on. It also comes in a range of jaunty bright colours – an element only available on the original with the addition of snap-on cases.

Spiritual successor

Perhaps then we are meant to take this phone as a spiritual successor to the 3310 but does that really follow? The original 3310 was a phone with advanced features at an affordable price.

The spirit of that is better advanced by HMD’s other offerings at MWC. The original Nokia retailed for £129.99, a price point that will now get you the brand new “Nokia 3”. The Nokia 3, an Android phone, has a 5-inch display, 2GB of ram, 16GB of storage and a quad-core processor. It’s more powerful than the desktop you were using in 2000 – by some distance.

The HMD Global staff at MWC talked to me about their company “democratising” the powerful features of phones by making them affordable – something the original phone did very well and their new offerings also seem to do – barring this new 3310.

In its own right

So then, this new Nokia 3310 doesn’t look, feel, or engender the spirit of the original – all they really have in common is some keys and the word “Nokia”. That surely won’t satisfy anyone’s nostalgia.

What then as just a handset – unencumbered by the weight of its model number? Well, it is being touted as the phone to travel with; one you put in a rucksack or a glove compartment. But… it uses the 900MHZ and 1800MHZ networks that are the 2G networks of old, which are being turned off in many countries including the US and Canada.

So, that just leaves great battery life?

But here’s the thing – your phone right now has a great battery life – if you don’t use it – or just use it for the occasional text.

Even leaving that to one side – there are better options a fraction of the cost of this model – other Nokia phones in fact. The Nokia 130, for instance, has a colour screen, Bluetooth, expandable storage, an MP3 player and a standby time of 36 days – and it’s £14.99 from Tesco, less than a third of the price of the circa €49 (£42) this is being sold for.

So, in summary, it doesn’t look like, feel like, or act in the spirit of the original. This isn’t the 3310 you are looking for.

• Ben Hutton is client services director at mobile apps developer xDesign