HMD Global probably stole the spotlight at MWC 2017 when it brought back the much-loved Nokia name, but it was the revamped Nokia 3310 in particular that turned a lot of heads, promising all the nostalgia of the iconic, indestructible feature phone after 17 years.
In a smartphone and app-hungry age, one might assume that feature phones would be at a disadvantage, given they lack many of the features we've come to depend on. Today, we find ourselves tied to social and communication apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp, but the Nokia 3310 (2017) is right out of the T9 era when we had to type sentences by learning which number keys to hit in sequence. For better or worse, a lot has changed in the past ten years, and we wonder whether the new Nokia 3310 can really find a place among smartphones today.
If you have fond memories of that time, you might already be feeling its appeal. So, is the Nokia 3310 (2017) a much-needed blast from the past, or is it a relic better left untouched? We break it down for you.
The very first thing you'll notice about the new Nokia 3310 (2017) is its vibrant outer shell, especially if you get the glossy Red or Yellow options. It's certainly eye-catching, and you'll want to show it off just for the looks you get. Compared to today's smartphones, the palm-sized Nokia 3310 feels thin and extremely light, at around 80 grams. Those who are used to carrying around a smartphone may find this a little disconcerting initially, but it won't take long for the comfort to grow on you.
Since this is a 'revamped' Nokia 3310, it borrows plenty of design cues from the original. That's partially true for the front, which has a similar white band around the screen, though the screen itself is now full-colour and much larger. The body is also curvier than that of the original. But the Nokia 3310 (2017) isn't trying too hard to recreate the past - the buttons look and feel different, and there are more modern navigation keys. On the back, you'll see a brand new camera with an LED flash sitting prominently above the Nokia logo, and there's a 3.5mm socket on the bottom.
Of course, durability is one of the key attributes that made the Nokia 3310 stay with us (both physically and metaphorically) till today. The new version does feel pretty solid, and you can safely drop it without your heart skipping a beat.
Although HMD Global claims that outdoor readability in sunlight is good, we felt that the 2.4-inch QVGA (240x320-pixel) display is actually highly reflective, and you will need to set the backlight level above average to be able to read the screen under bright light. The colour screen isn't true to the original Nokia 3310 but it's a choice that was necessary, and it does make the device much more usable.
You'll be greeted with an updated Nokia ringtone, which might bring a smile to your face. However, as far as nostalgia is concerned, it probably ends there.
The phone's UI is new, but you'll see similarities to the original and is easy enough to understand. In the menu you'll find icons for apps like Photos, Music Player, Opera Mobile Store, Calendar, Weather, Calculator, FM Radio, Voice Recorder, and a new version of the classic Snake game. That's pretty much all you get, and if you're looking at this phone as an alternative to a smartphone, you'll find yourself facing the reality that there's not much else you can do after 5-10 minutes.
One of the biggest USPs of the Nokia 3310 (2017) is the good old Snake game. Yes, the beloved Snake is back, with an expected refresh. It's colourful and peppy but that doesn't altogether mean that it's good. Playing the new Snake game (with all its modes and free roaming) didn't really bring back the memories of the original as much as we had hoped it would. We just didn't feel as satisfied with it as we did with the original. Developer Gameloft traded the minimalistic, simple, fixed navigation of the old version for much busier, more modern look and feel, but in our opinion, it went too far. So, as much as HMD Global tries to sell this phone based on nostalgia for Snake, you'll probably find yourself playing one of the other pre-loaded demos, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline and Diamond Twister 2 or download a limited collection of java games from the Apps and Games store.
The new Nokia 3310 features dual Micro-SIM slots and support for up to 32GB microSD cards. There's 16MB of internal storage, out of which you'll be able to work with only about 1.5MB, so you'll need a microSD card to store photos or songs.
The retail box contrails a standard 3.5mm headset that can be used to listen to music and play FM radio. Audio quality is okay. Call quality is also decent without the headset, but you do get better clarity with the headset on.
The D-pad for navigation is an improvement over the single-axis scroll buttons of the original, in our opinion. You can quickly get to the SMS, Calendar, Contacts, and Flashlight apps, for example, by assigning shortcuts to each of the four direction keys. The T9 keyboard is a pleasant nod to the original, but after a decade of being spoiled by smartphones, typing on it can feel quite frustrating.
The fact that we even have a performance segment here might seem funny, but this is after all a mobile phone, and even feature phones can be judged on how well their limited UIs work. Using the new Nokia 3310 isn't any problem, and the preloaded apps open pretty snappily.
The Nokia Series 30+ operating system, which comes from MediaTek, is pretty decent as far as feature phones are concerned, and it's been used before for the likes of the Nokia 150. You get the Opera Mini browser preloaded where you can surf Facebook, Twitter, Google, check your mail, or any other website, but without Wi-Fi or 3G/ 4G connectivity, you'll probably pull out your hair out by the time a webpage opens. You can also download very stripped-down company versions of Twitter and Facebook apps from the Apps and Games section, but there's no support for WhatsApp which is a huge loss for budget-conscious buyers. You'll have to use the SMS app for messaging.
The camera on the back of the Nokia 3310 has an LED flash, but can only take 2-megapixel photos. There's nothing really to boast about in terms of image quality. It captures colours well enough under sunlight, but the focus isn't very sharp. Images taken in the dark are bad even when using the flash, so it's not a good idea to depend on this camera for anything. Photos are probably best seen only on the little 2.4-inch screen and aren't worth sharing on social media. You can also record video, but the focus doesn't hold up well when moved around fast so you want to record it moving as slow as possible for a smoother outcome. Without a microSD card, you'll only be able to store around 7-10 photos, at best. The camera does get some image effects as well, including Sepia and Black and White, which you'll likely use a lot to pretty up the photos.
The 1200mAh battery of the Nokia 3310 promises talk time of up to 22 hours and standby time of up to a month. In our time with the phone, we found the battery level was well over 50 percent after playing games, calling, and listening to music for around 2-3 hours each day for four days. That tells us we could get up to a week between charges, which is not uncommon for feature phones. The Nokia 150 has a 1020mAh battery and also promises roughly the same battery life, and it's priced at around Rs. 2,000.
We can honestly see the Nokia 3310 as more of a secondary handset for current smartphone users than something one would solely depend on. As you use it, you're likely to keep finding new things that are missing or that it can't do, such as Wi-Fi, 3G/4G connectivity and GPS, which you take for granted in today's world.
It's been clear from the start that HMD Global is selling the Nokia 3310 (2017) largely for the sake of nostalgia. There are a few things that do bring back the feeling of owning an original Nokia 3310, such as the classic Nokia ringtone, the physical buttons, the tiny body, and solid build quality. That might be enough for Nokia fans to grab this phone, and sure enough, it has already sold out just as fast as the Galaxy S8 in the UK. The question is whether they're buying this phone to use it, or just as a novelty or collectible.
HMD Global told Gadgets 360 that the Nokia 3310 in India is seeing a good response as well with the initial batch already having sold out, and that's a sign that people are willing to pay a little more for the Nokia-branded handset that offers dependability, durability, and good looks. So, we could see the feature phone as something people would buy out of fancy. It does have something more to offer for those users who wish to upgrade from the Nokia 105, but probably won't affect Nokia 230 users all that much.
The new Nokia 3310 essentially has three things to offer - its looks, battery life, and Snake. But at Rs. 3,310, this isn't the most affordable device you can get with those features. In fact, a lot of entry-level smartphones from the likes of Karbonn or Micromax, for example, can now be found in this price range, and in a world where WhatsApp is seen as a necessity, the Nokia 3310 (2017) simply doesn't have what a lot of buyers need.
While HMD Global has managed to drum up a lot of attention by bringing this old classic to the modern world, it's not the best choice for those who want functionality at the lowest possible price, or who want to try a somewhat minimalist phone but still be able to use essential apps. For many people, it won't be enough to offer just good voice quality, SMS functionality, and a game or two to pass time.
Is Nokia 3310 more the company’s most effective marketing strategy? We discussed this on our weekly tech podcast Orbital, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, or listen to by hitting the play button below.