Nokia 8110 – Hands-on with the Nokia banana-phone

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Back before the Matrix series had descended into weird philosophy cut with impossible fistfights, if you wanted the greatest in phone technology then you wanted whatever smartphone Nokia had released that week. The sliding Nokia 8110, the very handset that Keanu Reeves used to escape capture from his office job (something we all wish we could do), was the epitome of the future then.

Bendy and with a concealed keypad that could be exposed at a touch, the Nokia 8110 was… well, a cellular banana but back in the day we all thought it was very, very cool. We kinda still do, even if Nokia have embraced the banana-ness with their bright yellow handset and left some of its sci-fi communicator class out in the cold.

The new 8110 is an updated take on the original handset, adding in 4G to the same sort of feature phone setup seen in the Nokia 3310 in 2017. You know, the nostalgia-phone that caught all of our attentions back then? Memories are proving profitable.

We’ve had a chance to put a hand on the Nokia 8810 and we’re here to say: This could be the phone you want to be seen using this year. Meet 2018’s head-turner.

DESIGN & BUILD

We know that pants have gotten tighter over the years but however you choose to wear your jeans (we won’t judge), you’re going to have to pay attention to the way that the Nokia 8110 slips in over your hips. If it’s going in backwards, you’re going to notice. It’s the bend that does it.

You won’t have to worry about the keyboard typing out messages against your thigh though, the 8110’s sliding panel covers it nicely and keeps its buttons protected. There is something missing here though: The spring-loaded action we saw when we first fell in love with this phone in The Matrix has been taken out. Hey, this is a budget handset which’ll be going for €79 (about R1,150) when it launches — probably a little more here. You can’t have everything (at this price point, anyway).

This 8110 harks back to the design notes that Nokia was best known for. The Nokia devices (which went on to become Nokia Lumia and then Microsoft) might have been cursed with one of the worst mobile operating systems ever but there’s not denying that they looked good which doing so. These new ones are doing well in the looks department.

The 8110 is  set to be available in black but why would you do that to yourself? It’s also available in a bright yellow (as seen here) so you’re probably never going to lose it. you could also use it as a signalling device if you’re ever lost at sea. See? Dual-purpose.

The whole handset is made from polycarbonate plastics, feeling sturdy and comfortable while in-hand. You’re not going to feel like it’ll snap in half during use and the light-up keys will save you from fumbling around in the darkness trying to get used to physical buttons again. The phone is novel and, as these things go, quite unique — which will be your main reason for picking one up.

SCREEN & CAMERA

Your other reasons are perhaps less than present. There’s not much to speak of regarding the phone’s other specs. We’ve got an LCD display showing a load of low-fi text and icons and something that’s only ever seen by choice these days: pixellation. We’ve only handled the phone inside so we have no idea how brightness holds up — we suspect it isn’t not going to be great.

The 8110 has sprung for a colour screen, which is one up on its originator, and there’s no such thing as a touchscreen in sight. You’re going to have to remember how buttons work.

It’s the same deal with the camera found here: This 2MP cam is basically the same unit found in last year’s 3310 and if you used one you’ll know that it’s as basic as it gets. You know, you’ll only call them photos because they were captured using a sensor and not jotted down on a sketch-pad by someone who left their glasses at home. Okay, it’s not that bad but we’ve been spoiled for phone cameras for an awfully long time. This is going to feel like travelling back in time by comparison.

Which is what we’re signing up for, if we’re being totally honest. It’s a retro-styled device bearing retro-spec hardware along with a few improvements because what, do we live in a cave? The camera is a little neanderthal, though.

SOFTWARE

We’d like to take this space to regale you about the performance enhancements displayed by the Nokia 8110 but it’s a feature phone and it doesn’t have any. None of them do, though, so this isn’t a strike against it. It’s just how feature phones work.

It does have some processing power, if we’re being totally honest, but it’s mostly taken up by controlling the camera or playing Snake. Yes, the updated Snake is installed here. No, you’re never going to beat our high score. That’s it as far as power goes.

The operating system bears this out, being a basic list of icons that will let you jump between calls, messages, a gallery, music player, and a handful of other apps. The concession to modernity is the 4G connection, which will let you download a couple of other functions but don’t expect miracles. 4G should make it easier to download items and browse the web faster, which is something we could have done with in the revamped 3310. We might have been nicer to it.

We haven’t have any long-term time with the 8110 but we’re expecting battery life to be the power feature. If we’re using the 3310 as a base-line, uptime should consist of at least a few days and possibly as long as a week (or more) if you’re using it the way that the original 8110 was used back in the day (i.e. no internet). We’ll know about this one for sure once we can put it through some proper paces later this year.

NOKIA 8110 INITIAL VERDICT

If you were unimpressed with the release of Nokia’s 3310 last year, considering it little more than a cash grab, then the Nokia 8110 isn’t going to do anything to change your mind. It’s the same basic idea this year, a call-back to the past which is designed to hit you right in the 90s feels. Assuming you were around then.

It’s not ever going to be your primary device, though, unless you’re the biggest hipster in your circle of friends (and your circle consists of members of the Hipster Council). For most the Nokia 8110 is going to be a nice-to-have, to wave around when you’re goofing off or for keeping in the car for emergencies. And it’s suited for the task.

It’ll get you through several days on a single charge and it’ll grab all the attention whenever you whip it out to make a call or send a text. Or use it to flag someone down while stranded on a roadside. That’s as much as you can ask for from a cheaper reissue of a classic smartphone.

We’re going to be giving the 4G-upgraded 8110 a test closer to the launch date. It’s due out around May this year so keep an eye on Stuff around then for a full review. If we can stop ourselves from sneaking around cubicles long enough to write it.

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