Nokia 3310 hands-on - Nokia's 'dumbphone' is winning everyone over at MWC - Stuff

Nokia 3310 hands-on – Nokia’s ‘dumbphone’ is winning everyone over at MWC

Judging by the reaction to the 3310 at MWC 2017, you’d think that Nokia was back at the height of its powers. But no, this isn’t the year 2000, it’s 2017, and the reaction reveals just how much the Finnish brand’s classic phones are revered.

The Nokia 3310 aims to bring back everything you loved about those plastic bricks you owned in the ’90s. It’s sturdy, and while we didn’t test this out, we imagine it’d survive an unintended meeting with the pavement just fine. It lasts a month on standby, or gives you 22 hours of talktime. And it has Snake.

Of course, managing such extraordinary battery-based feats means there’s a lot it also doesn’t do. First of all, it doesn’t boast a touchscreen – everything’s done through the keypad. It also doesn’t have Wi-Fi, which constantly sips away on the battery, so it also doesn’t offer notifications. Hell, it doesn’t even support apps really, aside from the ones pre-installed and available through the Opera Store.

So why are people going nuts for this thing? We went hands-on to try to find out.

PLASTIC FANTASTIC

First of all, let’s cover off the basics. The Nokia 3310 will be available in Q2 2017 for €49 (R670). That’s right, R670 – you could buy 19 of them for the price of one iPhone 7. It’s available in four colours – red, yellow, grey and blue, and while it will be a matter of personal taste, we were most taken with the yellow one.

Why? Well, the 3310 is so shamelessly functional and plastic, the bright yellow styling of it makes quite a nice counterpoint to the boring black/metal finishes of more premium phones. If you’re looking at buying the 3310, you may as well lean into it and embrace that cheap plastic-y-ness.

That said, it at least feels sturdy. You can’t pull the fascia off and replace it with new colours à la the old Nokias, but you can take the back panel off and replace the battery if you so desire. It also feels built to last, but with some cheeky styling – the base of the screen seems intended to represent a smile, for example.

Sitting above that smile is a display with 2.4-inch QVGA screen which crucially isn’t touch-sensitive – you use the buttons to interface with the device. Oh, and it’s running on Nokia’s Series 30+ software, which sadly isn’t an Android fork. Hey, you wanted retro, so you’re getting retro.

OPERA SINGER

When it comes to utility, though, the Nokia 3310 actually packs some welcome surprises.

First of all, it supports dual SIM cards, so you can run it on two networks at the same time. There’s a headphone socket (which should go without saying, but hey, it’s worth confirming in this day and age) but the phone does have Bluetooth if you want to use wireless speakers or a headset. And there’s a microSD slot which supports cards up to 32GB, so you could use the phone as a pretty serviceable portable music player.

While the Nokia 3310 certainly isn’t intended for anyone who’s addicted to Snapchat, Tinder or any other number of always-on social apps, it won’t be completely useless to Millenials. It comes with the Opera browser and supports 2G connectivity, meaning you can check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram no problem. In fact, because it uses Opera, it automatically optimises pages for image size, meaning everything should be fairly quick to load.

It also has a 2MP rear camera with flash, meaning you can still take shots and video to be uploaded to social networks later. There are a host of built-in apps as well. There’s a flashlight, a converter, stopwatch – all the usual “must-haves” that Nokias have offered since the late ’90s.

Which, naturally, leads us on to Snake, which if anything may be a little too advanced for fans of the monochrome original. This new version of the game moves at much more precise angles than up, down, left or right, but the same rules apply: eat fruit, get bigger, avoid crashing into your ever-elongating body.

There are also a load of other built-in apps that have become much more essential to our modern lives since then – calendar, notes, contacts etc. We didn’t get chance to see how these synced, if at all, but they’re there if you’re happy to get locked into Nokia’s system. We were also pleased/amazed to see an FM radio on there, with your wired headphones acting as the aerial.

BURNER PHONE

With all of these limitations, who is the Nokia 3310 actually for? Well, emerging markets such as parts of Africa for one, where mobile networks are still in the process of developing. We’re… pretty well developed but we still want it to launch here.

There are plenty of other use-cases, including festivals and gigs where you don’t want to risk losing a premium smartphone. It’s also something to have in your glovebox, or to give to someone who doesn’t want or need a smartphone, such as a young or elderly relative.

Then there’s the pure nostalgia factor – there are groups of people who’ll think it’s funny/cool to own a Nokia phone that doesn’t even have Wi-Fi, and not all of them live in Cape Town. Even we were surprised at how quickly we got back into T9-based texting again.

From our experience at the press showing, there were so many people who seemed to love the idea of having a phone that they didn’t have to charge for weeks on end. We’d hazard a guess that there are also those who want to be available to their loved ones, but are beginning to lament the always-on nature of modern smartphones.

One thing’s for sure, though, judging by the reaction on social media, the Nokia 3310 is going to be a big hit. We’ll have a full review just as soon as we can get our hands on one.

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