Nokia 3310: what's the allure of a retro "dumbphone"?

The iconic handset is returning - but it's more expensive than other phones with similarly basic features. So why all the hype?

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Tired of your efficient smartphone that allows you to navigate the world seamlessly? Well, luckily for you, Nokia have just announced the release of an updated 3310 handset, based on the famous 17-year-old original - one of the most successful mobiles of all time.  At this point in the article I am now legally obliged to mention that the model has the game Snake.

So why the re-emergence of the durable classic?

Nokia have cited the legacy of the phone as a reason for the relaunch, stating it was “what consumers have been asking for”. If this sounds like PR fodder, then it probably is. Ronan de Renesse, Practice Lead in Consumer Technology at Ovum, a technology consultancy, is unenthusiastic about the new (old?) handset. “This is a dying device category with less than 10% global share of sales,” he explains. “The main potential here would be if Nokia starts a ‘handset-as-an-accessory’ trend whereby people change handsets regularly to reflect their mood of the day, like a piece of fashion. This is not very likely though.”

What does it offer?

The anachronistic phone offers a mishmash of features. The updated version has a colour display as well as a camera, and is lighter and thinner than the previous model. It can last for a month on standby - which is a valuable feature, but nothing more outstanding than a regular low-budget phone. Notably, one of the biggest flaws is its lack of 3G, as the phone works on a frequency that has been phased out across countries like North, Central and South America.

Will anyone buy it?

Debatable. By 2020, 2.87 billion people worldwide will have smart phones, and there doesn’t appear to be any regression in that trend. Whilst it can be alluring to detox with a “dumb phone”, the Nokia 3310 is more expensive than other basic handsets. It will be €50 (£42), in comparison to many£15 models. “You can buy much more useful or interesting devices for that price point like a low-end Android tablet, an activity tracker or a media streamer,” says de Renesse.

One of the explanations for this odd proposition might be the company behind it, HMD Global, which bought a contract to the Nokia name for ten years. Without the original Nokia team, the phone’s character has been lost.