Last week at Mobile World Congress, many of the world’s biggest smartphone makers unveiled their latest top-end devices. But despite the cutting-edge tech on display, the device that stole the show was the updated Nokia 3310.
So why, at an expo designed to show off the very latest in mobile innovation, were we all so wowed by a phone that first hit the shelves 17 years ago and offers precious little in the way of modern features?
In the last few years, the progression of mobile technology has definitely slowed down, with even the latest flagships from Apple and Samsung only coming out with incremental updates on their predecessors. And nowadays, most smartphones offer most of the same features and all look pretty similar. Which begs the question, have we reached the limits of smartphone functionality?
This could be the reason why we’re all getting so excited about a phone that, for better or worse, definitely stands out from the crowd, and why we’re getting nostalgic about a time when each new mobile offered something different.
So, while we’re excited to see the updated Nokia 3310, here’s a list of other retro mobiles we would love to see make a comeback.
1. Motorola RAZR V3
Back in 2004, the Motorola RAZR V3 was famously difficult to get hold of, causing long queues whenever the phone was in stock. Still, more than 50 million RAZR V3s were sold between by 2006, so clearly lots of people managed to get one.
With prices equivalent to the latest flagship from Apple or Samsung, the RAZR V3 would have cost about £40-£50 per month. It came with a 0.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth and basic internet browsing. It also offered 7 hours of talk-time on a single charge, which was pretty impressive at the time.
The thing that made this handset so popular though, was the design. Back in the early noughties, everyone was flipping out over flip phones and it’s not hard to see why. Flip phones were really cool.
And with the RAZR V3, Motorola had pretty much mastered the design of the clamshell phone. Weighing just 95g and measuring just 98 x 53 x 13.99mm, it was by far the lightest flip phone of its day and it fitted easily into a pocket.
It also had not one but two screens, so you could perform lots of functions without ever opening the clamshell. It came in a wide variety of colours too.
What do we miss about the Motorola RAZR V3?
The flip design of course. And Adele’s music video for hit song ‘Hello’ last year, which featured a Motorola flip phone, only made us more nostalgic about the classic clamshell handsets.
Although we’d love to see a return of the traditional Motorola design, the foldable phones of Samsung’s Project Valley could be the perfect solution for 2017 smartphone users.
2. iPhone 4
Okay, so perhaps this doesn’t technically count as retro, as it only came out in 2010. But it definitely deserves a mention, as it’s generally heralded as the greatest iPhone of all time.
But what was so great about it? Well, simply put, it looked a lot better than any of its predecessors and was a lot more reliable than any iPhone that has come along since.
The iPhone 4’s Retina display was a huge improvement on the 3GS. But more than that, its aluminium and glass construction made it incredibly sturdy, which was perfect for accident-prone iPhone users. No matter how many times you dropped it or knocked it, it kept on going, without so much as a scratch. Something that unfortunately cannot be said for any iPhone that has come out since.
What do we miss about the iPhone 4?
We would love Apple to create a handset as hardy as the 4. We’re fed up of smashed screens and scratched back-plates.
3. BlackBerry 6210
Released in 2003, the BlackBerry 6210 combined on-the-go email with web browsing to make it the ideal business phone.
The 6210 had a QWERTY keypad and had a scroll wheel to make it easy to navigate. Also, unlike previous BlackBerry devices, it had an integrated microphone and speaker, meaning you didn’t need to attach a headset in order to make calls.
With secure messaging and easy navigation, it wasn’t long before these devices were in the hands of pretty much every high-powered business-person of the time, cementing BlackBerry as the go-to phone-maker for professionals.
What do we miss about the BlackBerry 6210?
Although the BlackBerry 6210 wasn’t the most fun phone on the market, it was the perfect tool for doing business with. And, while we love having a handset that gives us endless options for distraction, we’re sure our employers liked the idea of our mobiles existing purely to improve our work performance.
4. LG Chocolate
With its ‘candy-bar’ shape and iPod-esque design, the LG Chocolate was the perfect phone for teens of 2006.
At a time when iPods were at the must-have device, LG managed to merge the classic shape of Apple’s music player with all the functions and features of a mobile phone. And it was extremely popular, particularly among younger people.
Just like an iPod, the LG Chocolate was a small, slab-shaped with enough storage space for music and came in a range of attractive colours. Even the circular touchpad looked similar to the classic wheel used to control an iPod.
The ‘slider’ keyboard was an absolute winner too.
What do we miss about the LG Chocolate?
As the name would suggest, this phone looked good enough to eat. And with the wide range of sumptuous colours, sliding keyboard and circular touchpad, it was pretty much the perfect phone of the day. We’d love to see some more candy-bar phones on the market.
5. Nokia 9000 Communicator
The Nokia 9000 Communicator was a smartphone before smartphones existed. When it hit the shelves back in 1996, it had all the same features as a computer, such as email, web browsing and fax. It also came loaded with a word processor and spreadsheet software.
And not only did the Nokia 9000 Communicator function as a pocket computer; it looked like one too. With a clamshell design that opened up to reveal a screen and QWERTY keyboard, it was very similar to a laptop. Except that it was pocket-sized and could make phone calls too. Which made it the ultimate business handset of the ‘90s.
What do we miss about the Nokia 9000 Communicator?
With the 9000 Communicator, Nokia got the design spot-on. It was small enough to fit in your pocket (just) but was still roomy enough to be able to use the device for its intended purpose. Instead of making compromises on the functionality of the phone just to make it more streamlined, Nokia made the handset big enough to be used as a mini laptop.
Nowadays, the closest you can get is using an iPad mini with an attachable keyboard. Which isn’t the same thing at all really. A mobile that you can actually hold in one hand and use as both a phone and a compact laptop would be pretty great.
6. Motorola V70
Released in 2002, the Motorola V70 was the world’s first phone to have a circular display. The keypad was hidden underneath a cover that rotated 180 degrees around the display dial, which made it feel like a futuristic gadget, despite the fact it had fairly basic functionality, even for the time.
The fashionable phone could fit easily in the palm of your hand and was slim enough to slip into even the tightest of jean pockets.
What do we miss about the Motorola V70?
Although the Motorola V70 was by no means the best phone on the market, we loved the fact that it was a fashion phone. And as such, it’s main selling point was simply that it looked cool. And in a world where we all seem to own identical touchscreens, there is something quite appealing about a design this unique.
7. Nokia N-Gage
On sale back in 2003, the Nokia N-Gage was a cross between a smartphone and a handheld games console. It featured MP3 and video playback and the option to play multiplayer games using Bluetooth. Gamers could also post their scores on the online hub, N-Gage Arena.
There was a decent selection of games, ranging from classics such as Tomb Raider and Sonic the Hedgehog, to newer favourites, like FIFA and Call of Duty.
Although the N-Gage was dubbed ‘the taco’ thanks to its unusual shape, the design was actually perfect for handheld gaming. Not so much for making phone calls or sending texts though.
What do we miss about the Nokia N-Gage?
We loved the concept a smartphone/games console hybrid. And although a disappointing battery life prevented it from taking the mobile and gaming worlds by storm, we’re still taken with the idea of a phone which is designed purely for gameplay.
8. Sony Ericsson P800
Sony Ericsson’s P-series was rather like the early noughties equivalent of the Samsung Note range, albeit without the exploding batteries. Released back in 2002, the P800 had a full colour touchscreen, a stylus and flip-out number pad that made the phone feel multi-functional.
One of the first devices to come out of Sony’s merger with Swedish company, Ericsson, the P800 was pretty sophisticated for the time, allowing you to edit Microsoft Office documents on the go.
What do we miss about the Sony Ericsson P800?
As Personal Digital Assistants go, the Sony Ericsson P800 was actually pretty great compared to rival phones of the era. The combination of the stylus and the fold-out number pad made it feel a comfortingly like using a traditional pen and paper, but with all the features of a 2002 smartphone.
It also fitted nicely in your pocket like a small notepad would. Not at all like the modern-day phablets that are pretty much impossible to use one-handed.
9. Samsung SPH-N270 or ‘The Matrix Phone’
Released in 2003 to coincide with the premiere of The Matrix: Reloaded, the Samsung SPH-N270 was dubbed ‘The Matrix Phone’ thanks to its futuristic design and black and green colour scheme.
Built specifically for the movie, Samsung’s Matrix phone had lots of features to please the fans, from its spring-loaded earpiece that revealed the screen, to the trademark green code on a black background that appeared on many of the phone’s menus.
Although the Matrix phone didn’t have a great deal of functionality, even for the time, it was a real collector’s item for film fanatics and looked like nothing else on the market.
What do we miss about Samsung’s Matrix phone?
Although this wasn’t the most high-spec phone of its day, we love phones designed around popular film franchises. And while Samsung has since created the limited edition the S6 Edge Ironman and the S7 Edge Batman, the links to the films are largely aesthetic. Basically, the handsets are rebranded in superhero colours, but the device itself has very little in the way of exclusive extras from the movies.
We would love an Ironman smartphone that had Jarvis as the voice assistant, or a Batman phone that looked like something built in the Batcave. Phones designed around film franchises are popular in Japan, with the likes of Disney and Star Wars collaborating on really fun, distinctive handsets. It’d be great to see devices like that over here.
10. Nokia 7280
With its unique art deco design, the Nokia 7280 was definitely a thing of beauty. Released in 2004 as part of Nokia’s fashion range, the 7280 was labelled the ‘lipstick phone’ thanks to its size and shape. It even had a tiny 1.5-inch mirror on the top.
The sharp but small screen and iPod-esque phone wheel to navigate rendered the phone itself somewhat awkward to use, while the specs of the handset definitely lagged behind other devices at the time.
This was a phone definitely built for fashion rather than functionality, but having said that, the music quality was undeniably good and it glowed red to signal an incoming call. In short, everything about it was unashamedly attention-grabbing.
What do we miss about the Nokia 7280?
In a world where we all have pretty identical-looking smartphones, it’s been a long time since the design of a device has been a real talking point. And the Nokia 7280 looked so wonderfully different to any other phone, it definitely got everyone’s attention.
While the functionality definitely left something to be desired, it was a beautiful phone that wouldn’t look out of place in a design museum. Which is more than can be said for any of the uniform smartphones we own nowadays.