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Why the Nokia 3310 revival is a non-starter

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Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.
nokia 3310 shutterstock

The breadth of coverage afforded to the Nokia 3310's comeback must have surprised even the Nokia brand’s current owners, HMD.

The handset’s return was one of the lead items on the BBC TV News. Pretty much every mainstream newspaper and tech site ran news about it, mostly alongside misty-eyed eulogies to the original model.

And, of course, the 3310 trended on Twitter, where we were inevitably inundated with age-old memes about the handset's legendary capacity to take a knocking and keep on rocking.

It's not hard to fathom the reasons for the acres of column inches it generated.

Everyone had one, for starters. And everyone likes to wallow in nostalgia every now and then too, which means plenty of clicks, plenty of 'likes' and shares and loads of wistful reminiscences in comment sections.

But whether that blanket coverage and passing interest from consumers will translate into sales is a very, very different matter.

It'll depend in part on how Nokia juggles competing expectations.

On one hand, it's got to keep the new edition true to its roots and retain the 3310's traditional strengths (cockroach-style capacity to endure anything you can throw at it, simple navigation, long battery life).

But on the other, it's surely going to have to find a way to incorporate a browser, email and a camera in order for anyone to consider buying one, even to use as a second, so-called 'beater' phone.

nokia 3310 meme battery

For instance, add a colour screen and more features and Nokia may compromise the battery life that many regard as the 3310's standout feature.

You also risk upsetting the hard-core fans who want the look and feel of the reissued phone to stay true to the original.

But even if Nokia does find a middle way, are people really prepared to take the giant step back in time that ownership of the remixed 3310 will entail?

I’m not sure they are. Not if my experience with tech time-travel is anything to go by.

This week, I picked up an ancient, but mint condition, 3310 from a refurb phone site. It was a very rude awakening, indeed. And it proved to me that where tech is concerned, nostalgia really is best left in the past.

Unlike mid-2000s Nokias (stand up the 7600 that looks like a game controller) that showcased wacky designs, the 3310’s candybar design is drab and utilitarian. No amount of retina-searingly colourful, swappable covers can change that.

nokia 3310 resized

The same goes for the black and white screen, which recalls spreadsheets and grinding pragmatism.

Going from my iPhone 7 to the 3310 feels like going from the technicolour abundance of ‘50s America to a grim Soviet satellite state.

Not having on-the-go email is perhaps something I can get used to. And maybe the same goes for having endless games and entertainment at my fingertips.

But here’s the thing: why should I? I don’t have to, after all. And it seems to me the only people who would want to are hair shirt-wearing puritans whose idea of a good time is thrashing themselves with birches to purge their sins.

Then there’s the battery life. Sure, the Nokia 3310 is indefatigable. But that’s partly because its limited range of functions means I don’t have cause or the inclination to use it much.

Contrast that with modern smartphones which the average user checks a staggering 85 times every day.

Where I’ll concede the 3310 puts modern phones in the shade is in durability. But there are solutions available that make new handsets just as hard-wearing.

Think: Otterbox cases, the best of which will waterproof your phone too and boost battery life while it’s at it.

I can only see myself ever going back to a 3310 if we’re ever hit by an extinction-level event that took out 3G and 4G networks.

But until that doomy future arrives, my 3310 will be gathering dust next to my dull Neo Soul records, engineered jeans and Flat Eric puppet.

Still think you want a Nokia 3310? Here's what we think Nokia needs to do to make it a hit.

Category: Features
Tagged: nokia, nokia 3310

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