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Nokia 8110 4G review: retro rave? Or best left in the past?

Pros

  • Appealing retro design with modern concessions
  • Distinctive yellow colour
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Camera isn't brilliant
  • Tricky to use apps
  • Typing is a bit cumbersome

First impressions and design

  • Removable back
  • Curved design
  • Flimsy keypad cover

Nokia 8110  menu hero size

Whether this is the banana phone, The Matrix phone, and/or a design classic depends on your viewpoint. But there’s no doubting its place in mobile history.

Back in 1996, the original 8110 launched as the world’s first slider phone, in which the cover slid down to reveal the keypad, bringing the microphone closer to the user’s mouth.

Opening the cover also answered incoming calls, so it was a functional as well as stylistic touch.

It. Went. Off. An appearance in 1999’s The Matrix propelled it to worldwide fame, and it became the phone to own in the late ‘90s. Not bad for a handset aimed at the business market.

Twenty-two years later, it’s back, with added 4G and a new version of the equally iconic Snake game. It’s the second big retro release from Nokia owner HMD Global, following last year’s refresh of the 3310.

But 22 years is a long time, and in the fast-moving world of smartphones, it’s about six lifetimes.

In a market dominated by iPhones, Snapchat and console-quality games in your pocket, does an ancient design with a tiny screen and limited apps really hold enough appeal?

Remove the 8110 from the packaging and you're struck by how bright it is. Most modern smartphones are a bit business casual, then along comes the 8110 4G covered in more neon yellow than a 90’s rave kid.

Not that that’s a bad thing. It definitely stands out, which we’re all for.

Sure, sticklers might bridle, saying the original was a business phone, and hence such dashes of colour have no place here. But it’s a retro phone, it’s supposed to be fun.

It’s also available in black, but that just looks like a really old – but strangely well-preserved – phone.

No, the yellow is right up our street. Top marks for HMD for jumping in with both feet.

Build Plastic
Weight 117g
Dimensions 133.45x49.3x14.9mm

Screen and sound

  • Smallish display by today's standards
  • Not a touchscreen, which might be a deal-breaker for some
  • Unlike the original, it's got a colour screen

Nokia 8110 homescreen hero size

It’s a colour screen, which is a big step on from the original. But it’s only 2.45 inches with a QVGA resolution – that’s on the small side, and pretty grainy by today’s standards.

Images don’t look their best on it. It reminded us of those blocky-pixelled videogames from the mid-'80s.

It’s not a touchscreen either. Unlike some retro-styled handsets which mix buttons with some touch functionality, this is strictly a button-only affair.

As you’d expect, the colours don't pop like they do on a modern phone, with everything looking a bit pastel-ly and pale.

But text is clear enough to be legible, if nowhere near as crisp as we've become accustomed to .

The screen is also tough to read in bright sun, even with its brightness cranked right up. Thank god we’re heading into autumn then.

Size 2.45 inches
Resolution 320x240 pixels

Camera

  • Low-quality snaps
  • LED flash
  • Video recording

Nokia 8110 camera hero size

There is a camera, which is an improvement on the original 8110. But it won’t surprise you to hear it’s not a prize-winner.

We know that as a retro phone it’s meant to be a bit of fun, but two megapixels just doesn’t cut it in this day and age.

Photos lack sharpness and detail, and if you’re shooting something dark in a bright environment, forget it, the 8110 just can’t handle the contrast.

It does have an LED flash though, which is some compensation. There’s no selfie camera either (however did we manage?).

Camera Two megapixels
Optical image stabilisation Ha!
Unique features Not a sausage

Performance and battery life

  • microSD card slot offer expandable memory
  • Battery lasts ages
  • Bluetooth 4.1

Nokia 8110 back camera lens hero size

The 8110 runs the KaiOS operating system, which is specially aimed at handsets like this. As such you do get a smattering of useful, everyday apps, such as Google Maps, Google Assistant and YouTube.

It’s bizarre using Google Maps on what’s essentially a feature phone. Though it’s not an experience you’ll want to repeat.

Moving the cursor using push buttons is like navigating a menu using a TV remote control i.e. a nightmare. It’s not completely unusable, but we don't recommend it.

YouTube is a similar experience, but Google Assistant actually works just fine. Because it’s voice activated, it’s very similar to using it on a smartphone. And it’s a mighty handy addition.

Then there’s Snake. Or rather, something that calls itself Snake, but bears very little resemblance to the original.

You’re a snake, yes, and you have to eat apples to grow longer. But there the similarities end.

This version sees you having to open gates to proceed to the next level. And as you grow longer you have to avoid the cave walls.

Snake is a classic like Tetris. And like Tetris, we don’t know why people keep messing with its winning formula.

Apps are sluggish to load by today’s standards, and the menu takes some getting used to, especially after iOS or Android. Overall, we found using it a bit of an ordeal.

One highlight is the battery life. Like most phones of the era, it’ll last the best part of a week before needing a recharge. Now that we do miss.

RAM 512MB
Battery capacity 1,500mAh
OS and version Smart Feature OS powered by KaiOS

Value and verdict

  • Awesome battery life
  • Retro styling
  • No touchscreen
  • Wi-fi and 4G
  • Bluetooth
  • Some Google apps preinstalled

Nokia 8110 Snake game hero size

With a price tag of £69.99, this is more expensive than most basic Nokias, some of which can be had for a single digit price. It’s also £20 pricier than last year’s 3310.

But then it is a bit more capable. 4G means quicker browsing and streaming, and most basic Nokias can’t run the 8110’s apps.

The 8110 is dripping with retro appeal. No, it’s not going to replace your smartphone.

But as a fun second phone, a throwback to more innocent times or a starter handset for a young relative, it definitely has its charms.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: nokia
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