Yes, the beloved Nokia 3310 is back on the market as a budget option against increasingly expensive mobile devices. It is being sold even more cheaply than at first by Finnish company HMD Global, which currently holds the rights to the brand. It has been 17 years since the original release, so why is low-tech back in vogue?
Perhaps it has something do with current models being designed as to easily break, fuelling future demand for the next model and perpetuating the consumerist cycle. There is also the possibility that people are demanding more battery life from their devices, which currently have notoriously pitiful endurance. The new version of the phone will purportedly hold its charge for up to a month at a time. It won’t be a carbon copy, however. The charming monochrome display will be replaced by a full-colour screen. Rumours suggest that the pixelated line of the original game ‘Snake’ will now be recognisably serpentine. Reports say that it will incorporate a two-megapixel camera and 3.5 mm headphone jack. The casing will no longer be interchangeable. Even the familiar herald of the Nokia ringtone will be recited in polyphonic clarity.
Some are calling the revamp cynical. Is it all just a tactical move? Luring us in with this novelty morsel – and, before we know it, we’re perusing their simultaneously announced ‘serious’ phones. Nokia’s prior smartphone releases were widely criticised. They ran on the ill-equipped Microsoft operating system, lacked enough in-demand apps, and supported an annoying tiled Windows 8 interface. HMD Global hopes to salvage Nokia’s reputation with a new range of devices.
Tapping into nostalgia (even if such tech lacks such a touchscreen on which to tap) could be the only option available for these firms in an age where great leaps forward could be a thing of the past. Perhaps we need to rein in our titles of ‘iconic’ and ‘legendary’, especially when talking about such a functional item.
Phones such as the Nokia 3310 are used widely in the developing world today because of their durable and inexpensive nature; for example, in Ethiopia, where 80 per cent of the population is rural and there is a lack of infrastructure to support smartphone use. The mobile network is intermittent and power is not constantly available for frequent charging. In more rural communities, so-called ‘feature phones’ are popular because of their superior battery life.
While not all villages around the globe have their own power supply, it’s possible to take a trip to a nearby town and return home with enough charge to sustain several days’ usage. These phones, while limited, also serve as torches and radios. Even those who do have smartphones often use feature phones as a trustworthy backup.
Simplicity ought to be valued but we must be aware of the extent to which we are being taken for a ride in this relaunch. We should be careful to examine what is really necessary when we rush to buy the latest model; after all, your mum’s one is probably in some dark drawer lying dormant in full working order.