New Nokia 3310 Review: Nothing Special Except the Name

By Tom Pritchard on at

The Nokia 3310 is one of those gadgets that had gone down in the history books, alongside the likes of the Game Boy, the iPod, the Walkman, the Polaroid camera, The Sinclair Executive, and so on. Until the iPhone came along it was the most well known mobile phone on the planet, that people still reminisce about.

So it was considered big news when Nokia announced that it would be releasing a new 3310 handset. It had been rumoured for sometime, and Nokia came out on stage at MWC and promised us that the 3310 was coming back. But not the original, this was a new and updated version of the classic handset. That announcement drove a bunch of people into a frenzy. The 3310 was back, after all!

But is it worthy of that excitement and hype? No. Not at all. Read on and I'll explain why.

Specs

  • 16MB internal storage
  • microSD card slot (up to 32GB)
  • 1,200 mAh battery ( one month per charge)
  • 2MP camera
  • micro USB charging
  • Mini SIM (single and dual SIM variants available)

Design

  • 115.6 x 51 x 12.8 mm
  • 2.4-inch colour display
  • 240 x 320 resolution
  • Available in red, yellow, blue, and dark grey

I'll level with you here, reviewing this phone is tricky. I've spent the last nine and half years trying to ignore feature phones, and it's been about six years since I actually touched one of the things. I'm quite surprised that anyone in the country actually gives a damn about this piddly little handset, but here we are.

That's not to say I don't understand why this kind of phone can be appealing. Most smartphone batteries struggle to last longer than a day, and there's an appeal in having a phone you can throw in your pocket or bag and not have to worry about whether it's going to die on you before you get home. A phone that can make phone calls, send text messages, and maybe wake you up in the morning.

It's also the kind of thing you can hand over to someone who can't be trusted with a smartphone (or just plain doesn't want to learn how to use it ). A kid's first phone, something for technologically impaired relatives so they're within reach outside of the house, or a person who doesn't feel like they actually need to be connected to the internet 24/7.

But here's the thing, the Nokia 3310 isn't unique in offering that. Despite falling out of fashion there are still plenty of feature phones that can be bought at a moment's notice with everything the 3310 offers - and for less money. Hell, there are other Nokia-brand phones that do more exciting things for about £15 less. They're made by Microsoft, but still.

So "basic" is the word that comes to mind when I think of the 3310. It's got all the features you'd want from a feature phone, including the stellar battery life, but that's about it. You've got an alarm clock, stopwatch, countdown timer, LED torch, unit converter, calculator, video player, music player, an FM radio, a WAP browser, and some basic games. That's about it.

And that's fine. As I said before nobody is buying this for the advanced features, and I have no complaints about the built-in features. Everything works the way you'd expect it to, and the only issues I can foresee are people trying to readjust to pre-touchscreen technology should they ditch their smartphones - especially that T9 keyboard.

But the more I think about it, the more I keep telling myself that these things aren't special. These features aren't uncommon on any phone, and there's no reason why you couldn't get a cheaper phone and have the same basic experience.

"But, Tom, what about Snake?" you might shout at me from the comments section. Well what about Snake? If you think that you need to buy this phone to play Snake again, you're sadly mistaken. For starters the Snake on the new 3310 isn't the same Snake that you'd find on old-school Nokias. It's an updated version with colour, different game modes, and a strange two-button turn system that takes a bit of getting used to. It's no less fun than the original, but it's certainly not good enough to be a major selling point. You can play Snake and Snake II almost anywhere, even on Android devices:

I like the music player, though, and there were plenty of times where I completely forgot that I wasn't plugged into my Pixel. There isn't a dedicated queue system, though, so if you incidentally skip through a track on shuffle you can't flick back. That's just nitpicking, though.

Lets say you can live with all that, and you might be thinking about summer. With the sunny/holiday season coming up you might feel the 3310 is worth buying as a disposable device, something you don't need to worry about being broken or stolen. Well I hate to break it to you, but if you leave the UK you run the risk of this phone being completely useless as a phone. Unlike modern feature phones, the 3310 only uses the technologically ancient 2.5G/GSM signal. Specifically that in the 900 and 1800 GHz bands.

Herein lies the problem. Countries like the US and Canada never used those frequencies to begin with. Other places, like Australia and parts of Asia, have started shutting down GSM networks. Most of Europe seems to be in the clear for now, but the fact of the matter is that 2G is old technology. If you intend on buying a feature phone for use abroad, you might as well skip this and just buy something with 3G.

There's also no Wi-Fi on this thing, but I honestly this phone doesn't need it. Your internet options are limited to Opera's WAP browser, and Opera's 'mobile store'. And by mobile store they really mean a place to buy and download basic Java games that were all the rage before Apple's app store came along. The 2G connection is impossibly slow as well, with only the most basic of web pages coming up. That's to be expected, however, and I doubt anyone will be buying this expecting extensive connectivity options.

There is Bluetooth, though, but it's the old-school 3.0 that smartphones ditched a few years back in favour of the low-energy 4.0. Again it's not like that matters too much. 3.0 is fine for connecting to headphones and headsets (or exchanging files if that's your thing). It's not like there's any benefit to connecting this to modern Bluetooth gadgets, like smartwatches, anyway.

The Camera

At this point some of you might be holding out on the 3310's camera, since cheaper feature phones don't have the greatest resolution or picture-taking capabilities. Well I hate to break it to you, but the 3310's camera is not very good. In fact, when you zoom in the pictures produced by the 3310 look like they've been deliberately warped by some sort of Instagram filter. Here's what I mean:

Unfortunately photos the unzoomed photos don't fair much better. The quality isn't quite as bad, and at a glance it doesn't look that bad. But start looking closer and you'll notice a serious deterioration. They're fine, I suppose, but they're certainly not the type of photos you'll print out and show people. Your holiday snaps probably deserve a superior device.

That's outdoors. Indoors and the quality is considerably worse. The following shot had quite a lot of natural light coming in, and even then there's the same warping experienced when you use the zoom.

As for low-light, there's not much to see. Actually almost nothing. The photo came out almost completely black, and while I could make out a faint silhouette on the phone's display I can't say the same is true on my laptop.

Video quality looks an awful lot worse. Just see what I mean:

That was in quite bright light, and yet everything looks dull and noisy. I'm not sure this would have been acceptable in 2007, let alone 2017.

Pros

  • More durable than a smartphone
  • Good all-round functionality, if a bit low-tech by 2017 standards
  • Long-lasting battery by smartphone standards

Cons

  • Relatively expensive for what it is
  • 2G only
  • No unique features
  • Mediocre camera capabilities

I sit here right now with the new 3310 sitting next to me, and every time I look at it all I can think is, "why are you even a thing?"

And by that I don't mean feature phones in general. They might not be able to compete with smartphones in terms of productivity or raw technology, but there are plenty of reasons to want a phone that's just, well, a phone. I specifically aim that question at the 3310, and, of course, I already know the answer.

The new 3310 is a statement from the Nokia brand. "We're back" it says, "Nokia phones are not being made by Microsoft anymore. Goodbye stigma!" Releasing a phone that conjures up memories of the old 3310, released in 2000 when Nokia was the undisputed king of the mobile industry, gets people talking.

Even though the rights to the Nokia name are owned by HMD, rather than Nokia itself, this still got people excited about a feature phone for the first time in over 10 years. For some the new 3310 is the grand return of the feature phone, returning from the grave dug by the likes of Apple, Google, and BlackBerry.

But here's the thing. The feature phone never died, they people just stopped caring. The modern smartphone basically made the old-school feature phone obsolete, but there was still a market for them. People who wanted simplicity, a battery life that lasted the better part of a month, something simple to give to their kids or technologically-impaired relatives. We just stopped hearing about new releases because there was nothing to hear. Feature phones haven't changed much in the past 10+ years.

In the mid-late '00s I had a Samsung D900 that eventually got dumped in favour of an iPhone 3GS, and the only difference between that and the 3310 is that the 3310 has microUSB, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a microSD card slot. All three of those things are great in comparison to the 11 year old handset, but they're basically industry standards at this point.

If this phone had any other name, I guarantee you that 99% of people would not give a single fuck about it. And why would they? There's nothing special about this new 3310. There are countless other features phones out there that do the same things this does, and more, but they all go unnoticed. The 3310 performs well enough, but that's exactly its problem. There's nothing special about it and no must-have features that would make this phone worthier than the £15 Alcatels they sell in my local Tesco.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news for anyone who was excited about this, but you were duped by sneaky marketeers. The new 3310 is an average and uninteresting phone with a name that invokes nostalgia. That's it. If you need a low-tech phone for one reason or another, nobody's going to stop you. Just bear in mind that you're not obligated to buy this. Go ahead and get something cheaper, because chances are you won't notice the difference.