Nokia is 150 years old: Here’s a look back at its most iconic devices


What do you remember about Nokia? What do you know about the Finnish company? Did you know that Nokia is celebrating its 15oth anniversary today?

In 150 years, Nokia has gone from being an unknown Finnish company that started as a pulp mill to the globally recognized technology brand it is today. While things went from being flat to being so rosy, the last decade saw the company relinquish its hold on the critical mobile telephony market to newcomers and long time rivals and eventually sell-off its mobile devices division to Microsoft.

Even with that, Nokia still holds significant say in the telecommunications industry as it looks forward to finalizing its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent next year. It is however mulling selling its mapping unit, HERE, at over $3 billion; something that has elicited strong interest from the likes of innovative ride-sharing service company Uber, German auto-makers like BMW and Mercedes and technology behemoths Samsung, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.

Here is a quick look at five of the most iconic Nokia products in no particular order: (since I have a strong bias for mobile devices, they are all mobile phones. Also, I only included devices I have interacted with in my lifetime. I’m aware most of you may consider the likes of the 9000 Communicator as your most iconic but by the time they were being unveiled and going on sale I was still learning how to read and write simple English words)

1. Nokia 3310

nokia 3310

Like all the other Nokias on this list, it became a darling because of its strong battery life (one-day battery life like we get on our current smartphones was unheard of) and being hardy. I’m sure you are very familiar with all those Nokia jokes. Eeer, like this one:


We’ve told you recently that the popular Snake game will be making a comeback albeit in a pimped way, it was popularized by this phone.

2. Nokia 1200

nokia 1200

This phone may not be as world famous as the next one on this list but it was a hit. It sold well over 150 million units and in Kenya today can still be spotted in urban and rural centres still going strong. Never mind that it is over 7 years old. It was christened mulika mwizi here in Kenya because of the torchlight it came with, a first back then. So much that it ended up stealing the name of a well-choreographed campaign run by electricity distributor Kenya Power to stop siphoning of transformer oil by vandals during the night hence that mulika mwizi name.

My fond memories of this phone are partly because it was my first ever mobile phone. I know, I wasn’t a cool kid. Never been. Some of the best text messages I have ever sent and received were on that 1200’s tiny 1.5 inch monochrome display. Even your fanciful emojis and evolved OTT services like Whatsapp will never ever get there. It cost Ksh 5 or thereabout to send a text message back then and being in high school, letter-writing was still a thing (email, sadly, wasn’t in this part of the world) so sending a text message and getting a reply several minutes later was a breath of fresh air from waiting for two weeks to get a response via snail mail.

3. Nokia 1100

nokia 1100

This is the best selling mobile phone ever! It sold over 250 million units and it is not hard (no pun) to see why. I remember it being the mobile phone of choice of my favourite (fictional) footballer Shakes Makena in the Supa Strikas pullout (sorry if you can’t relate). It also used what later became charger ya pin kubwa to differentiate its charger from that of the then newer Nokia models like the 1200.

4. Nokia 808 PureView

Nokia 808 Pureview

This was iconic because it heralded a whole new generation of PureView camera sensors in smartphones that Nokia would later release after ditching Symbian for Microsoft’s Windows Phone like the Lumia 920 then the iconic Lumia 1020. While the 808 had the misfortune of being the last Symbian device and was abandoned in a huff as Nokia embraced its new marriage partner, its standing as a pioneer can never be understated.

5. Nokia Lumia 520

To remind you of how times have changed, this was for a long time Microsoft Windows Phone’s best selling smartphone. It managed to sell over 12 million units before Microsoft stopped pushing it in favour of newer budget smartphones like the Lumia 535 and a whole host of others that have appeared in recent days.

Even if it is now history, the Lumia 520 cemented its name as one of the last popular Nokia-branded smartphones. It single-handedly uplifted Microsoft’s marketshare in various markets as it became a hit thanks to its affordable pricing and decent specifications.

Notable Mentions

Nokia N95 – probably the king of mobile phone cameras before the likes of the 808 PureView were introduced.

Nokia E63 – the business types may remember how popular this was back in the day especially if you did not want to go with a Blackberry.

Nokia 5330 (Mobile TV Edition) – did you watch DSTv on this thing? I did, the experience was out of this world.

It’s sad that after it sold its mobile division to Microsoft, Nokia is no longer that visible on the mobile market as was the case before but its experiments with various things mobile like Android apps or hardware like the N1 tablet give us hope for the future. There are so many rumours about the Finnish company’s strong return to the mobile market and some of us old Nokia device users can’t wait to see it back. For now, happy 150th birthday, Nokia and thank you for the awesome memories.


  1. #TBT I began with Motorola (the big one, green screen), then motorola c13, nokia 1100 (sold to my cousin who never paid for it), Motorola 375, razr magneta V3, (Coz they were flap phones), samsung E250 (the only samsung I ever owned) Motorola RizrZ3 (coz they were slidephones) And then the real nokia era came in..Nokia 2600 classic, Nokia 3500, ZTE f912 Dstv mobile (yeah…. really… I like supersport), Nokia N70 (coz of its awesome camera sensor, clarity and amazing audio), Nokia Asha 303 (touch and qwerty), Nokia Lumia 820 (2 years, awesome phone,) and now Nokia Lumia 930 6 months on…… whats your #TBTPhones?

    • Wow! What a journey! *Jeff Koinange voice*. That ZTE F912 didn’t give you issues? I know of friends whose phones disintegrated after 3 months and that chest-thumping by them of having DSTV phones was gone.

      • Not that I remember….. I hated the camera and the small space it had though…45mb…imagine…. I watched news as I came home from town, thika road wasn’t built at the time.

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