There is no denying that Nokia made the 2000s great in terms of mobile telephony. The Finnish manufacturer pioneered a lot of ‘firsts’ in the mobile industry, in addition to selling some of the world’s most popular dumb phones, including the likes of Nokia 1110 and 3310, the latter of which was revived in 2017 with a cleaner finish and a couple of upgrades. The new 3310 has been in my possession for nearly a month now, and there are so many things to say about my experience with the feature device, most of which are not very positive. However, it is imperative to understand the handset’s target demographic, which is still significant as millions of people across the globe do not have the financial muscle to purchase smart devices but has also dimmed due to the onslaught brought forth by the rapid growth of smart handhelds. That demographic, which also includes people who want their batteries to last longer, is what the 3310 aims to serve, not to mention the nostalgia aspect of the device that should theoretically appeal to the same group.
So, what does the new 3310 bring to the table in 2019? Is the device really functional in a country where people are replacing their feature phones with smartphones? What is really the goal of the Nokia 3310 besides serving older people such as our parents and grandparents who have no interest in accessing Internet-based services – although the device has a basic web browser? Can you productively use the phone as your primary and daily communicator without feeling that you are missing out? And how long can you survive with it, assuming you boxed your smart device and put it in a drawer? Well, I will try to address some of these questions, and hang on as we delve into the offerings of the not-so-new 3310 in a couple of concise paragraphs.
The new 3310 is a tiny and relatively thin phone compared to the large brick that was the original 3310. It is also very light (probably less than 100 grams), and will noticeably remind you how big and heavy modern phones have become. While I keep it in my bag in most cases, it as not a bother in my pant pockets at all.
Nevertheless, I wish the device was a tad bigger, with a slightly bigger keypad because I found the 4-way navigation button quite challenging due to its tiny size. Speaking of the keypad…
Remember when we could send a text without looking at the screen to confirm what we were typing? Those were good times. Some things have since been improved though; the keys are softer and click just fine (although a little cramped – considering my fingers are not that large anyway). T9 predictive tech is onboard, but you can deactivate it and roll back no-look typing when sending texts messages.
The typing experience was predictably a chore for me. Admittedly, I have used touch-sensitive keyboards longer than I spent time using physical keypads/boards. Remember the Nokia C3 from 2010 with its QWERTY keypad? That was the last device I typed on before making a full transition to Android-powered phones.
To this end, I have only sent two or three text messages with the 3310, and they were very short because the discomfort and slowness of hitting buttons a couple of times is just not my thing anymore. That ship has sailed in my world, and I don’t think I can even use a QWERTY one because I type faster on virtual keys.
There was a day I spent nearly an hour navigating through the device’s menus just to familiarize with the OS. It was not an exciting experience, to say the least, because my thumb nearly turned sore. Effectively, it makes the 2017 model of the 3310 a no-texting phone for me, or you.
User interface and apps
The 3310 runs Nokia Series 30+ operating system. It is packed with a handful of java apps, some of which are very useful, including a voice recorder, a calendar and weather app, a notes app, a messaging app with support for threaded texts, FM radio and so forth.
Users can also download additional apps from the Opera Mobile Store.
The apps are strewn all over the 3 by 3 menu that can be switched to a 4 by 4 grid or list view.
You can edit several aspects of the OS via the Settings app, including ringtones, toggle flight mode on and off, change wallpapers, reorganize the Go To menu and so on. However, there are some things you cannot do, like adjusting brightness levels as the colour screen gest plenty bright at night.
Also, remember the Glance Screen on the now discontinued Lumia phones that display notifications or information on the screen? It is here too.
There is nothing extraordinary about the software package and user interface. It is functional, and I don’t think it misses anything a feature phone should have.
PS: This is a feature phone, so you cannot sync your details such as contacts. Therefore, you may need to copy your contacts to your SIM or send them via Bluetooth from your smart handheld. It is a bother, but that is the price you pay for abandoning the offerings of a smartphone.
Phone calls sound fine
They sound good. I also need to point out that the 3310 uses a better earpiece than what more capable devices, such as the mid- to low-end Transsion devices that ship with ship with underwhelming speakers.
One issue though: even at low volume, the earpiece is quite loud, and people next to you may hear your secret, deal-making conversations.
The model I have does not have 3G. Accessing the internet via Opera Mini evokes good memories, but it is just too slow. To put this in context, just try to browse on 4G, and then switch to 3G. It is slow (by LTE standards) – and at one time, 3G was very fast. Now imagine how annoyingly slow 2G is.
By the way, you can quickly launch the browser by holding the 0 key.
The camera is bad
There is a 2 MP snapper with an LED flash on the back. It is mediocre, even by feature phone standards. I mean, look at these samples:
Music playback, FM radio ad Files
There is 16 MB of onboard storage, which can be supplemented by a microSD card. You can load the card with all the music and video you want for offline playback. However, just make sure those videos are low res, and there is a good chance that native video player will not recognize them. File management is addressed by a Files app, so there is that.
The device packs a set of conventional earphones that can be hooked on the device as an antenna for the FM radio.
Battery life is legendary
The 1200 mAh removable battery lasts forever. I think I have only charged it 3 times in a month. Standby time is even better; this dumb phone barely sips juice when left idle.
Road warrior-worthy? Damn straight. This is the phone our ageing parents and grandparents who never jumped into the smartphone train can really enjoy. It is not a brick, oozes some sleekness and is generally well built to accommodate such a large battery – for a feature phone.
The device is juiced via a micro USB charger. It also takes like an hour or so from 0% to full. And yes, there is no per cent battery indicator.
Nokia 3310 (2017) was launched exactly two years ago during the staging of MWC in Barcelona. It has been selling in Kenya ever since for KES 5,000. That amount or less can buy you a smartphone, but Nokia is sticking to its pricing model. Of course, I get why it is still popular in some parts of the world as most people subscribe to the Nokia brand that launched tens of legendary phones in the past. However, I don’t see a lot of people setting aside KES 5K for a feature phone that can’t even browse on 3G, or take half-decent images. In addition, more and more Kenyans buy smartphones at this moment because who doesn’t want to engage in endless chitchats on WhatsApp and enjoy a daily dose of fake news on Facebook?
Can I buy it? For my dad, sure, but not for me, or any other young person I know. How about using it as a secondary device? Well, it only it were KES 3000 or less…
Only if you can be fully productive with a feature phone should you consider getting this puppy, which, quite truthfully, is not the case for a lot of people.