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Nokia 3310 (2017) review: Nostalgia comes at a cost

sandra-vogel.jpg
Written by Sandra Vogel on
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7.5/10

Nokia 3310 (2017)

Very good
$42 at Amazon
Pros
  • Solid build
  • Excellent battery life
  • Swappable battery
  • MicroSD card slot
  • FM radio, Bluetooth
Cons
  • Too expensive
  • 2G connectivity only
  • No wi-fi
  • Poor camera
  • Minimal internal storage
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

Nokia has been through the wringer and emerged as a transformed company. It now owns the sports fitness brand Withings, is active in developing Internet of Things (IoT), cloud and communications technologies, and --via HMD Global -- has its name back on mobile phones.

Announced at Mobile World Congress in February, the Nokia 3310 harks back to the original 3310, which launched back in 2000. Nokia hopes its new take on what was a firm favourite at the turn of the millennium will lure those who want a simple but robust phone with exceptional battery life.

Part of me wants to write this review with my nostalgia hat on (and that hat will see the light of day), but the rest needs to put this 'retro' phone into today's market. Does it function well enough to be a success at the £50 price?

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Nokia 3310, ancient and modern.

Images: Nokia, ZDNet.de

The new Nokia 3310 isn't a blocky simulacrum of the original. Instead it's more curved, much thinner and has a considerably larger screen. The screen is also colour, whereas the original's was monochrome.

The small D-pad beneath the screen, along with the large Call and End buttons, cater for movement around icons and menus -- the screen may be colour, but it's not touch sensitive. A touchscreen fan might find all this a hassle, although many landline phones employ the same conventions -- as do many 'feature phones' in the mobile market.

Text entry is via the number pad in classic T9 fashion, involving multiple key presses to cycle through numbers and letters or other characters. I found it amazing how my T9 knowledge came flooding back as I created my first few messages.

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You can get the Nokia 3310 in Warm Red and Yellow (gloss finish), and Dark Blue and Grey (matte finish).

Image: Nokia

The Nokia 3310 is available in four colours. Mine was a rather sober dark blue, but there are also red, yellow and grey variants. The build is very solid and the front and back look as though they should be quite scratch resistant. My matte-finish handset was also nicely grippy.

The handset bulges to a maximum 51mm at its midriff, making it narrow enough to fit snugly into a small palm such as mine, and it's short enough at 115.6mm not to poke out of the top of my favourite jacket pocket. At 12.8mm it's thick compared to today's slimline handsets, although the device's proportions are pleasing. It weighs just 79g including the battery.

The 3310's tight-fitting backplate pops off to reveal a battery that needs to be removed to access the Micro-SIM and MicroSD slots, which are stacked one on top of the other.

The screen may be larger than that of the 2000 version of this handset, but it isn't anything to write home about. It measures 2.4 inches across the diagonal or (by my measurements) 3.6mm wide and 4.9mm tall. It has a QVGA resolution of just 240 by 320 pixels.

Can you see individual pixels? Yes. But frankly that doesn't matter, because this isn't a handset on which you'll be watching catch-up TV, reading a novel or browsing websites -- unless you really have to.

There's no wi-fi and no GPS, and communications are limited to 2G on the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands. You do get Bluetooth 3.0 though.

Don't be fooled by the Series 30+ name that's given to the operating system. This is not related to Nokia's entry-level Series 30 OS from the old days. Instead, Series 30+ is the MediaTek-developed platform that was used by Microsoft Mobile when it took over Nokia. The OS is now in the hands of HMD Global, the Finnish handset maker responsible for the 3310 and other Nokia-branded handsets.

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The 2017 Nokia 3310 has a 2.4-inch non-touch colour screen. D-pad navigation and predictive text entry are the order of the day here.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

For the technically minded it's worth noting that Series 30+ does not run J2ME applications like the old Series 30 did. Instead, where handsets support it, Series 30+ runs apps in the MAUI Runtime Environment. The Nokia 3310 is pre-populated with a range of stock apps, and has a store.

The general layout of the user interface and the stable of built-in apps will be familiar to anyone who can remember using old Nokia feature phones, or later Microsoft Mobile variants.

A grid offers icons that take you to apps like messaging, music player, weather, an FM radio, videos, notes, calendar, calculator, alarm clock, file manager, camera and voice recorder.

An Extras menu hides a countdown timer, a stopwatch, a torch toggle for the camera LED and a unit converter. Web browsing is via Opera Mini, but good luck with that on 2G: I ground my teeth just like I remember doing years ago...

There's also a game called Snake, but it's not the same as Nokia's original Snake.

I mentioned a camera. This shoots at 2 megapixels and isn't much use for anything beyond on-handset images. With just 1.4MB of the 16MB of internal storage available, it's probably a good thing that you won't want to take too many photos.

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Snake, but not as you remember it.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The overall performance of the Nokia 3310, in the short time I had it, was fine -- with the exception of that teeth-grindingly slow browsing. I made calls and sent texts, I listened to music played from a MicroSD card and used the FM radio -- which needs an attached headset to form the antenna.

The provided headset is lacklustre, but plugging in a better one didn't noticeably improve sound quality either. Audio was OK, but not great, through the single rather tinny speaker. Irritatingly some surfaces damped the sound from the speaker considerably. To console myself I played Snake, and fiddled with the selection of brash and plinky ringtones.

Battery life is superb. The 1,200mAh battery, which is charged via Micro-USB, is rated as good for up to 22 hours of talk, 31 days on standby, 51 hours of MP3 playback and 39 hours of radio. I didn't have the handset to test for very long, but I never came close to running low on power, and could go for days on end without even thinking about recharging.

Conclusions

The Nokia 3310 does the basics well enough, by which I mean making calls, sending texts, listening to some (mediocre quality) music and playing the odd game. Its excellent battery life is a major plus point.

But there is an elephant in the room, and that's the price: £50 is just too expensive -- even £30 would be too expensive. The Nokia 3310 really needs wi-fi and better than 2G dual-band connectivity. To take a handset at random for comparison: the Nokia 215, released in 2015, has quite similar specifications and is available right now for £15.

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