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Nokia 3310 review: A millennium throwback best left in the past

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Thomas McMullan here, poking his head into the room to tell you about a customised version of a Nokia 3310 that you’ll want to know about. Before you settle for the standard, single-coloured versions of the retro phone, ask yourself this: would I rather play Snake 2 on a phone emblazed with the faces of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin?

Russian site Caviar Royal Gift has created a special edition of the Nokia 3310, embossed with the profiles of Trump and Putin – nominally to mark the two leaders’ meeting during the G20 summit in Hamburg.

The product description reads, via Google Translate: “For the first time profiles of both presidents are placed on one device. The fact that their views are directed in one direction – no doubt expresses the general desire to achieve progress in Russian-American relations.

“However, we should not forget about the principledness and firmness necessary to protect justice and our own interests, the interests of our country – in order to emphasise precisely these features, the designers used tempered titanium with the damask steel pattern,” the description continues.

The phone is described as a “memorable gift for everyone who is not indifferent to modern history and politics”. It costs a whopping 149,000 Russian Rubles (£1,907) – that’s around 38 times more expensive than the £50 Nokia 3310. Such is the price of political power, I’m afraid.

Alan Martin’s review continues below.

Nokia 3310 review

I didn’t review the original Nokia 3310. You know why? Because I had a lot on my plate, what with starting my AS levels.

The original Nokia 3310 was released in the year 2000 and, if you were feeling particularly mean, you could say that’s where it should have stayed. Something to look back fondly on and smile.

I’m not quite that mean; I’d have been quite happy seeing it as late as 2005 but in 2017, no. It’s a relic. And, even if you want a feature phone rather than a smartphone, £50 is a relatively expensive outlay for the warm fuzzy feel of nostalgia. Basic phones from Alcatel, Doro, Samsung and even Nokia start at around £10 or you could pick up an Android-based Alcatel PIXI 4 for £10 less than the price of the Nokia 3310.

So, no: while 17-year-old Alan might have recommended the Nokia 3310 as an essential purchase (assuming this whole mobile phone thing catches on), the 33-year-old version thinks you shouldn’t waste your time.

Nokia 3310 review: Design

Nokia has pulled off quite a neat trick in design terms. Like a developer remastering an old game for new generations, the designers have managed to modernise it subtly in a way that makes it feel exactly as you remember it. It’s not: while the original Nokia 3310 weighed 133g, this one comes in at just 80g. The bulk of this has been lost from the phone’s thickness, where it drops from 22mm to a mere 12.8mm. It’s tiny. Next to the Samsung Galaxy S7 I use day to day, it feels like a toy.

The feeling of familiarity is also there with the 2.4in screen but again, it’s an illusion. Back in 2000, the 3310’s screen had a resolution of 84 x 84 pixels and this time it’s a full-colour 240 x 320 jobby. While no match for even the most basic of 720p screens you get on a smartphone, it does the job well enough. It’s bright and colourful, if a touch grainy.

And, of course, it isn’t a touchscreen. Input is achieved via the 15 buttons underneath the screen: 0-9, *, #, select, make call and end call. You navigate the menus by pressing the frame of the select button in one of four directions. And yes, it feels as anachronistic as it sounds. The only real sign that you’re in 2017 and not the late 1990s is the micro-USB port on the top edge of the phone where the battery is charged.

The back comes off, meaning you can swap out the battery should yours no longer last as long as it used to (although, compared to smartphone standards, it’ll still go on for aeons). Sadly, this doesn’t mean you can swap out the faceplate like in the old days, which is a shame. You’re stuck with red, yellow, dark grey or blue, depending on which model you selected in the first place. 

Nokia 3310: Performance

Nokia has been pretty tight-lipped over what’s powering the 3310 but it’s clearly not going to be the last word in smartphone SoCs. You simply don’t need much power to keep things moving on such a basic handset. The menus work smoothly; it’s hard to see what more horsepower would achieve.

But it’s not a smooth experience for anyone who has grown used to touchscreens. Text input, even predictive, was never a particularly natural way to communicate. People just got alarmingly good at it because there was no alternative. Going back to it now feels extremely clumsy, so it’s just as well that there are not many places you actually use it.

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