DESPITE COUNTLESS INNOVATIONS at 2017’s Mobile World Congress (MWC), the show was dominated by the news of Nokia’s nostalgic re-release of the 3310.
Well, the firm did it again at the show this year when it revealed the 8110 4G, a remake of the retro classic “banana phone” which is renowned for its appearance in The Matrix in the nineties.
It was the first of Nokia’s high-end 8000 series of phones released in 1996 and its distinctive styling was the first example of a “slider” form factor.
While it might seem quite the fun but of retro kit, is this dumb phone a realistic replacement for your modern day smartphone? We get knee-deep in Nokia nostalgia to find out…
Design and build
The 2018 version of the Nokia 8110 isn’t an exact replica of the traditional handset, but it certainly feels close enough to invoke a good old bit of nostalgia. The buttons are similar in shape and the contrasting border around the display is still there. But obviously, it’s a lot more sleek, less clunky and definitely feels like a modern interpretation. A nod to the classic.
And while the new 8110 4G doesn’t look identical to the phone of the ‘90s, it lat east it still works a lot like the traditional handset did back in the day. There’s still a sliding cover protecting the keypad for when being carried in your pocket and the action of opening this cover answers incoming calls, extending downwards and thus bringing the microphone closer to the mouth. So not just nostalgic, but practical, too. This action is also rather satisfying and will leave you wishing that all current smartphones did this. There’s nothing better than slamming the phone down on someone with an exaggerated slide-to-shut action.
Because of its banana-shaped bend, it fits really well in the hand, so its design isn’t only a gimmick, it is also rather ergonomic. It’s, therefore, a pleasure to use, in every respect. Although be sure to get quite a lot of attention if using it outside. People will literally stop and ask you about it, usually one of two things: “is that the new Nokia phone?” or even “what the f*** is that?”.
Reason alone to buy one of these beauties, if you ask us.
As you’d expect from a device that boasts a non-touch sensitive 2.4in QVGA screen at 160×120 pixels, the 8110’s display is pretty rubbish by modern standards. But that’s not what this device is about. The Nokia 8110, like the 3310 retro remake, is all about getting as far away from the polished 1080p screens as possible. And it certainly does that. It’s brightly lit and just as pixelated as any early-2000 phone, but it does the job: it’s easy to read and navigate.
It’s, therefore, fine for reading text and viewing basic images and games, but you won’t be enjoying any movies on this handset.
You also might take a bit of time getting used to the setup. Unlike modern phones, the 8110’s screen is only navigational via the keys, which are hidden beneath the cover, so you have to slide it down to operate it. However, you can still illuminate the screen with the cover up (to check the time or for any notifications etc), by pressing the power key on the right side of the handset.
Performance and software
On the inside, Nokia’s banana phone is powered by Qualcomm’s 205 SoC, comprising of a dual-core 1.1 GHz CPU alongside just 512MB of LPDDR3 RAM. For storage, there’s 4GB of eMMC internal memory.
Playing around with the 8810 is a delight. It is nowhere near as snappy as your current handsets, of course, and this in itself takes you right back. But the important thing here is that it’s quick enough to run a good old game of Snake, which we are sure Nokia would have been cursed by anyone old enough to own or remember an original model.
Obviously, the most time spent on this phone was playing Snake. The game has been given a bit of a makeover from the ‘90s, as you can imagine. You now control a more animated amphibian that collects juicy-looking red apples from various points across the screen. In our opinion, it’s a bit too busy now. Nokia should have kept it as simple as the good old snake was, but the fact that it’s there at all is enough to love the 8110.
For the operating system, the 8110 runs KaiOS, a simpler operating system that demands less power with fewer apps available than what you’d find in the Android Play store, for instance.
Unlike the Nokia 3310 2017 edition, the new 8110 WiFi and 4G connectivity along with Google search and a few other basic internet apps, such as Google Maps, Browser and Email. It also has the standard SMS messaging and a phonebook you can store all your friends’ numbers in so you can actually call them.
One thing that is be missing for masses, however, are social media apps and instant messengers. However, when the Nokia 8110 was first revealed it was suggested that the operating system would in time have access to apps like Facebook and WhatsApp eventually. Then, more recently, HMD Global’s chief product officer, Juho Sarvikas, hinted at the arrival of WhatsApp on KaiOS in a tweet. So you can probably expect these much-used apps hitting the phone very soon.
Compared with the phone cameras of today, well, you just simply can’t compare. Think back to the first smartphone camera you ever used – that’s how the 8110’s 2MP camera performs.
It’s pretty slow, jittery and takes pretty crappy snaps that look beautifully sentimental in their own right. But you just can’t compare this to cameras you’ll find on the smartphone sof today. And come on – you wouldn’t be buying this phone for its camera anyway, would you?
It does, however, do the job if a quick, low-quality snap is all you need.
As with the 3310, there’s also the same amazing battery life, with the 8110 boasting up to 25 days standby time.
That’s because the 8110’s crappy resolution makes sure battery life doesn’t disappoint. This thing can be charged and left lying around on standby for a weeks before it needs plugging in again, and you can talk for an entire day without needing to reach for the micro-USB cable.
The 8110 touts a 3.5mm headphone jack for all your MP3 playing needs, something even the latest iPhone doesn’t have. There’s also an FM radio app, if this is more your thing. It charges via micro-USB, boasting WiFi, Bluetooth and 4G connectivity.
Availability and price
The handset just launched in the UK and is available in traditional black and banana yellow, for £69.
The Nokia 8110 (2018 edition) is not one thing or another, it’s kind of an in-between thing, if you will. What we mean by this is that you’re not going to buy the device to replace your smartphone just because you like the retro design.
Equally, you’re not going to buy it because it’s a dumb phone in a bid to escape reality, because its new 4G and WiFi connectivity means – unlike the 3310 – it’s not a device you’ll use in protest of the ever-connected, modern day world.
Instead, it’s kind of a bit of both. And it’s probably more aimed at the attention seekers, the hipsters of the retro enthusiasts looking for a new toy to show off in the pub but not really use all that much. Those that do end up using it seriously, however, we can imagine would do so more as a backup phone when their all-singing, all-dancing iPhones or Samsungs pack-in. Or as a festival or adventure holiday phone that – if lost – won’t be a disaster because it’s only £70 to replace.
And for this reason, we can’t see it being the answer to anyone’s specific needs, really. It’s more of a gimmick all-in-all. But at least that’s one thing it does really well. It’s relying on its kooky, throw-back design to impress, but we can’t really see it becoming the phone of the year. Not in a practical sense, anyway.
Nevertheless, It’s £70, it’s fun, it works well for what it does and you can’t help but enjoy using it. And for that reason, we have to mark it accordingly. µ
Super retro, will get you attention, nice change from your modern smartphone, deliciously ironic, cheap.
Design isn’t for everyone, limited in what it can do, not a smartphone replacement.
You may not really use it once the novelty wears off
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