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 Nokia 3310 lets you send text messages, but there’s no support for WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Telegram here and I’d say that’s where 90% of my text chat happens in 2017. The 3310 is a phone from the days when phone calls were the primary way of communicating, four years before Facebook launched privately for Harvard students. There is a version of Opera Mini built-in, but you won’t want to use it much given the phone’s cellular data connection is limited to 2.5G. And no, you can’t connect to Wi-Fi.
At a glance, the battery life appears to be nothing short of miraculous in 2017: there’s 22 hours of talk time and a month’s worth of standby according to Nokia’s figures and it’s hard to dispute those figures. The Nokia 3310 is immune to our battery test, simply because it can’t play video files. However, even with heavy usage you’re looking at periods between charging of multiple days rather than hours.
The thing is, though, the main reason for the Nokia 3310’s incredible stamina is that there’s so little you can do with it. If you’re worried about the constant distraction of notifications, then this is the phone for you. Unless, of course, you’re a Snake addict.
Yes, Snake is back, but it’s not quite as you remember it. Rather than moving purely at right angles by uncomfortably bending your fingers to move between the 2, 4, 6 and 8 number keys, the default control scheme sees the snake shifting slight angles with a tap of the 4 or 6 buttons. It’s brightly coloured and certainly not the same Snake that you remember – but it is just as addictive.
You can buy other games in the store, too. A couple of demos – Asphalt 6 and Diamond Twister 2 – are available by default but if you want the whole thing you’re looking at £3 each. When most Android games are free or very cheap this feels ridiculous but I guess Nokia is thinking that if you have no choice you’ll pay up for something – anything – to do.
Nokia 3310: Camera
The Nokia 3310 has a camera. If you’re thinking “well, of course it does”, your mind is playing tricks on you: the original phone never had one. But the snapper here isn’t going to challenge even the most basic smartphone camera: it’s a 2-megapixel affair, and it’s slightly better than not having any camera at all, as you’ll see from the test shots below.
Not that you’ll be able to tell until you get them onto a computer. On the Nokia 3310’s 240 x 320 screen it’s hard to tell whether the pictures are bad or if the small screen just makes them look it. Sadly, the answer is “a little from column A and a little from column B”.
Nokia 3310 review: Verdict
It may seem harsh to be comparing the Nokia 3310 – a deliberate throwback to 17 years ago – to the phones of 2017, but there’s good reason to do so. And it’s simply because most people will find this phone a chore to use once they’ve completed a few rounds of Snake.
There are very good reasons to own a feature phone in 2017, of course, not least of which is the staggeringly good battery life they typically offer, and the 3310 certainly provides that.
And if you want a more positive take on the 3310’s charms, my colleague Nathan over at Expert Reviews offers a good counterpoint. But my view is this: you don’t need to spend £50 on the Nokia 3310 to get a long-lasting old school phone experience. Samsung, Doro and Alcatel make perfectly good alternatives for less than half the price of admission here and you’ll still have plenty of change for a copy of Now That’s What I Call Music 45 on MiniDisc to properly cement the feeling of being back in the year 2000.
Personally, I’d rather stay in 2017.