HMD's attempt to revive the Nokia 3310 falls short of the mark with less-than-stellar performance at a relatively high price. Dual-SIM support, expandable storage, and in-built camera are the device's saving graces, making it a great travel companion.
When Finnish mobile phone manufacturer Nokia released the 3310 model back in The Year 2000, even they were likely caught off guard by just how phenomenally popular it would go on to be. Between its release and eventual discontinuation in 2005, Nokia sold a staggering 126 million units of their most durable and iconic phone.
However, that was before Nokia fell victim to a dramatic reversal of fortunes. After years of declining sales and the rise of the smartphone, Nokia threw their lot in with Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS. Nokia’s phone division was eventually swallowed up by Microsoft in 2014. After emphatically losing the smartphone OS wars, Microsoft chose to sell off the Nokia name to another Finnish company, HMD Global. This brings us to the Nokia 3310 — 2017 edition.
First teased at MWC 2017, it stole the show; even managing to overshadow HMD’s Nokia Android smartphone announcements. The nostalgia-tinged, newly updated 3310 promised to remind us of why we once all loved one of the most popular feature phones of all time. Does HMD’s 3310 live up to its promise, or does it struggle to find its place in our modern world?
- Operating System: Series 30+
- Display: 2.4″ QQVGA
- Camera: 2MP and LED flash
- Colors: Warm Red, Dark Blue, Yellow, Grey
- Battery: 1200mAh – removable
- Weight: 79.6g
- Storage: 16MB internal, 32GB expandable
- Audio: 3.5mm jack
- Charging: Micro USB 2.0
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 3.0
- Network: 2G, GSM 900/1800 MHz
Hardware & Design
The newly updated 3310 takes its inspiration from the original device but with some key differences. The new 3310 comes in either matte (dark blue or gray) or glossy (yellow or warm red). Unlike with the original device, you aren’t able to change the plastic shells, but you are offered more choice in device color. The blue navigation button is replaced with a D-pad for navigation and opening the menu. The proprietary Nokia charging point has been replaced with an industry standard micro-USB port. It also weighs in at around 79.6g — roughly 55g lighter than the original. This is in part due to the larger capacity, but physically smaller, 1200mAh battery.
The phone comes with a built-in 2MP camera with a LED flash, which can double as a flashlight. There are dual SIM editions of the phone available too, making it perfect for travelers. Bluetooth 3.0 is included as standard which lets you send and receive files, and even connect a wireless headset. If you choose to not go wireless, you could always use the included wired hands-free headset with a 3.5mm jack connection.
One of the sore points with the 3310 is that it only supports 2G networks. This is a huge problem in Australia and Singapore where 2G networks have been entirely phased out. The device is not yet available in the US either as it operates on GSM 900 and 1800 MHz bands rather than the US-supported 850 and 1900 MHz bands. HMD has previously commented that they are committed to bringing the device to North America in the near future.
The 3310 runs on the Series 30+ software platform. Nokia’s older entry level phones ran on Series 30, which was created and developed by Nokia. S30+ however it completely unrelated and not even developed by Nokia. Instead it comes from Taiwanese company MediaTek who design system-on-chip devices for other businesses.
The function and design of S30+, however, does very closely resemble the older S30 software. Open up the menu, and you get standard features like call logs, text messaging, separate photo and video galleries, and a camera app. There is also an internet browser to meet all your 2G browsing needs in the form of Opera Mini. The browser is bundled with many low powered devices so it shouldn’t be a surprise here, allowing you to perform basic browsing.
Unfortunately, there are problems that just shouldn’t exist in a minimal OS with barely any features. The weather app would never load. The date and time can’t be set manually — only by your network. Even then it would still claim it was October 2015. Locking your phone is meaningless. Every time you open the Photos or Videos folders a warning pops up letting you know that you are only viewing media on the device. When I attempted to delete a contact I had created I was asked for a security code despite having never set one. I made best guesses on a default code but success evaded me. I even had to resort to reading the manual where I was told the default was “12345” which I tried for the umpteenth time. It still didn’t work.
It was only a while later I tried to “turn on” the security code and was prompted to enter a non-functioning code, that I realized there was a setting to “change codes”. I entered a random combination of digits and then it allowed me to turn it on. Setting a security code for your feature phone should not be this complex, time-consuming, and downright confusing.
Although the 3310 has only a 2MP camera it exceeded my, admittedly low, expectations. One way the 3310 has improved the photo experience on feature phones is by adding Bluetooth and SD card support. By allowing you easy options to get the photos off your phone you may actually use the camera.
The resulting daylight photos are passable, and look fine on the device’s small screen. However, when viewed on a larger screen, the daylight and night-time photos look terrible compared to most modern phones, even budget devices. The camera is not what you buy a feature phone like the 3310 for — but it’s a welcome addition and nice to have anyway.
Nokia’s phones became infamous in part because of the bundled game Snake. There have been many attempts over the years to modernize the game, but they have been met mostly with disappointment. HMD attempts to refresh the 3310 with Gameloft’s Snake Xenzia.
It doesn’t have anything like the charm of the original, and the graphics are a little ridiculous. You have to commend HMD for not following the smartphone trend and trying to add in-app purchases, add-ons, or even charging for the game. Despite not being as fun as I remember the original being, it’s still an enjoyable way to while away some time.
The phone may only have 16MB of storage, but it does support expandable storage up to 32GB. The S30+ software even supports MP3, WAV, AAC, and MIDI audio formats. This means you could feasibly use the 3310 as a portable media player.
Battery life is one of the key reasons people still use feature phones. Knowing that you can throw one in your bag or the dash of your car and have it always work is what has kept the feature phone alive. The 3310 shines in the battery life department, and it ends up being one of the phone’s major strengths. According to the 3310’s specifications, it has a talk time of up to 22.1 hours. The standby time is dependent on whether you use it in a single (31 days) or dual SIM (25.3 days) mode.
During the entire review period, I didn’t have to charge it once. It was left it switched on all day, used for several muffled and overly quiet calls, taking photos, and general browsing — and it barely dented the battery. That said, it’s not an exact science as there is no battery percentage, and you instead have to rely on a small battery icon on the top right of the screen.
The hardest problem to overcome is the price. Simply put it is far too expensive. You can buy feature phones from a whole host of other manufacturers that cost a fraction of the roughly $60 / £60 price tag of the 3310. Even in a world where the price is justifiable, this device bears the Nokia name, but let’s be absolutely clear: it’s not a Nokia phone.
With HMD behind the wheel and software from MediaTek it feels more like a way for them to inexpensively revive interest in the brand than to offer any value to their customers. Even from a nostalgic viewpoint, it fails. It barely resembles the original 3310, and the neon colored shells feel very far removed from the original’s aesthetic.
Should You Buy It?
Aside from the branding and pricing, this isn’t a terrible feature phone. Its battery life alone makes it a worthy companion while traveling or in emergencies. Add in the dual-SIM support and it makes a quite compelling travel companion. The camera may only be 2MP but at least there is a camera. We may never be graced with a game as simple and as fun as the original Snake, but there is an attempt here to revive it and you aren’t forced into paying for add-ons or powerups.
Whether the 2017 version of the 3310 is a worthwhile investment depends on what your needs are. If you are looking for an affordable phone while traveling , then this might be perfect for you. However, if you just want a feature phone as a backup or for use in emergencies, then there are cheaper options out there that in some cases even outperform the 3310. While a lot of people would have loved for this to be a return to Nokia’s roots, it instead ends up feeling like a rushed, cynical cash-in on a once beloved brand.
What do you think of the newly revived 3310? Did you have one of the originals? Would you ever choose a feature phone over a smartphone? Let us know in the comments!