The Mobile World Conference resurrected Nokia 3310 amongst other smartphones, but the special interest here is that this is one smartphone which was once a global leader selling a cool 125 million models of its indestructible candybar, turning Snake into a cultural icon,but this was 17 years ago.
We all hate it when our smartphones switch off, and no-matter how good they are, the battery power is always needed to stay in touch, especially when traveling, and even worse when one is in emergency, the world collapses when you are out of power.
Today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the company re-launched the phone as a “One More Thing” at its press conference. The intro was swift: HMD Global CEO Arto Nummela held up the phone and said the only three things that matter. Its battery lasts a month, it has Snake, and it has the Nokia ringtone. And then he was gone.
The 3310 is still very much a feature phone. It has a web browser, but only barely—it’s a dumbed-down version of Opera, basically there for emergency tweeting. It exists for you to make phone calls, send texts the way you did a decade ago (T9 FTW!), and play Snake. The 3310 weighs less than three ounces, and its battery lasts an absurd 31 days in standby time, or up to 22 hours of talk time.
Like its predecessor, it will still be called the Nokia 3310, but this time it’s running Nokia’s Series 30+ software, with a 2.4-inch QVGA display, a 2-megapixel camera, and even a microSD slot.
Still, HMD didn’t just open up the warehouse doors, grab the old 3310s, and ship ’em to Best Buy. The company pulled and tugged and tweaked things a bit. (My editor suggested the phone should be called the 3311 to signify this, which I think sounds pretty cool.)
The new 3310 has a camera, for one thing, a 2-megapixel shooter. It also has a 2.4-inch, 240×320 screen, which is hilariously small and low-res but still a huge improvement over the original. That model’s resolution was listed as “five lines.” It feels weird that this is worth mentioning, but it has colors now! The handset comes in white, blue, red, and yellow, and its edges round smoothly, more like a polished pebble than a chunky brick.
When it launches in Europe, the 3310 will cost 49 Euros, which is about $51. It’s almost a grocery-store checkout purchase, or something you throw into your In Case of Apocalypse bag and never worry about again. HMD figures some people will buy it as a second phone, a way to get away from the tyranny of your dinging iPhone and buzzing Apple Watch without fully disconnecting.
However, the market for feature phones is far bigger than the novelty buyers. In emerging markets, where money, data, and battery life are precious commodities, a device like the 3310 has huge appeal. In Africa, for instance, in mid-2016 smartphone purchases actually declined while feature phones went up more than 30 percent. The feature phone can be for some a burner phone, others a secondary device, and for many a primary means of communication. HMD probably won’t sell 125 million more 3310s, but it’s definitely making a real phone for real people.