Nokia’s Nostalgic Niche –Relaunching the 3310

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Nearly 17 years after the release of the 3310, Nokia revamped and reintroduced its legacy 3310 phone at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year. First released in 2000, the Nokia 3310 has become one of the most popular phones in the world, selling 126 million units worldwide according to the company’s press release. So far, there has been a generally positive response to the move by Nokia, but it’s pretty curious to see an old phone get retrofitted with few features added and re-released to the public. After all, the former mobile giant has experienced a steady decline in market share since competition brought Apple and Samsung into the fray. Sure, some may find the phone a practical purchase, but ultimately, the fascination with Nokia’s new 3310 is simply one rooted in nostalgia.

Back when Nokia was a larger tour de force in the mobile device market, its simple phones became famous for their high durability and long battery life. Smartphones didn’t take hold of our lives until after 2007, when Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone. In today’s day and age, smartphone giants like Apple and Samsung have a major hold on market shares and have a global reach. The number of features promised by smartphones have increased over time, enticing more users to the medium. In light of these advances, Nokia’s brick phones have become reduced to a meme. Their indestructibility have become their kryptonite. Consumers now gravitate toward slick, cleaner designs of the iPhone and the customizability of the Android operating systems, and less of the boxy, clunky appearance of the 3310.

This is not to say that the new 3310 is worthless. The revamped phone has a battery life of about a month on standby. It will retain its brick shape for maximum sturdiness. It’s not bogged down by a million features common to a majority of smartphones. It’s also easily accessible for young children and adults alike, who most likely won’t need to use apps or learn how to use a novel operating system. Some even say that the new 3310 is suited for developing areas like India, China, or Africa, with a cheap cost of about $51. These all seem logical, but they aren’t necessarily good reasons to buy the phone.

Nostalgia is the strongest factor for its resurging popularity. People used Nokia because it was reliably strong and could connect them with family and friends and play Snake, a classic game where a player maneuvers a growing line in a space without directing the snake into itself. A lot of people loved these features and held onto their phones for a long time. We tend to remember good times like these with excessive detail, embellishing them with every iteration. But soon enough, people will realize that, although a stripped-down phone may be good for productivity, it is not worth it in the long run.

While limited features were great in the early days of phones, smartphones have so many more practical benefits to offer for today’s users. Apps such as Google Maps are extremely important, because before they were around, you’d have to either print out directions using sites like MapQuest, or use a physical map to plan a route yourself. In this way, smartphones have made navigation cheaper and easier. While the month-long standby battery sounds great, you won’t exactly be using the phone as much in the first place. After all, you can only call, text, listen to music and play games. There’s no checking Facebook on the 2.5G connectivity. Oh, and there’s no Wi-Fi connectivity either. Smartphone users may have been longing for longer battery life, but what good is having super long battery life if you are limiting your phone use anyway? Price isn’t too much of an advantage either. There are other phones that cost less than the new 3310, like the BLU Jenny II phone and Long-CZ J8 phone, among others. Ultimately, the 3310 is an affirmation of Nokia’s branding. It had such a wide reach at one point that it’s only natural that its absence nurtures such nostalgia. It’s a niche product.

I’d say the issue with re-introducing the 3310 partially stems from the fact that smartphones are a new normal for us. We’re used to having countless features and resources at our fingertips. Although smartphones are similar to each other in terms of features, it just means that they have more standards than their predecessors. Nokia has the virtue of offering something the smartphones of today can’t offer — nothing. While this simplicity is alluring at first, it’s important not to forget how much we rely upon smartphones in our daily lives.

Eashan Reddy Kotha is a first-year biological sciences major. He can be reached at ekotha@uci.edu

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