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(Pocket-lint) - For the most part we stick to reviewing smartphones here at Pocket-lint, but when the new 3310 was released, we couldn't turn down the opportunity to sink our teeth into a phone which plays on the old nostalgia bone. For many of us, the original 3310 was the one phone to get us excited about mobile phones. In its day, it was unmatched for its portability, build quality, battery life and fun. It was irresistible.

Now, 17 years after the first one was released, the phone landscape is very different. Everyone looks to expensive smartphones now, which are essentially portable computers. This begs the question - nostalgia aside - is there any real reason for the new 3310 to exist?

Nokia 3310 (2017) review: Design

  • 115.6 x 51 x 12.88mm
  • 3310-esque frame around display
  • Red, blue, yellow and grey options

From the front, the new 3310 does look something like the old model. Its individual light grey oval buttons are similar, and the colour-matched frame around the screen is the same shape as the original. It even comes in some of the same popular colours: red, navy and yellow. But that's pretty much where the aesthetic similarities end.

A new operating system has meant a new button layout on the front. Below the screen there's a central square select button surrounded by thin frame which acts as the four-directional pad. That's flanked by two dual purpose buttons. The right is the power off/hang up button on the bottom, and a button to select which ever option is displayed on the right side of the display. The left is the calling button, and the button to select whatever option is on the left of the display.

Compare that to the original, which had one central button, a "C" (back/cancel) button on the left, and the up/down navigation button on the right.

With 17 years of development in the industry, components have become much smaller than they were in 2000 when the first 3310 was launched. That means Nokia has been able to slim down the phone. A lot. The new 3310 is about half the thickness of the original, meaning, it's about the same thickness as the detachable back cover of the first model.

Perhaps disappointingly, the back cover is nowhere near as easy to remove as the old one. While you're supposed to be able to just pull it off from the bottom, we couldn't, and had to resort to sticking a plectrum in where you're supposed to pull from, and levering it up, away from the back that way. It's a far cry from being able to just push up from the bottom with a single thumb.

That's not the biggest change on the back, however. There's a camera there now, complete with LED flash, right above the Nokia logo in the top third. It's worth noting, it’s only a 2-megapixel camera and it's fixed focus, so image quality is poor and it can't focus on anything close up. Not that it's a major down point - after all, it's not likely you'll be uploading it anywhere. The only way to share the photos is using Bluetooth or MMS. 

Perhaps more disappointing however is the lack of internal storage in the phone. We took six photos with the camera and then the phone was completely full. That means, on top of paying £50 for a basic phone, you'll need to go out and buy a memory card too to save your photos and music to. 

Nokia 3310 (2017) review: T9 texting

  • Traditional phone number pad
  • Predictive T9 texting
  • Backlit keys

One thing we've all become accustomed to in the era of smartphones is typing on software QWERTY keyboard. The fact is, software keys are more versatile, and predictive text is actually helpful. Swapping back to a T9 keyboard is something of a learning curve.

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Just like old Nokias, you switch between typing modes using the hash key (yes, it had a function before Twitter - it also had a function before mobile phones, but that's unimportant). Press it to switch between predictive and non-predictive, upper and lower case typing.

For those who never had to endure the T9 keyboard, the buttons are laid out like a regular phone keyboard, with three letters assigned to nearly all of them. Only 7 and 9 have more; they have four each. In predictive mode, you only need to press each key once for each letter of the word. For instance, type "Pocket" by tapping 7, 6, 2, 5, 3, 8. Providing that "Pocket" is the most used combination of letters from those keys, tapped in that order, it would come up.

If your desired word isn't the first up, you can cycle through the available options by repeatedly tapping the asterisk key until the one you want appears. 

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We were surprised how quickly we picked up the typing again, although, we were just as frustrated by trying to figure out punctuation as we were back at the turn of the millennium when predictive T9 typing took off. We didn't quite get back to our early 2000s touch-typing skills, but it wasn't really much slower than typing away on an iPhone keyboard. 

Nokia 3310 (2017) review: Display, software and performance

  • 2.4-inch colour display
  • 240 x 320 resolution 

Those hoping for a monochrome, list-based menu system with basic animations for each section will disappointed by the operating system on the new Nokia 3310. There's a basic menu of options and apps, and it's grid based, and colour. It's shown off on 2.4-inch screen with a 240 x 320 resolution, 167 pixel per inch density panel. That means it has fewer pixels than most modern smartwatches, that's to say, it's quite pixellated.

The list of apps includes the usual basic collection. There's Messaging, Contacts, Photos, Call Log, Camera and - of course - Snake (among others). As a side note: don't get your hopes up that this version of Snake is the same as the old version. In fact, it's not really like Snake or Snake II (which was on the original 3310).

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There's also an Opera-based mobile browser, which loads very basic versions of web pages over GPRS. That's right, no 3G and definitely no 4G LTE here. Still, the chances are that if you wanted to browse the web, you'd probably be looking for a smartphone.

There's a radio which, like the olden days, requires you to plug in the headset to use as the FM antenna. There's also music, and the ability to download and install basic apps and games, but those require you to make use of the microSD card slot.

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Using the phone over a weekend, it soon dawned on us that so many friends and family use either iMessage, Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp for communication, that even a basic phone for basic communication is limited, because, in the modern day, finding people who still use SMS is getting harder.

Still, whatever you use the phone for, you never have to worry that you'll push it hard enough to drain the battery in a day. There's no Wi-Fi or high speed mobile internet of any kind, and there's no large, pixel dense display or powerful processor to drain the battery. That means the 1,200mAh is good for up to 22 hours of solid talktime, and a standby up to 744 hours. That's one month of pure standby time. 

First Impressions

For most people, the 3310 isn’t going to be a phone you buy as a primary mobile device. Its functions are way too limited, and considering how cheap smartphones are getting these days, the £50 price point won’t feel cheap enough to make the cost savings tempting either. Even as basic, no-frills device, it feels limited and expensive. You could buy a Nokia 150 - as an example - and save yourself £30. 

However, there are those for whom a smartphone does too much. Or perhaps those who like the idea that they can unplug from social media, get away from time-consuming apps and just stick to plain old text and phone calls, even if just for the weekend.

For those people, presuming they have a fond memory of the old model, the new 3310 might be ideal. But those people are few and far between we suspect, and those who do end up buying one will likely do it as a completely impulsive purchase, and the phone will end up disused in a sock drawer for months at a time, or just passed off to a less tech savvy friend or relative.

It's hard to see the 3310 as anything other than marketing for Nokia, who would love you to know it's making phones again. People who want a simple, basic phone, can get one much cheaper than this rebooted classic. People who like the nostalgia feels won't really get those from this phone, and those who really want a 3310 can buy a refurbished original one off eBay for at least half the price of the 2017 model.

We enjoyed unplugging for a few days and only being able to call and text a select few people, but it's not a perfect phone.

We have opted not to give the Nokia 3310 a score, because in the context of smartphones, allocating a score makes no sense at all. You'll have to read the words instead.

Writing by Cam Bunton. Originally published on 22 May 2017.