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The new Nokia 3310: a new trend or unnecessary nostalgia?

One of the surprise highlights of this year’s Mobile World Congress conference was the all-new Nokia 3310 – a revived and redesigned version of their most iconic phone, first released all the way back in the year 2000. Is this the start of new trend for stripped-back devices, or is it just nostalgia? Our Agents argue the point!

Among the shiny smartphones and high-tech tablets of this year’s MWC expo, it was a sub-£100 feature phone that caused the most fuss: Nokia’s new 3310.

The original device is symbolic of a bygone era in mobile phone design: when calls and texts were first and foremost, phones could survive a drop of more than a metre without shattering – and battery life was measured in days and weeks, rather than hours.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it was some sort of golden age: the phones of 15 years ago were, of course, extremely basic by modern standards. And today, most users rely on the advanced communication, web browsing and media-playing features of their smartphones – don’t they?

Well, the stir around the 3310 suggests perhaps not. Nostalgia can be a powerful thing – but is there more going on here? We asked two of our Agents for their expert opinions.

“Yes – people are hungry for an alternative”

Agent Cruickshank says: As a smartphone user, it feels strange to suggest a ‘backwards step’ in terms of technology. Why would I choose to give up a fast internet connection, large screen and tons of games?

Ideally, I probably wouldn’t. But I do want a phone that I don’t need to charge at least once a day – and something that’s cheap enough to take on holiday without worrying about damaging it!

Nokia 3310One thing that's always been an issue for me with smartphones is the cost. A top-end smartphone can run upwards of £400 – and if you want a phone that will consistently run the latest software and support the newest apps and games, you can expect to make a new phone purchase once every two years or so.

Now, the original Nokia 3310 cost around £129, which at the time was reasonably expensive! The 2017 edition, however, is expected to retail for £49 - far more affordable, and drastically cheaper than most touchscreen Android handsets. If I lost it on holiday I would still be upset at losing my phone – but replacing it wouldn’t break the bank like replacing an iPhone or high-end Android handset would.

Aside from the cost, there's also the question of whether our modern phones actually do too much. As much as I love my smartphone, there’s always a thought at the back of my mind that I’m keeping all my eggs in one proverbial basket. A smartphone does so many essential things for me that I feel anxious when the power runs out!

My phone is my GPS, my MP3 player, my pocket Google and my games console all rolled into one – and that takes its toll on my battery life. In the past I’ve tried using a separate MP3 player or a dedicated GPS, but I still end up charging my phone at least once a day.

When my phone battery is empty, I’m stuck without calendar events and birthday reminders, with no way of being contacted other than in person or through a computer – so to me, separating the phone from the features makes a lot of sense.

For that reason – while I’m not too enthusiastic about monophonic ringtones, monochrome low-res wallpapers and trying to beat the Snake high score over and over again – there’s still a place in my heart (and my pocket) for a low-cost, low-powered handset like the Nokia 3310.

“No – the smartphone is here to stay”

Agent Cooper says: I see what Agent Cruickshank is getting at above, and to some extent I agree – there are many circumstances where you might not want a huge, battery-hungry smartphone flashing and vibrating every 30 seconds.

But all the same, I don’t think that’s why the new 3310 exists – or who it’s being marketed to.

The truth is, the old-fashioned ‘feature phone’, as they’re known these days, never went away. Our own Agent Watling investigated the state of the market back in 2015, and discovered there’s still a load of options out there.

So if you’re the sort of person who actually needs a feature phone, they’ve not been too hard to find. LG, Samsung and Doro all still make them, albeit with a focus on marketing them to developing nations – and as if that wasn’t enough, Nokia themselves released a new feature phone, the Nokia 150, as recently as January!

What makes the new 3310 different? Branding and marketing.

That’s not to say it’s not a good feature phone – by all accounts, it’s excellent at what it does. But if it wasn’t for the name, and the unique place the original 3310 holds in tech culture, we wouldn’t be writing about it now. And it’s worth mentioning that most of the hype and excitement about the device has come from tech hobbyists and journalists – not ordinary users!

As such, I don’t expect the wealth of media coverage (including this article) to translate into sales figures for the 3310. Sure, it’s fun to remember the technology of years gone by – but in this Agent’s opinion, for most users at least, the modern smartphone is here to stay.

That's our opinion – but what do you reckon about the new Nokia 3310? Share your thoughts in the comments below! And for more great articles from our Agents straight to your inbox each month, get your name down below for the Geek Squad newsletter.

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