Nokia 3310 3G Review: Simple has its advantages
Nokia's reborn 3310 has nostalgic roots, but if you want a simple and stylish phone, it still has appeal in 2017.
- Excellent battery life
- Simple enough for anyone to use
- Terrible camera
- Predictive text is painful to use
- Apps are laughably primitive
When Nokia announced it was bringing back the Nokia 3310 at Mobile World Congress 2017, it created a wonderful hype storm for the reborn phone company's push for its Android handsets along the way. That was good news for hyping up the Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 phones, and maybe that was the point. Folks were interested in the 3310 for its strong nostalgic attachments because around the turn of the century if you owned a mobile phone, the odds are very good that it was a Nokia.
The issue with the Nokia 3310 announced at MWC was that it was a 2G handset, designed for countries that will continue offering 2G services in the near future. Australia's not amongst that list, which relegated the Nokia 3310 2G to a mere curio. At least, that was the case right up until Nokia announced the $89.95 Nokia 3310 3G, set to release in Australia in mid-October 2017. Suddenly, the 3310 was worth looking at, but is it really worth buying?
The Nokia 3310 in its classic form had a design that, like the Motorola RAZR, can properly be called "iconic". Mention the 3310 to anyone who had one (and that's a lot of folks) and they'll instantly get a mental picture of what a 3310 should look like.
The chances are pretty good that they're not quite envisaging what the 3310 3G looks like. Available in azure, yellow, warm red, and charcoal, the Nokia 3310 3G looks rather like what would happen if you gave a classic 3310 to Willy Wonka and told him to go nuts with the colour schemes. It's definitely eye-catching, but then simply using a feature phone in 2017 is likely to attract attention anyway.
The Nokia 3310 3G measures in at 117 x 52.4 x 13.4 mm with a carrying weight of just 84.9 grams, which is almost certainly lighter than the smartphone you're probably carrying around with you already. It's certainly a shock to the system the first time you pick up the 3310 3G because it almost feels like one of those dummy model phones that mobile phone stores use as physical demonstration models.
The design is eye catching, but it's also deliberately simple, with a 12-key number pad sitting below power, selection and a four-way control button. The display is a simple 2.4-inch QVGA 320x240 pixel LCD. Nokia hasn't gone full monochrome retro and instead opted for a colour display. The rear of the 3310 3G houses a 2MP camera, and if you're the type who fusses about camera bumps on phones, you'll be pleased to find out that the lens is actually ever so slightly indented against the back of the phone.
While the vast bulk of the Nokia 3310 3G's features are designed with retro chic in mind, there are two features that actually outdo much more premium phones such as the iPhone X or Google Pixel 2 XL. No, really, there are!
For a start, the Nokia 3310 3G actually has a headphone jack. It's not blessed with a whole lot of internal storage, at just 64MB, plus microSD, but plugging in headphones also enables the built-in FM radio. The other aspect that the 3310 3G manages that eludes most premium smartphones is the inclusion of a fully removable battery. I'll be honest here. When first setting up the 3310 3G, I couldn't work out why it wouldn't power on until I realised that I hadn't installed the battery first! It's been a while since that was a regular feature on phones, but if you're the type who likes the idea of replacing dud batteries yourself, the Nokia 3310 3G could suit quite well.
The Nokia 3310 3G harks back to an earlier and considerably simpler camera phone era, with a single rear-mounted 2MP sensor with LED flash on the back. There is a camera shortcut for faster unlocking of the camera, but because the phone still locks itself, you're never going to capture that once-in-a-lifetime moment on the Nokia 3310 3G. It's a camera that's both slow to launch and slow to take shots in every instance.
I did have some hopes that the Nokia 3310 3G's low-resolution screen might not be doing the actual camera justice because there's only so much you can do at 320x240, but it turns out the reverse was actually true. Most photos look markedly better on the Nokia's tiny screen because unless you like photos that take on decidedly impressionist tones, you're not likely to be happy with the pictures it produces. Here's some sample shots taken from the Nokia 3310:
Testing the Nokia 3310 3G wasn't like any other tests we'd normally do here at finder because, by the nature of the handset, it's one that you can't actually benchmark in any measurable way. As such, any testing done had to be rather more observational and subjective, and that's going to introduce differences of opinion depending on what you actually want from a mobile device. To be absolutely fair, if what you want is a feature phone with simple call, text and a few games and converter apps, the 3310 will do all that, albeit rather slowly.
If you're thinking that the 3310 3G might present a lovely nostalgic throwback from your regular smartphone device, it's probably worth thinking again. I've been testing it for the last week, and while it hasn't been my primary phone, the experience has still been rather painful.
It's technically feasible to use services such as Facebook and Twitter via the browser, but it's so slow and painful to have to do so via the keyboard that you may as well not bother. That's perhaps the point, and Nokia does pitch the 3310 3G as a "detox" device for those wanting to escape social media; but even as a stopgap device if you were between phones due to breakage, you're probably going to end up wanting to break the 3310 3G. I know I've had moments like that.
The one question that absolutely everyone, without fail, will ask you if you say you're testing out a Nokia 3310 is whether it plays Snake. Snake is iconic, and it's present on the Nokia 3310 3G, albeit in a slightly tarted up fashion with a colour snake who appears to shift the apples out of the way rather than properly chomping them. Also, for some reason, he can move diagonally with certain control schemes.
It's a somewhat bold re-imagining of how Snake should play, and my inner retro gaming enthusiast wasn't entirely thrilled with it. That being said, I did hand the Nokia 3310 3G to my kids (who, to my shame, had never played Snake before) and they were happy enough to play it on a long car trip. Snake was never an epic RPG (although that's an idea), so perhaps it still has its charms. It's certainly a lot better than the other preinstalled game demos, which only serve to remind me of how woefully bad mobile gaming was in the pre-iPhone era. They were terrible then, and they haven't aged well.
The 3310 had legendary battery life, but then it operated in an environment where you used your phone to take and make calls, send texts and play a little Snake on the side. The Nokia 3310 3G has to contend with the slightly higher power draw of 3G networks and a colour screen with only a 1200mAh battery to draw from.
Now, again we can't use our regular battery benchmarking regime for the Nokia 3310 3G, so we've got to go somewhat anecdotal. Nokia's own estimates for the Nokia 3310 3G is that it should have up to 6.5 hours talk time, 27 days of standby time (for the single SIM model tested) and up to 40 hours of mp3 playback time. Those are lofty figures, but they're almost certainly achievable because the Nokia 3310 3G is quite aggressive by default at turning off its display screen when not in use.
Unlike a smartphone, this isn't a device you're likely to obsessively use for hours at a time, and that means that multi-day life, unless you're very chatty, is an entirely feasible proposition. On the battery-life front, there's very little that we've tested that's likely to come near the Nokia 3310 3G, but then that is rather a by-default position due to its very limited scope.
Anyone buying a feature phone in 2017 has to be doing so for very specific reasons. If it wasn't entirely obvious, I'm not in the target market for this particular device, so it's not for me to speak of. Sure, I get the appeal of a "detox" phone that you throw into the car for a weekend away from work email and social media, but if I want that, I can just switch off my actual smartphone. Your position and opinion may vary, and at $89.95 it could make a serviceable backup phone to throw into a drawer for any instances where your existing handset is lost or broken.
At its asking price, you do have plenty of other choices, including straight feature phones from makers such as ZTE and Alcatel, or even a number of very low cost Android handsets from those same makers and brands such as Huawei or Kogan. Those handsets have their own limitations, as you'd expect at that price, although if you do opt to go Android, you're also opening yourself up for a lot wider application scope.
Nokia 3310 3G: What the other reviewers say
|Trusted Reviews (2G version)||"The 2017 Nokia 3310 feels like a bad remake of a classic film."||2/5|
|The Australian||"You have little to lose experimenting with a Nokia 3310 3G"||7/10|
|TechRadar (2G version)||"The new Nokia 3310 doesn't justify the extra outlay over the simple nostalgia card it's playing."||N/A|
|CNET (2G version)||"The Nokia 3310 won't replace your iPhone, but this dirt-cheap feature phone is packed full of nostalgic charms that old-school Nokia fans will love."||N/A|
Pricing and availability
The Nokia 3310 3G will go on sale in Australia from mid-October at an outright price of $89.95, available through Vodafone, Optus, Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi in mid-October.
While that list does include two carriers, don't expect to see it on any contract plans ever because this is very much a feature phone for the prepaid market.
- Product Name
- Nokia 3310 3G
- 320x240 pixels
- Java Feature OS
- Front camera
- Rear camera
- 117 x 52.4 x 13.35mm