Nokia 8110 4G review: A premium feature phone with a sense of fun

Alex Kidman 18 September 2018 NEWS

The reborn Nokia 8110 can't – and doesn't – compete with a smartphone, but for the feature phone crowd, this is a great premium choice.

Quick Verdict
Nokia's reborn Nokia 8110 is distinctive, easy to use and a lot of fun, although anyone used to a smartphone will find its limitations extremely frustrating. However, if you prefer a phone that's just a phone, it's a great handset.

The good

  • Eye catching design
  • Works as a 4G hotspot
  • Simple operation

The bad

  • T9 text in a smartphone age is painful
  • Camera is ordinary at best
  • Pricey for a feature phone


Nokia's rebirth, by way of licensing partner HMD Global, kicked off in 2017 with the surprise reappearance of the Nokia 3310, a classic design that had a lot of nostalgic appeal for anyone who was still keen on the Nokia brand.

2018 saw the Nokia 8110 get the redesign treatment, and the Nokia 8110 4G is finally available on Australian shores. It's a feature phone in 2018, which marks it out as unusual to begin with because the market for feature phones, as distinct from smartphones, is a niche one.

Still, within that niche, it's one of the nicest feature phones money can buy.


Nokia 8110 4G: Design

  • Shaped like a banana, which is fun
  • Removable battery
  • Micro SIM compatible

Most feature phones you can buy are very plain, cheap-looking units. They're sold in bulk quantities and built for pennies – and it shows. After all, the advent of smartphones pretty much killed off any new design ideas in the feature phone space more than a decade ago.

Indeed, the Nokia 8110 4G's design can't be said to be new or innovative because it's a deliberate throwback to the classic Nokia 8110 and its curved design. However, you don't call something a classic without it having some sort of pedigree, and that means that it's a much nicer looking handset than many competing feature phones you could buy. I tested with the banana yellow model, which is clearly the one for extroverts. The black model is more subtle, and naturally, it's the unit you'd buy for all your cheap Keanu/Matrix cosplays.

Asking the Nokia 8110 4G for guns won't work, however.

The key feature of the Nokia 8110 4G is the slider that obscures the keypad and switches the 2.45-inch LCD display on. It is only plastic, and I didn't test it to the point of breaking, but it's about as robust as you can expect for a moderately-priced feature phone.

The Nokia 8110 4G rear casing is removable because it's a fully retro-styled phone, and that extends to the inclusion of a removable battery. You'll have to pull the battery out to swap SIMs, and the phone only offers support for microSIMs, rather than the newer nano SIM standard.

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Nokia 8110 4G: Camera

  • 2MP camera is better than expected
  • That's not the same as "good" though

If you had placed a 2MP camera on the original Nokia 8110, it would have blown the minds of phone reviewers at the time (and I was one of them).

A 2MP camera in 2018, and a single one at that with no sign of a selfie camera of any type is a different story. Last year's Nokia 3310 3G camera was a woeful creature, so it's fair to say my expectations weren't high for the Nokia 8110 4G's solitary camera.

Nokia 8110 4G sample photo

It's also fair to say that I was surprised by the Nokia 8110 4G's camera performance, although I can't call it good because it simply isn't.

However, while images appear a blocky mess on the Nokia 8110 4G's display, once you take them off the phone, you can get lucky with some acceptable images. Don't even think about low-light or motion photographs because that's ludicrously beyond the Nokia 8110 4G's meagre photographic capabilities. Most of the photos you take will be blurry, noisy or sometimes both.

Nokia 8110 4G sample photo

Maybe it's just that anything would have been a step up from the Nokia 3310 3G's camera, and this is a bar that the Nokia 8110 4G manages to leap over.

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Nokia 8110 4G: Performance

  • Predictably slow performance
  • T9 text entry makes me want to tear out hair I don't have
  • 4G hotspot functionality is super useful

The Nokia 8110 4G runs on a modified KaiOS core, using a Snapdragon 205 processor with just 512MB of RAM. Again, this is a feature phone, so it's not as though it needs octa-core processing power. Still, it's not a fast phone by any stretch of the imagination, even for basic features like calling or texting. That's anecdotally speaking, of course. KaiOS doesn't support our standard benchmarks, so we can't compare scientifically against other phones as we would for any Android or iOS device.

Because it's a Nokia phone, you do get Snake, but it's the slightly weird, "reimagined" Snake in colour rather than the classic you might remember. There's a range of Google Apps on board, including Assistant, YouTube and Google Maps, but before you get too excited, you're still stuck using T9 text input.

T9 text input was what we had back in the 1990s, and I hated it then. The passage of time hasn't softened my stance that it's still a fundamentally painful way to enter any kind of text, and as such, you're only going to want to use these apps in a pinch.

One feature I will happily use on the Nokia 8110 4G is the ability to utilise it as a Wi-Fi hotspot. It's only a category 4 LTE, but as long as your signal strength is decent, that should be enough to perform most basic web tasks on a device that supports easier text entry. That's an excellent use case for the Nokia 8110 4G, because you could keep it as a back-up phone and Wi-Fi hotspot in one simple and attention-grabbing device.

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Nokia 8110 4G: Battery life

  • Great battery life if you keep it simple

The Nokia 8110 4G features a removable battery with a claimed 25 days of standby life. No, that's not a typo; this is a phone that can (theoretically) survive more than three weeks before it needs some serious snuggle time with any microUSB charger.

Having used it for the past couple of weeks, I'd believe it because the key market for this kind of phone is anyone who wants simple communication, but not too frequently. Naturally, if you do use it as a mobile hotspot, you'll drain the battery pretty quickly, but for regular use, it's a very capable handset.

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Nokia 8110 4G: Should you buy it?

  • One of the best feature phones you can buy.
  • Possibly a little pricey for its target market.
  • Consider your budget smartphone alternatives at this price point.

Am I going to switch to the Nokia 8110 4G? No, there's absolutely no chance of that. But within its particular niche, it's a well-appointed handset that may well be at the "premium" end of the feature phone market. If you're not happy with smartphones for whatever reason, and you're happy enough with its asking price, which is on the higher side for a feature phone, it's an easy recommendation.

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Nokia 8110 4G: Pricing and availability

Buy the Nokia 8110 4G

Buy the Nokia 8110 4G from Amazon AU

Get your retro groove on with Nokia's 4G-capable Nokia 8110.

View details
  • The Nokia 8110 4G sells outright in Australia for $129.

Nokia 8110 4G: Alternatives

The $129 asking price for the Nokia 8110 4G puts it above what you might want to spend on what is just a feature phone.

While you can't get an iPhone for that kind of money – except maybe a knock-off one from a dodgy factory that produces something called a yPhone that may well explode in your hand – there are plenty of low-end Android devices at around this price that you should consider.

If you want to keep within the Nokia family, consider the low-cost Nokia 1 or newer Nokia 2.1 handsets. Alcatel has the Alcatel 1C or Telstra Essential Plus for less than the 8110 4G's asking price, or the Alcatel 1X for exactly the same price.


Specifications

OS Feature OS
Display size (inches) 2.45
Display resolution (pixels) 320 x 240
Pixels per inch (PPI)
Processor MSM8905
Height (mm) 133.45
Width (mm) 49.3
Depth (mm) 14.9
Weight (g) 117
Battery size (mAh) 1,500
Wireless charging No
Internal storage 4GB
MicroSD expansion 32GB
Fingerprint scanner No
RAM 512MB
Water resistance IP52
Rear camera (1) resolution 2
Rear camera (1) aperture
Rear camera (2) resolution
Rear camera (2) aperture
Rear camera (3) resolution
Rear camera (3) aperture
Front camera (1) resolution
Front camera (1) aperture
Front camera (2) resolution
Front camera (2) aperture
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Network category speed Category 4
NFC support No
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