The Nokia 3310 isn’t just catering to hipsters

As you may have heard, Nokia has released a modernised version of their famous 3310, the borderline-invincible phone from the year 2000 (“won’t it be strange when we’re all fully grow-ow-ow-own”).

If you have heard about it, then you’ve probably also heard (because every writer put it in their headline) that it has Snake. Is the fact that Snake is such a major selling point indicative of a larger problem, or is this a bold new move towards the future of mobile technology?

Many have been quick to point out that a year-2000 phone with old games like Snake is merely courting the hipster market without much more depth than that. It’s understandable that some would see the presence of out-of-date, retro content as the main sales pitch towards the nostalgia-smitten niche. On the surface, it looks like Nokia are taking one step forwards, 17 years’ worth of steps back. What’s next? A revamp of Simon Says? Bringing back the phrase ‘dagnabbit’? But wait, what if there’s more to the Nokia release than it appears?

With the first specs and reviews appearing, some specifics stood out that addressed modern-day user pain points. Most apparent is that there are buttons and no touchscreen. Anyone who got their first phone after 2007 might never have had a phone with buttons, but many of us still prefer the coordination boost one gets from feeling the buttons with your fingers. Another pain point addressed is the battery life, which promises 22 hours of talk time and an entire month in standby. So, the Nokia 3310 is addressing modern UX problems, under the guise of trendy retro marketing.

They’ve also addressed issues with the original device too, with it now being able to store up to 32GB, as well as play MP3s. It’s fitted with a 2.4-inch QVGA screen, protected by a curved polarised window for improved visibility, even in sunlight, and a 2-megapixel camera that, while not wooing the Instagram elite, does the job for photo-minimalists. All this for the affordable price of around £35-£40.

It’s hard to argue that it doesn’t make good business sense – according to some reports Nokia has gone up in value by 62%. Whether this will make long-term business sense is yet to be seen, but no one can deny the genius behind Nokia’s strategy, having researched the most valuable of all of their products and then combining that data with the needs of their consumers.

I dispute the idea that the mobile phone revolution has come full circle, however. If anything, it’s come full ‘9’, because if the line ended where it began we’d be seeing wind-up battery packs along with phones the size of modern games consoles. But most of all, these phones are addressing a particular market that hasn’t been properly catered to in years. Not everyone wants a £800 phone that tells you how many times you’ve eaten kale that day – some people want something more simplistic.

The only reason to think the mobile phone revolution could be coming to an end is the threat that, due to the popularity of this retro take, every other phone company will jump on board this hype train and bring out their own modernised adaptations of old devices. It’s unlikely any of them will capture the contextual cultural relevance like Nokia have, but if Warner Brother’s DC movie universe has taught us anything, it’s that being unable to recreate the success of a competitor won’t stop businesses from trying anyway.

So, is the Nokia 3310 a step forwards or backwards? In what is probably the cop-iest cop-out that ever copped-out, might I suggest it’s more of a sidestep? Nokia isn’t going to dominate the market with their nostalgia phone, but it’s silly to dismiss it as just another hipster product. Instead, I speculate that this phone will be a huge success among people disinterested in smartphones (there are many), those needing a cheaper/expendable second phone, and, of course, hipsters. We can expect to see competitors offering budget options on the side of their more expensive products in an attempt to capitalise on the trend.

Retro games like Snake still have a place in the world, but to the generations used to apps and high-resolution displays, the game will simply seem quaint. Snake (and by extension, the Nokia 3310) isn’t meant to be compared to its AAA/up-market counterparts, it’s simply designed to target a market less enamoured with high-tech phones. Budget phones won’t replace the smartphone, but they might move parallel to them.