Nostalgia or genius: why is Nokia relaunching the 3310?

One of the biggest selling phones on the market – or at least it was at the turn of the century – the Nokia 3310 is more myth than reality in 2017. Fondly remembered by older generations for its nearly perfect design, the candy-bar or “brick” device is perhaps better known amongst youngsters as a meme, an indestructible force of nature alluded to in hushed tones of reverence. Now, in the age of the smartphone, it may be making a comeback – but why?

Technophiles

Simplicity and durability are the hallmarks of the 3310 but, to borrow a point from the Independent, if those features are so important, why isn’t the venerable Nokia still the phone of choice? The popularity of phones made almost entirely out of glass (the Sony Xperia Z3 is a good example) suggests that a device with the latest gizmos – a camera, internet access, and a music player – is a bigger draw for consumers than a durable one.

The iPhone and Galaxy S series are perhaps the archetype of the modern device but it’s still the weird and wonderful devices that get technophiles’ hearts racing. For instance, it’s possible to bend the Lenovo CPlus around somebody’s arm. Smartphones are increasingly built around the consumption of media too; while most devices can play casino games or run Netflix, there are phones out there designed to do both at the same time.

The LG G6 has an aspect ratio (18:9) that allows the user to view two equally-sized square windows at once. It might sound like overkill for most smartphone users, but this allows for a level of multitasking we don’t often see in smartphones. For instance, imagine chatting on social media on the top half of the device and playing blackjack on the lower. Judging by the number of mobile-first casino brands on a review site like Casino Shark, a page that tracks and lists bonuses to make life easier for newcomers and experienced players alike, online casinos are increasingly built around that kind of freedom and versatility.

For example, Casino Shark lists 888casino among 69 brands reviewed, a website that has apps for both Android and iOS. There’s also a lot to be said for a dual-window approach as far as a game like poker is concerned; having a reference for the different hands while learning the game is an obvious boon for beginners, while experienced players like to play multiple tables at once – so screen size and ratio is certainly important if they were to take this desktop experience to their mobiles.

Emerging Markets

The Nokia 3310 is the antithesis of the above – it’s a “dumbphone” sold on the strength of its longevity and low price ($60). It’s easy to clean and repair, with just a few components beneath its plastic shell, and even has limited options for customization. It doesn’t have internet, Bluetooth, or NFC capabilities so contactless payments and those casino games are out the window but it’s debatable whether anybody who buys the 3310 has an interest in those things.

Bringing an ancient product back to market is always a risky move, so Nokia likely has a demographic in mind. While the obvious target is emerging markets, the fact that there’s a cheaper Android out there (also by Nokia, the $15 105) suggests otherwise. That relegates the 3310 to a pure back-up device in the West, a “festival” phone or something people with dangerous jobs use during the day: tough but cheap to replace.

There is a group that could benefit from a phone like the 3310 though – seniors and people with limited motor control skills. Anybody who has ever owned a smartphone will be aware of the consequences of dropping it even a few centimetres. With that in mind, modern devices can present an unacceptable risk for vulnerable people. Nokia’s nigh-indestructible phone couldn’t be further away from the iPhone in terms of materials.

Finally, let’s not discount simple nostalgia – after all, 2016 was the year in which the classic NES gaming console returned to the market.

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