In various ways, the new 3310 harks back to simpler times, but it also misremembers some important details. How dare HMD even call this a 3310 when you can't replace the front and back shells? The scope for customization was one of the best things about the old model. Back then, a couple of bucks would buy you a shiny metallic peach number with spring-loaded keypad cover and, naturally, infinite cool points. Now you've only four colors to choose from: yellow, red, blue and gray. Boring ...
Also, there's some strange new abomination of Snake made by Gameloft that's barely recognizable from the semi-infinite arcade game of old. It's colorful and has levels, power-ups and a choice of control schemes (I don't like change). Worse yet, there's no ringtone creator, which was part musical instrument, part game, and the perfect way to wind down after an intense Snake session on the school bus.
All things considered, I really have no clue who HMD Global is making this phone for, and for what reason anyone would legitimately buy one. I almost understand why the new 3310 ended up being the biggest announcement at this year's Mobile World Congress conference. There's nothing like a retro product to whip the internet into a frenzy. All HMD had to do was recycle the 3310 name, and you've got people like me writing amusing headlines and people like you excitedly sharing memories from your old 3310 days in Facebook shares.
But having used the new 3310 as my primary phone for the best part of a week, I'm not all that interested in pseudo-reliving the Nokia heydays. It's small and light, colorful and cute, but think about all the apps you use on a daily basis. There's no loading up Google Maps to navigate an unfamiliar part of town, or checking train times. No WhatsApp or Instagram or Tinder or Spotify or YouTube. I quickly learned I couldn't copy my Google contacts onto my SIM card so the 3310 could read them. IPhones simply don't have that functionality these days. And the only SMS messages I receive are takeaway-restaurant spam, so prepare to be completely unaware of what's going on in your group IM chats.
What's more, the new 3310 is expensive for what it is. The phone launches in the UK today for £50, or roughly $65. You can buy smartphones for that kind of money -- not attractive, powerful devices running the latest version of Android, but fully fledged smartphones from the likes of Alcatel, ZTE and Archos all the same. And if you really, really want a basic phone -- a don't-mind-losing "festival phone," for example, though I'm sure this use case is just an urban myth -- then grab a Nokia 216 from Carphone Warehouse for £29. It runs exactly the same Nokia Series 30+ software, so it does everything the new 3310 does plus you get a front-facing camera. In short, it's both better and cheaper.
Now, it's all well and good for me to throw shade at the new 3310 for its limited functionality, but I'm well aware that feature phones are still very much relevant in some parts of the world -- HMD is planning to launch the phone worldwide, but whether the company will actually get around to releasing a model that supports North American 2G bands is still up in the air.
According to Strategy Analytics, almost 400 million feature phones were shipped last year, with over 35 million bearing the Nokia name. But if you look at a particularly popular market like India, where feature phone sales outpace those of smartphones, the new 3310 is still confusing. It recently launched there for 3,310 rupees (roughly $50/£40), but a quick look on Amazon India tells me you can get the better Nokia 216 for 2,494 rupees. It's a no-brainer.
There are other forces at play here, though. Finnish firm HMD Global acquired the rights to use Nokia's name only on certain products this time last year, so it's still pretty fresh in the public consciousness -- not ideal when you're trying to drum up interest in a new range of Android smartphones bearing Nokia logos, especially after Microsoft's failure to make a success of the Lumia brand. Whichever way you look at it, the new 3310 just isn't applicable in 2017. But as a master class in brand-awareness marketing? Mission well and truly accomplished.