HMD Global did something special at last year's Mobile World Congress, stealing the show with... a feature phone. By making ingenious use of the Nokia name, having snapped that up the previous year, it 'relaunched' the Nokia 3310. The internet swelled with a nostalgia-driven fervor as HMD put on a masterclass in brand awareness. As expected, the company returned to the mobile show this year with another retro handset in tow, and for some reason waited six months to put it on sale. But the Nokia 8110 4G, aka the "banana phone," is now here, and it's not just another marketing exercise. Thanks to a jump in software, it's not your typical feature phone. But it's not quite a smartphone, either. Instead, it's something in between.
Gallery: Nokia 8110 4G | 25 Photos
Gallery: Nokia 8110 4G | 25 Photos
People didn't really seem to care much when it was announced, but the relaunched Nokia 3310 only bore a passing resemblance to the original. It was more a modern reimagining of the turn-of-the-century icon than a true relaunch. The same is true of the Nokia 8110 4G, but that's a good thing. The 8110 came to market in 1996, complete with chunky body, small monochrome screen and protruding aerial. Naturally, the new 8110 is more refined. It's still a thick candy bar with a sliding cover that's used to answer and hang up calls -- alas, however, it's not spring-loaded like the special model featured prominently in the first Matrix movie.
It also retains the curved body of the original 8110, which earned it the nickname "banana phone." Not to miss a trick, HMD has nodded to this old handle by releasing the new version in a garish bright yellow, as well as the more reserved matte-black option. It's on the larger end of the feature-phone spectrum, with a robust build quality that'll always be associated with the Nokia brand. You also get a removable battery that HMD says will last several days without crying for an outlet, or up to 25 days in standby.
There are a few modern amenities too: A 2-megapixel camera with flash, a color display, four gigs of internal storage and a microSD slot. These aren't outlandish for a feature phone, though, and well... we've seen this trick before. The company already pushed our nostalgia buttons to the point of numbness with the 3110, but the new 8110 serves as sort of a feature-phone benchmark. It's not your standard dumb device.
HMD can't really take the credit, however. In this instance, it's KaiOS that's responsible for what's happening behind the scenes. Though it may look basically the same as the software on other Nokia feature phones, behind that familiar skin is a much more capable backbone.
I disagree with the notion you can pick up a bare-bones Nokia to disconnect from the chaos of connective life. The concept of the digital detox has always seemed disingenuous to me. It's a phrase usually uttered by tech journalists who would never attempt such a thing, and if you genuinely want a break from the daily onslaught of notifications and social feeds, you can do that without buying a more limited device. I can, though, understand why someone might want to keep an emergency phone with long battery life in their glove box, and the new 8110 offers a few useful features that go beyond basic calling/texting functionality. These give it legitimate potential as a backup phone but will be significantly more important to people in countries where feature phones are still the way many stay connected.