Sometimes it's the little things that are the biggest conveniences, like being able to import your contact list from a Google or Outlook account. It was such a nightmare trying to get my cloud contacts on the 3310 that I gave up, and yet it took me all of 30 seconds on the 8110. It was extra speedy since I'd already connected my Gmail through the phone's email client five minutes earlier. It's a basic client -- it doesn't know what to do with PDF attachments, for instance -- but it works all the same. Syncing my calendar was a tad convoluted as I had to jump on my laptop and flip a switch to allow "less secure apps" to access my data, but all in all, I spent about ten minutes total linking all the essential services.
Other basic apps include a browser, voice-note recorder, calculator, music player, FM radio and Gameloft's bastardization of Snake, alongside several pre-installed demos of other games from the developer. I couldn't get my Mac to recognize the 8110 as an external USB storage device, but pairing via Bluetooth and transferring mp3s that way worked without issue. You get GPS, WiFi and 4G, too, the latter being particularly useful because you can turn the phone into a mobile hotspot and let other devices ride that connection.
The big difference between the 8110 and previous Nokia feature phones, though, and the reason it encroaches on smartphone territory, is that several Google services come baked-in -- Google has been working relatively closely with KaiOS after investing $22 million in the platform a few months ago. Beyond the ability to easily import your contacts and link your calendar, you get YouTube, which is basically a web app shortcut that loads in the browser, and a Google app, which opens the browser with the search bar front and center. But the highlights are, for sure, Maps and the Assistant.
Maps is a little slower to use with scroll keys and a 2.45-inch display, but it's the full package. You can see traffic info and satellite imagery; get directions for driving, cycling, walking or a public transport route; search for nearby restaurants or shops; read reviews and check opening times, etc. Maps, too, syncs with your Google account, so all your favorite spots are highlighted as they should be.
The Assistant is similarly impressive considering the hardware it's working with. It's by no means the complete experience, but the stripped-down version isn't too dissimilar from the Android Go build. And it isn't always listening on the 8110 -- you have to open up the Assistant app first. That said, it's surprisingly fast at processing voice commands and speaking back to you. The Assistant can send texts or call anyone in your contacts. It'll answer your questions about the weather, store opening times and nearby eateries, do calculations on your behalf and translate phrases into other languages. It'll even do some of the quirkier stuff, like tell you jokes.
The Assistant isn't as integrated with other apps as it is on smartphones, but there's some basic cross-communication with YouTube. While it can't set an alarm for you or dictate your calendar appointments for the day, you can ask it to play a song, and it'll hand you over to the YouTube app and automatically search for what you requested. KaiOS should keep getting better in the future, too. While Twitter's the only notable name in its app store at the moment, rumors signal to the imminent addition of Facebook and WhatsApp. Facebook is already available on the JioPhone and Jiophone 2 from Indian carrier Reliance Jio, WhatsApp is due any day now, and both of these devices run KaiOS. I was told Reliance Jio control the app stores on their devices, and while KaiOS representatives wouldn't say any more on it, no doubt it's only a matter of time before the services become platform-wide.