The word on the street is that HMD will launch a feature phone modelled on the Nokia 3310 from the olden days, and that’s got everyone all excited.
Such is the compressed nature of the mobile phone industry that a phone launched 16 years ago is viewed with the kind of sepia-tinged nostalgia and reverence normally reserved for renaissance art or Vera Lynne songs. In a world of ultra-sophisticated, fragile smartphones the simplicity and durability of the 3310 is looking increasingly appealing.
Nokia, of course, got out of the phone game a few years ago but kept a bunch of IP, which it has licensed to HMD Global. A leak earlier this week revealed that among the burner phones and smartphones expected to be launched by HMD at Mobile World Congress is a device modelled on the 3310.
The 3310 alone sold 126 million units in its heyday and this leak has aroused the passions of many who once owned one. The UK media is especially animated on the matter, with the Guardian opining it would survive a nuclear apocalypse, the Mirror using it as an excuse for more general mobile nostalgia, and Stuff fondly reminiscing about long battery life and playing Snake.
The phone mobile industry has a sense of being in a time warp right now. Microsoft seems to be finally pulling the plug on the Lumia range – the result of the Nokia handset division acquisition. Meanwhile BlackBerry (remember them?) is suing Nokia for old time’s sake.
The affection felt towards devices that now seem stone-age by comparison might be more than just youthful memories of two-day benders and frequent lie-ins. Maybe people are getting sick of feeling controlled by their smartphones and the endless distractions they offer. We might be seeing the start of an era when people own both a smartphone and a rudimentary phone and frequently choose to use just the latter. That would be good news for HMD Global and Nokia’s IP division.