Nokia 3310: a week with the new retro phone sensation

The new Nokia 3310 set the internet ablaze when it was announced back in February at MWC 2017, but will anyone actually buy this and use it as their main phone?

The answer is yes, some people already have. But anyone who excitedly reads sites like TechRadar to see the latest in smartphone innovation is unlikely to swap back to an old school feature phone like the new Nokia 3310.

For the purposes of reviewing, I did exactly that. I’ve not used a feature phone as my daily driver since before 2009. That's apart from the odd festival jaunt where all I’ve cared about is battery life and sending text messages to find out where my mates are hiding. 

Here’s my week with the Nokia 3310 presented in diary form, plus you can watch the video version of my seven days with the feature phone just below too.

Monday - time to set it up

I tried to swap over my phone to the Nokia 3310 (2017) early on Monday, but was greeted by the revelation that my SIM card is the wrong size. Big mistake, I forgot the new Nokia used a micro SIM instead of a nano SIM.

Despite swapping phones a few times a month as a tech journalist, I had forgotten there was another choice apart from nano SIM. Every modern phone boasts those, so I had to hunt down a micro SIM adaptor to be able to swap over to the Nokia 3310.

The next major stumbling block was finding out my contacts hadn't ported over to the Nokia 3310. Instead I had to manually add the people I want to be able to contact. However, you won't have this problem if your contacts are saved to the SIM card, so I recommend doing that in advance if you plan to buy this phone.

Actually setting the phone up was far easier than a new iPhone or Android device. There are just two or three steps to go through and all you really need to do is set the time.

Tuesday - when big news breaks

This was the day when I learnt about both the Manchester terror attack and the death of James Bond actor Roger Moore. Not having a smartphone didn't make keeping up with the latest news easy.

When I heard from a friend that Moore had died, I tried to access BBC News on the new Nokia 3310. This was frustratingly slow and took over 20 seconds to load each web page on the 2.5G network the Nokia 3310 uses - there's no 3G, 4G or even Wi-Fi here.

I also headed back to the UK after a trip to Berlin, Germany and found the Nokia 3310 wouldn't work when I landed. That's because I was suddenly on a different network, and the 3310 doesn't get on with some, so it's worth checking your network supports the Nokia 3310 before swapping over to this phone.

If you're on Vodafone or EE, you should be covered. Those on O2 or Three may struggle though, while US and Australian support for the Nokia 3310 is currently unavailable too.

Wednesday - can I get home?

Today taught me there aren't enough apps for the Nokia 3310. In fact, there aren't any at all. There’s a mobile store on the Nokia 3310, which is titled Java Games and Apps. 

But I stood in London Bridge trying to find an app to get me home this evening and I didn't have any luck, with the store only offering games despite its name.

Previously HMD has confirmed to TechRadar there would be a Twitter and Facebook app launching soon, but an exact release date is unclear.

Even the selection of games on the 3310 is poor, with a focus on off-brand titles including "FREE Flapping Bird" and "Brick Challenge", which looks to be just like Tetris. There are even adverts within the store itself, which adds insult to injury when you're struggling to find what you want.

Today was the first day I’ve genuinely found the swap back to a feature phone a struggle.

Thursday - introducing the camera 

The rear camera on the new Nokia 3310 is a good addition considering the first version of this phone didn't even have a shooter, but there still isn't much to talk about here. I’ve been able to take seven photos - yes, seven - with the storage available on the phone itself.

I’ll need to a get a microSD card to be able to store any more than that and what's even more disappointing is the resolution of the images. Below you can see a selection of my camera samples, but the 2MP camera isn't anywhere close to the quality we'd expect from a phone in 2017.

Friday - how long will it last?

Today I’ve been trying to put the battery through its paces, and it's particularly difficult to run this phone down. Mostly because it’s hard to keep using this phone for long periods of time without being able to play many great games or watch movies on it.

Generally I’m getting around 7 days battery life from a single charge of the Nokia 3310. HMD Global has been touting the figure of 31 days a lot, but that's only if you don't use the phone and leave it idle.

If you'll only be making the odd phone call or sending a text we think this phone should last you just over a week. That's great news, especially if you get frustrated by your current smartphone's lack of strong battery life.

Saturday - return of the Snake

Only two more days to go with the Nokia 3310 and I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to switching back to a smartphone. 

Everything you want from a feature phone is here. Texting works well, phone calls are clear, the camera even shoots well for a 2MP sensor, but I miss the entertainment of my smartphone.

I don’t have access to Spotify or any of my favorite games such as Reigns or Lara Croft Go. Instead I get to play Snake, but that’s not anywhere near as fun as it was back on the original Nokia 3310.

That's not because of the new version of Snake, it's purely because I'm used to better gaming on my phone now.

Sunday - how did it go?

It’s the final day now and this evening I will be switching back to the OnePlus 3T.

In terms of use, I’ve found the Nokia 3310 is easy to understand but infuriating in practice. Switching back to a numpad makes me so angry when I just want to text quickly that it becomes a major frustration.

Video is perhaps the thing I missed most while using the Nokia 3310. Not having easy access to YouTube or being able to play films on my phone is a major reason I wouldn’t use this as my main device. 

The lack of media such as podcasts or music streaming is another big frustration, and having no access to messaging apps such as Messenger or WhatsApp is a big problem too.

I wouldn't use this as my everyday device, but I wouldn't use any other feature phone in 2017 for longer than I have to either.

James Peckham

James is the Editor-in-Chief at Android Police. Previously, he was Senior Phones Editor for TechRadar, and he has covered smartphones and the mobile space for the best part of a decade bringing you news on all the big announcements from top manufacturers making mobile phones and other portable gadgets. James is often testing out and reviewing the latest and greatest mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, virtual reality headsets, fitness trackers and more. He once fell over.