The 5 phones that made Nokia worth buying

The 5 phones that made Nokia worth buying
Have a close look - you probably have one of these in a drawer

It's official: Microsoft has bought Nokia's phone and services division for £3.2 billion, taking on the development of its Windows Phone series and giving the company a stronger foothold in the fight against Google and Apple in the mobile marketplace.

While Nokia's star may have waned in recent years (though the latest batch of Lumias have made at least a few sit up and take notice again), this is a company responsible for a galaxy of classic handsets.

So we've looked back and picked the devices, past and present, gave Nokia the power and momentum that saw it manage to stagger on through some tricky times, and expertise that Microsoft couldn't resist getting its hands on.

1. Nokia 3310

Nokia 3310

The Nokia 3310, responsible for millions of hours on Snake II

Cast your mind back to late 2000: Bush and Gore were battling for the keys to the White House, and Nokia replaced its hugely successful 3210 with the 3310, which went on to scale even greater heights.

Not everyone had a mobile phone in the early 2000s, but if you did, chances were it was a 3310 or its immediate predecessor.

It made Snake II the most popular game of the age, came in a variety of colours and all-encompassing cases, let you customise the ringtone and even let you send texts above the 160-character limit.

It was one of the first phones to match the blueprint for any successful handset: powerful, versatile, and a pleasure to use.

2. Nokia N95

Nokia N95

The N95 was one of the first true powerhouse mobile phones

Get into a conversation with anyone who once owned an N95 and you won't have to do much prodding to get them singing its praises.

This was the most feature-packed feature phone in existence before the iPhone turned up, offering cutting-edge capabilities such as GPS and online mapping, an MP3 player, Wi-Fi and 3G support (something the first iPhone lacked), and a 5 megapixel camera that was ahead of its time (recording both images and video).

It had a big, bright, colourful screen and a slide-out design that meant you could hide away the keypad when you didn't need it – in short, it was everything that the iPhone wasn't and caused throngs of users to fly all over the globe to pick it up.

Sadly, it was also the start of the downward trend for Nokia, as the brand failed to recognise that consumers would become less interested in power, and more about ease of use… but it still remains an iconic phone nonetheless.

3. Nokia 1110

Nokia 1110

The simple mobile phone that's sold more than any other in the world

The Nokia 1110 remains the company's best-selling phone of all time. In fact, at 250 million units shifted, it's the best-selling handset in history (unless you want to lump all the editions of the iPhone together), so keep that in mind for your next pub quiz trip.

Like most of the classic Nokias, it was user-friendly and simple to operate, and it helped the company expand worldwide into developing countries that it previously hadn't touched.

You didn't get much besides the basic functions with the 1110, and it ran out of juice after five hours or so, but it remains one of Nokia's most important devices in terms of spreading the company's influence and getting its name recognised across the globe.

4. Nokia N9

Nokia N9

The Nokia N9 - we hardly knew ye

The N9 wasn't the most successful mobile phone handset that Nokia ever launched — its chassis was stolen from it in the UK market to be used for the Windows Phone-powered Lumia 800 — but it provided evidence that the company could still innovate and provide fresh ideas of its own given half a chance.

The MeeGo mobile OS appeared just as Nokia switched focus to Windows Phone and actually had a lot going for it (including intelligent multi-tasking, a really slick UI, decent Web browsing and a combined notifications system), and it was all wrapped in a stylish-looking chassis that gave a few nods to where Nokia would be heading next (from the brightly coloured casing to the high-spec Carl Zeiss integrated camera).

We doubt Microsoft is going to ever want to fragment its mobile phones operations at all, but at least is shows that Nokia knew how to make a decent OS, and that's going to be gold dust when it looks to polish Windows Phone.

5. Nokia Lumia 925

Nokia Lumia 925

The Lumia 925 is the poster child for Windows Phone.

Back to the present day, and while Nokia has been caught out by the explosion of iOS and Android devices, the Lumia range — and the Nokia Lumia 925 in particular — shows clear signs that Nokia is ready to fight back.

Impressive build quality, a great camera and a top-notch suite of integrated apps (particularly for managing your contacts and social media accounts) makes it the best Nokia phone of the moment.

The only piece of the puzzle missing is third-party app support, and if Microsoft can solve that problem, then hardware like the Lumia 925 and its successors should give it more than half a chance of making Windows Phone a mainstream mobile operating system.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.