Building on the popularity of the original “indestructible” Nokia 3310, Nokia released the Nokia 3310 (2017) last year. But other than sharing a similar form factor and T9 keyboard, the two devices have very little in common.
Are feature phones still relevant in 2018? Is the Nokia 3310 (2017) worth your money? To find out, I spent three weeks with the device. Here is my review of the Nokia 3310 (2017) 3G variant.
Variants – 2G vs 3G
The Nokia 3310 (2017) comes in two variants: a 2G only version with white buttons (except for the dark blue one) and a 3G version with grey buttons. Note that 2G services have ceased in Singapore, so only the 3G version will work here.
It is easier to tell apart the two phones from the back. For the 3G version, the flash can be found above the camera and the speaker is located at the bottom left of the phone.
Design – Sleek, Kind-of Modern & Fun
People often think of feature phones as thick bricks, with a tiny display and a physical T9 keyboard. And that is the perfect description of what the Nokia 3310 (2017) is. Sort of…
Despite being shorter and narrower than a modern day smartphone, the Nokia 3310 (2017) is noticeably thicker at 12.8mm at its thickest point. Thankfully, Nokia used some clever design tricks to make it look and feel thinner than it actually is.
Its side edges on the rear are curved, like many of today’s smartphones, making the device feel thinner and more comfortable to hold. Interestingly, the front is also curved to provide a similar effect, including the plastic covering the 2.4″ display.
The display is not touchscreen; all navigation is done via the physical buttons below. Your thumb do not have to leave the bottom half of the display to have full control over the device, so using the Nokia 3310 (2017) one handed is a breeze.
The entire exterior of the device is made of plastic, but that may not be a bad thing. I have dropped the 3310 (2017) multiple times yet the exterior remains in pristine condition.
The matte plastic housing looks fabulous, especially in the red version I got. But food like froyo can leave permanent stains on it, which ruins the beauty of this device. Stay away from sticky and oily food when using the Nokia 3310 (2017).
Buttons & Keys
The T9 buttons below display looks almost identical to the original 3310’s, especially if you get the 3G version with grey buttons. The buttons are clicky but do not have a lot of travel. The buttons are back-lit, so typing in the dark is not a problem.
Navigating through the UI is done via the three buttons directly below the display. For the buttons on the left and right, pressing the top and bottom of each button will result in a different action. As you may have imagined, this can get annoying fast.
When typing in many apps, the top of the right button is used to as a backspace key, while the bottom acts as the “quit application” key. A click on the wrong part of the button and all your hard work will be gone in a blink of an eye. Horrifying.
Display – Not Bad For a Feature Phone
As mentioned earlier, the Nokia 3310 (2017)’s display is only 2.4″, which is tiny compared to any modern day smartphones. But for a feature phone, this is larger than average. The display is barely visible under sunlight when set to max brightness.
At approximately 167PPI, it looks sharp from an arm’s length, but move it any closer and you will start seeing the pixels. Again, for a feature phone, this is pretty good. But it is nowhere near the quality of displays found on similarly priced smartphones.
Network & Connectivity – Disappointment
The 3G version of the Nokia 3310 (2017) supports 3G networks, obviously. With 3G, you can surf the web, although speed is pretty slow and the experience sucks. I will go into more details about using the browser on the Nokia 3310 (2017) below.
One big disappointment about the Nokia 3310 (2017) is the lack of WiFi. You heard that right. No WiFi. This means that everything you do, from checking Facebook to downloading new games, must be done with mobile data. Ouch.
User Interface – Old & Dated
If you have ever used a feature phone in the past, the Nokia 3310 (2017)’s user interface will likely feel very familiar to you. The layout seems to have been untouched for years. Heck, even unlocking the phone still requires the * button.
The only part that feels kind of new would be the “notification shade”, which can be accessed by holding down on the # button. Here, you get to adjust the volume and brightness, as well as turn on mobile data and Bluetooth.
One thing I do really like about the UI are the icons. Unlike many feature phones, which have colorful and over-fanciful icons, the icons on the Nokia 3310 (2017) are simple and clean, providing a modern and unobtrusive feel.
Camera – Decent at Most
My expectations for the Nokia 3310 (2017)’s 2MP camera was pretty low, considering its price tag. But it is a little worst than I had hoped. The thing that drives me insane is how bad the dynamic range is. Photos taken out in the sun are often unusable.
But under room lighting, you can occasionally get some decent photos. Not Instagram-worthy, but good enough to share with friends. Even then, they look horrible on a display with such a low resolution, so do export them to your computer to view them.
The camera’s UI looks very dated, like every part of the Nokia 3310 (2017)’s UI. You do get some camera controls like exposure, contrast and white balance, but adjusting them takes a long time and with such photo quality, is there really a point in doing so?
Games – Feeling a Little Cheated
There are 5 games pre-installed on the Nokia 3310 (2017) and Snake is one of them, with more available in the games store. But Snake is the only complete game, while the rest are only 180s demos. To make matters worst, the demos are not uninstallable.
This version of Snake carries over the main elements of the original Snake game, bringing improved graphics and a new levels system. It is pretty fun for the first few minutes, but I lost interest soon after. Smartphone games are honestly a lot more fun.
Experience – Back to 2005
Typing on a T9 keyboard was very nostalgic at first, but it became a torture real quick. Compared to a full smartphone keyboard, typing on the physical T9 keyboard is really slow and prone to errors. Why is this still a thing in 2018?
As I have mentioned in my previous article, the biggest deal breaker about the Nokia 3310 (2017) is the lack of WhatsApp. In this day and age, not having access to WhatsApp often means losing contact with the people around you.
You may have noticed the Facebook and Twitter icons in the app menu. These are not actual Facebook and Twitter apps, but shortcuts to the pages on the Opera web browser.
The interface of web pages on a feature phone is very different from what you see on a smartphone. They are a lot uglier and cluttered, especially Facebook. Unless you have something important to check online, you will want to avoid using the browser.
Battery Life – Excellent. What Else did You Expect?
The battery on the Nokia 3310 can last for over two weeks on regular usage, partially because there isn’t a lot you can do on it. If you leave it on standby the entire time, it will last for a lot longer, probably even more than a month.
Charging is done via the Micro USB port found on top of the device. Yes, Micro USB. You do not need a proprietary cable to charge this thing. Best of all, you can access its storage (both internal and SD card) by connecting it to your computer.
Audio – Also a Portable Radio/Music Player?
One thing missing on many of today’s smartphone is support for FM radio, but that can be found on the Nokia 3310 (2017). Simply plug in a pair of headphones into the audio jack and open the radio app to tune in to your local FM radio stations.
You can also listen to your own music collection using the music app. There is only a mediocre 32MB of storage on board, so you will want to store your songs on a microSD card. Sound quality is considerably good as long as you are not an audiophile.
The speaker on the Nokia 3310 (2017) is decently loud. Despite being positioned on the rear, it does not get muffled when placed on a table, surprisingly. The quality is decent, comparable to similarly priced smartphone speakers.
Price – A Bit Steep for a Feature Phone
At S$99 regularly, the Nokia 3310 (2017) is “budget” for a phone, but not for a feature phone. Feature phones these days generally cost a lot less, some even under S$30, although they are not as sleek and feature-rich as the Nokia 3310 (2017).
At the same price, you can get a smartphone that may not be very good, but can do a lot more than the Nokia 3310 (2017) and also provide a much better user experience.
Conclusion – Who Should Buy the Nokia 3310?
It is clear that the Nokia 3310 (2017) isn’t for most people; it is just not something one should get as his/her primary device in 2018. You are better off buying a similarly priced smartphone, if budget is your constraint. So who is it for?
As a backup phone, the Nokia 3310 (2017) is pretty good.
Leave it powered-off in your bag and charge it about once a month. If you break or lose your smartphone, switch to the Nokia 3310 (2017) and the remaining charge inside will buy you enough time to get your smartphone replaced or fixed.
- Sleek design & great durability
- Pretty good display for a feature phone
- Excellent battery life
- Supports FM radio
- Uses Micro USB cable to charge
- Exterior easily stained by food
- T9 keyboard is slow and troublesome
- No WiFi support
- No WhatsApp
- Poor browser experience
- Only 1 complete game pre-installed
- Pricey for a feature phone
- Average camera for price
- Acceptable audio jack quality
- Rear-facing speaker does not get muffled on table