The Dumb That Went For The Dumb

nokia-3310s

By Low Teck Mee

I admit: I was dumb. Hype had me. I was sold to it. The dumb was duped. I was quick to find the idea of a re-issued of Nokia 3310 appealing. What, in reality, would I do with a handset that is a “dumb phone” but goes by the more euphemistic description “feature phone”?

Truth be told, I have not had a hands-on with the new 3310; I was not at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where the phone was announced. What I know is based on what I have perused thus far. But once I read what is out there about the Nokia reincarnation, I can’t help but feel let down. Serve me right. Just because everyone is talking about it doesn’t mean I want it.

To be sure, I did not really want it. I was looking for a phone with keypad for my father and uncle. When I came to know of Nokia’s plan for the old 3310, I was excited by what I maybe able to purchase for two technology-averse patriachs. At the same time, I was seized by nostalgia, remembering the good days when cellphones were still novel and you could buy them in a myriad of styles and shapes, unlike now, when, in terms of silhouette, smartphones are as sexy as chocolate bars.

The new 3310 retains the curvy form factor of the orginal. Against everything we see these days, it’s quite a buxom. (Nokia did have a flair for unusual shapes. Remember 2003’s 7600 that was shaped like a leaf?) Even the 3310’s buttons are oval, not like those digital ones on our screens that seem to be inspired by mahjong tiles. So too is the enlarged screen: not rectangular—now looking like a wine goblet flatten by an elephant’s step.

Inside, it is a lot less similar that the oldie, but not anywhere close to what we’re used to in a smartphone. The 3310 does not operate on Android or Windows. Instead, it’s built on Nokia’s own OS, which means no downloadable apps… yet. To make it worse, this is a 2.5G phone, meaning you can’t use it here, come 1 April, when all our telcos only support 3G and up. If that’s a deal breaker, this will surely make you balk at the 3310: there is no WiFi connectivity! A little comfort may come in the form of a colour screen and a camera, which, gasp, is only 2MP-enabled. Retro fashion, I understand, many people love, but retro-spec tech?

New gadgets have become so constant in its perceived newness that we are so easily enticed by them. Even with 3310’s only-just newish skin above barely newish technology, we (maybe it’s just me) become rapidly seduced. Smartphone makers should not be too concerned with a faded name such as Nokia, yet they and tech reporters were all agog with the possibility of relieving the glory days of the 3310.

Sadly, the game-changing technology that had us all enamoured with smartphones is really no longer changing anything—not in the way we live, the way we work, the way play, the way we use our phone. Isn’t today’s phone already packed with everything including the proverbial kitchen sink?

A retro buy such as the Nokia 3310 should hold little attraction to me, but I do sometimes wonder: if we can’t move forward, is it so bad to slide back a little?

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