On Valentine’s Day, Nokia decided to gift the world something far better than the corny heart-shaped chocolates, or card, or whatever it was that you bought your significant other as an unimaginative show of constipated affection. The fallen Finnish tech giant announced that it will be reissuing the legendary Nokia 3310, thus hosing everyone born between 1970 and 1990 down with a blast of collective Y2K nostalgia.
For those of you who don’t remember the 3310 because you were too busy slurping on your momma’s nipple while my generation was debasing its literacy by abbreviating the English language to LOL’s and A/S/L?’s and g2g’s, let me give you a history lesson:
Originally released on September 1, 2000, the 3310 quietly entered the world unnoticed because we were all too busy stealing Metallica’s music via Napster. Released as an upgrade to its predecessor the 3210, its bulbous design was an instant icon; the Volkswagen Beetle of the Y2K era (more so than the actual VW Beetle redesigned around the same time.) Although cutesy and infantile like a child’s toy, at least it offered some aesthetic value, which is more than can be said for the utilitarian dullery of the 3210 that came before it.
But what really lodged it into our hearts was Snake II (a sort of PacMan-esque endurance game that pierced through the mundanity of countless afternoons spent on public transport) and its custom ringtone composition tool. When word got out on ICQ that we could turn Bomfunk MC’s "Freestyler" into a ringtone, we all started convulsing on the floor like crazy Pentecostals at a Sunday church service.
The 3310 would go on to be the best-selling phone of all time, shifting some 126 million units – a haul that would help make Nokia bigger than Google at the time. Ironically enough, its discontinuation in 2005 would also mark the beginning of Nokia’s terminal decline.
The company’s inability to adapt to the emerging smartphone market would eventually lead to its mobile phone business being bought out by the equally dated Microsoft nearly a decade later. To be honest, I thought it had already gone bankrupt, and the decision to bring back the 3310 feels like a desperate final roll of the dice – a weary all-or-nothing last gasp gamble by a company all out of ideas and with little left to lose. It’s the tech version of Michael Keaton’s character in Birdman. Who knows, maybe Alejandro Iñárritu will make a film out of this one day.
In reality this is primarily a nostalgia-soaked gimmick for people that are hovering dangerously around 30 (or, in some cases, even fatally over the mark) and want to recapture some of the youth that has slid through our fingers like sand. Aside from durability and the convenience of a seemingly endless battery life, what’s the selling point? Contemporary smartphones have eclipsed the 3310 on every front, and there are plenty of burner phones for drug dealers out there that better serve all of the same rudimentary uses (and more) in a significantly smaller package. The Nokia 8250 is a vastly superior dealer phone with a much sexier design, anyway.
Obviously the 3310 can’t compete in the modern market on the technological front, but that's not the key to its appeal.
Those of us in the 3310 demographic know what it’s like to live without a smartphone and many can still vaguely remember a world before broadband. It was a time when your boss couldn’t covertly invade your personal life by adding you up on Facebook and pretending to be your friend, and social media hadn’t yet engineered widespread social estrangement through the illusion of non-stop virtual contact.
Silicon Valley geeks try to compensate for all the adolescent bullying that they endured by egotistically framing their business ventures as a divine mission to better humanity, but some of us are starting to realize that endless technological advancement isn’t necessarily the undisputed objective good that it’s packaged as.
We feel our attention spans sliced and shortened by an infinite carousel of open tabs; our literacy compromised by mobile-optimized paragraphs; we panic when faced with solitude; impulsively evade introspection by squirrelling our conscious minds away in our smartphone screens; and feel profoundly ashamed of the rage that sweeps over us when the WiFi connection drops out. We yearn for a cruder, less totalitarian version of the internet –the one that existed sometime between the decline of dial-up modems and the proliferation of the iPhon e– because we realize the value of moderation, even though we struggle to adhere to it.
The Nokia 3310 is a snug compromise for people that fit this description – a group of consumers who other bare-basics phone manufacturers have targeted in the past.
No one can deny that technology has made life more convenient and boredom less widespread, but only an insufferable YouTube vlogger would argue that it hasn’t come at a cost. Mobile phones are useful things and absolute technophobia is just as stupid as owning an Apple Watch. But maybe we don’t need around-the-clock access to an internet browser; in fact, it would probably be good for us. You do still need a phone though, if only because no one even attempts at being on time these days anyway.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.