Home Opinion Nokia 3310: Thinking the unthinkable. Are smartphones really necessary?

Nokia 3310: Thinking the unthinkable. Are smartphones really necessary?


Think the unthinkable. Think a small, no-nonsense phone that fits easily in the pocket and needs charging just once a month. Is the new Nokia 3310, a regurgitation of the all-time favourite, such a bad idea?

I’ve been saying for years that I don’t regard my iPhone as a phone. I make or receive voice calls infrequently, but the device is in use as a tablet computer almost constantly. That’s why I have the 7 Plus rather than the iPhone 7; I think of it primarily as a small tablet computer. Which is exactly what it is. I use it for reading news, writing and organising my life. Whether it’s a to-do list, a spreadsheet or a reminder, the iPhone is where I do most of my work.

Yes, I still need to make or receive the occasional call. A really tiny phone such as the new Nokia (I have fond memories of its grandfather) could fit the bill. I wouldn’t use it much, but it would be there for emergency and the odd chat. Instead of the iPhone 7 Plus could buy a small tablet, offering a bigger working area and a generally more pleasant experience.


There’s a certain perverse attraction to a tiny communications device that costs under £50.

There is also a perverse reason for not allowing tablets to make phone calls. Apple knows this. It is perfectly possible to add a voice-calling facility to any iPad — the SIM card slot is already there if you choose the option — but the device is software-hobbled to prevent calls. Once Apple permitted calls and SMS traffic on iPads they would lose sales of iPhones. Perish the thought.

For me, though, the importance of phone calls is already minimal. And the arrival of VOIP calling further removes the usefulness of standard phone calls.

The new Nokia 3310 could just be the tipping point. I believe that in the future we will see a sundering of the all-in-one smartphone device. Instead we will welcome the the emergence of small tablets for general on-the-move computing backed up by a tiny, long-lasting phone such as the Nokia.

What do you think? Do you use a phone enough to justify having both smartphone and tablet? Would a tiny Nokia give you the freedom to use a tablet exclusively for non-phone activities?



  1. OK, I’ll bite :-)…. I’m a bit naive trying to think THIS retro. Will the 3310 source a WiFi hotspot from cellular/mobile if I suddenly need my tablet extended features when beyond other WiFi options? I find myself terribly dependent on my maps features, but there’s that lingering idea that full time navigation is a silly crutch and a device just like this has appeal. While there’s all that other stuff that I have crammed on my phone for "safety" info that would be much better served on a tablet.

  2. I am inclined to agree to a point. My ancient iPhone4 sits idle in my pocket for the majority of the time and I can’t remember the last time I topped up my credit. On the other hand my iPad Mini remains my go to mobile device and is in constant use despite being wifi only.
    But then I’m retired and off most peoples’ radar as a consequence.

    • Ah, your experience does tend to confirm the possibilities, retired or not. But Stephen does have a point also. I suppose I am a retired hipster.

  3. I resolutely held out from buying an iPhone through the first few iterations, sticking to my £9 Motofone, which apart from making phone calls, sending texts and holding a (sort of) directory… By way of extras, it had the loudest alarm clock and absolutely no other features.

    I was driving to the south of France and decided to use the national "D" roads, rather than the toll roads, I needed a satnav device and noticed that TomTom did an app for the iPhone…

    I was sold, and I will never go back to a dumbphone. The Motofone still works but I haven’t found any good reason to take it anywhere…

    This is one of those things that sounds interesting but the experience just brings back memories.

    This Nokia device is aimed at pleasuring the Hipster among us, and for that one has to have a massive beard to match!

  4. Yes, this would really tempt me – I had its predecessor once and was lured away by the siren screen of a Sony Experia. After a lot of recharging and little use I backstepped to my current Samsung old-fshioned little oyster-phone. I Love having the smooth surface over all to cover the buttons, and I like the fact that to me it is just a phone when I open it, though perhaps I’ll learn SMS one day – just to keep up with the grandchildren! I also have an i-Pad of some years ago, but I have a feeling I would go for an iPad mini if I were buying now. My motto is "Things that were good don’t cease to be good just because something comes along which claims to be better". (Applies to cameras, too.)

  5. This is ridiculous. Without the calendar, mail, whats app, text apps, I would need to hire a full secretary to do this.

    • I agree with you on the need for all the productive tools we have become used to. But the premise is that you continue using all these on a small tablet such as the iPad mini and keep the phone for just phone calls and odd jottings. I am by no means sure it would work better but it could suit some people.

  6. Before we all get too excited about this the retro feature extends to the circuitry as the 3310 only operates on the old 2G network. Australia is shutting its last 2G network down in the next few months and I am sure that it is as similar situation in many other countries. Then the 3310 will just be a pretty paperweight.

  7. If one could run WhatsApp on it, definitely I could see the setup iPad Mini + Nokia working out well. Nowadays, 90% or more of my communication happens through WhatsApp. As far as I know, it is not possible to run WhatsApp through an iPad.

    • Yes, I also use What’s App a lot. But I’m not sure I could go back to that old-fashioned text input via the numeric keys. And as John Shingleton points out somewhere in this thread, the "new" Nokia only does 2G and that is being phased out. Perhaps we’d be better off with an old clapped-out iPhone 4 or 5.


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