Classic Handsets: the Nokia 3310 – the greatest mobile ever?

Nokia 3310 Title Pic

Since Nokia was purchased by Microsoft, Nokia as we know it has long gone. However, there was a time at the end of the last century in which Nokia launched a series of wonderful handsets that would lead the company to dominate the mobile market.

In the 90’s and early part of this century, Nokia had a line up of no-nonsense mobile phones that were loved by millions of people and made the Finnish company the envy of others, synonymous with the best mobile technology in the world.

The Nokia 3310

Nokia 3310 Colours
The humble Nokia 3310 – possibly the best phone ever made?


Back in 1996, the first of Nokia’s smart phones was released, in the form of the 9000 communicator line that feature a modem, email, Internet access and much more, thanks to its QWERTY keyboard and fairly decent (for the time) 640 x 200 resolution screen.

Nokia 331 Snake GameIt was several years later in 1999 that the 3210 was created, when Nokia managed to perfect the combination of size, price and features for the mass market. It was the predecessor to the 3310, and featured SMS messages, the popular but simple game Snake, and it was the first really inexpensive phone that came with an internal antenna.

The 3210 was so popular, that Nokia decided to create a follow-up device that many people regard as one of its best ever – the Nokia 3310. This compact phone boasted all the features of the 3210, but was smaller and lighter (133 g versus 153 g), had lots of customisation options (thanks to swappable panels), and lots of improvements to the hardware and software.

However, the one thing that stands out about this phone, and puts it firmly in the mobile phone hall of fame (selling 126 million units) was its resilience and robustness. In doing a search on the Internet for information about the phone, the overwhelming consensus was that this was the “Chuck Norris of phones” – in other words, almost indestructible. There are literally thousands of humorous images and memes online joking about just how tough this thing is…

Nokia 3310 Meme


The phone itself is fairly svelte, compared with today’s enormous phablets. Measuring just 113 x 48 x 22 mm and weighing 133g, it wasn’t the lightest phone available, but it was known for feeling especially solid.

The display doesn’t look like much when compared to the quad-HD screens available today, but the monochrome 84 x 48 pixel display could be read easily in any lighting conditions and had sufficient detail to allow a bit of character in the user interface, as well as several very playable games.

Nokia 3310 Snap
Unfortunately, the Nokia 3310 had no camera.


The top side of the phone had a power button, and navigation through the menus was performed with the up and down arrow keys, with selections chosen via the blue menu button. The “c” button meanwhile took on duties of “back”, “undo” and “delete”, and the keypad itself was responsive and easy to use.

Nokia 3310 Xpress Covers
The Nokia 331 had a range of customisable facias.

The Nokia 3310 was a dual band device with 900 / 1800 MHz support, which meant that it worked on just about every European network. The 900 mAh battery had a standby time of 260 hours (almost 11 days!) which meant the phone lasted an incredibly long time between charges.

Besides these specs, the phone could store 250 contact on the SIM card, and had T9 predictive input (do you remember that?), 35 ringtones, in addition to a clock, stopwatch, timer, calculator and currency converter. How many more smart features could anyone want?

How much?

The Nokia 3310 launched at a fairly expensive price of £129.99 on PAYG on Orange, Cellnet, and One2One in the UK. However, it was possible to buy one for just £29.99 on Vodafone with a 12 month contract.

By late 2003, the phone was available for less than £45 in places such as the Tesco Mobile displays in supermarkets, and would later become a popular refurbished phone that was sold widely in developing nations.


Today, the Nokia 3310 looks like an ancient dinosaur compared to a modern smart phone. But back then, it really seemed like an advanced piece of hi-tech gadgetry. But where would our phones be today with the 3310? Perhaps our smartphones would have pointed external antennas? And the mobile accessory market may not have taken off so rapidly if it weren’t for the innovative Xpress-on covers.

You may even have an old 3310 tucked away in a drawer somewhere. If you do, don’t throw it away, because it’s one of the few phones that might survive an apocalypse – at the very least it can be used as a hammer or projectile.

For your enjoyment, here are a couple of Nokia 3310 memes from around the Internet:

Destroy Nokia 3310
So true.
Nokia 3310 Dropped
The Nokia 3310 is widely known as being extremely rugged.

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