Should the return of the Nokia 3310 be welcomed?

Nokia users really have been able to turn back time with the reissue of the 3310 but Billy MacInnes wonders if the world has not moved on too much since it was last around

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: MicroScope: MicroScope: April 2017

In this age of reboots, it’s probably no surprise that parts of the technology industry may be tempted to revisit the scene of some of its former glories. For evidence, look no further than the revival of Nokia’s 3310 model phone which is garnering a lot of attention at the moment.

The original phone was first released in 2000 and discontinued in 2005 after selling 126 million units. People of a certain age remember the phone very fondly and it is those people, like those who remember vinyl, who are most likely to be most interested in buying the rebooted version. If the success of vinyl is anything to go by, they could well help to make the revived Nokia 3310 a success.

Having looked through a few comments about the phone on several web sites, it has been interesting to note that one of the 3310’s biggest attractions appears to be the ability for people to regain some of the time that has been taken away from them by their smartphones. The inability to use applications such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, make it much harder for people to find reasons to spend their time staring at a Nokia 3310 screen for hours on end.

Some nostalgists give the impression they are only too willing to hark back to the old days of limited mobile capabilities but I wonder how many of them, clasping a newly acquired Nokia 3310 in their hand, will be able to resist picking up their smartphone after a short time?

There is no way I would go back to a dumb phone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t accept it is all too easy to be diverted from doing something useful, constructive or creative by my smartphone. It would be interesting to see how much productivity is lost to distraction when it comes to mobile technology. Anywhere, anytime access to work is attractive for many organisations but it also means anytime, anywhere access to everything else.

Whether the Nokia 3310 becomes anything more than a gimmick is probably dependent on how many of the 125 million owners of the original phone decide they want to take a trip down memory lane. It’s hard to see the phone having much attraction for younger people brought up with smartphones and all their capabilities. The switch would be too disruptive. It would be a bit like taking someone’s car away from them and giving them a horse.

But the return of the Nokia 3310 does provide people with an opportunity to ask themselves what their technology is actually for. They might ask themselves, for instance, if they are spending too much time on their smartphones just because they can. Are smartphones stealing time from something more productive or creative that they could be doing?

I can’t help feeling, however, that the world has moved on. So we might be able to re-invent a phone, we can’t un-invent things – even if we wanted to.

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