Nokia 3210 by HMD review – A nostalgic ride of simplicity


When the Nokia 3210 by HMD arrived in my life, I was genuinely excited to play with it. Like many people my age, the original 3210 was one of the first devices I clearly remember and the joy it brought to me. With the world as changed as it is now, I was certainly curious to see how using a “dumb” phone would affect my daily function.

The look and feel of the device

There’s no denying that there’s a resemblance there, but I feel like a purist would argue that this isn’t a modern take on the original; it’s a new phone with a similar yet unique look to it. Whatever way you choose to look at it, as someone who loved the original, I’m not unhappy with the first impression of the new Nokia 3210, which is riding the “dumb phone” market with people wanting to do a digital detox and disconnect a bit.

I was amazed at how familiar the menu felt, even after all these years and despite the colour screen upgrade.

The larger, colour screen is enough to signal that you’re not actually revisiting the 1990s with your daily use phone, but rather engaging with newer hardware for the times. The size gives you more than enough screen to read a quick text message from someone, even when it’s an ongoing conversation — now threaded — in the device.

The nostalgia is strong

One of the things that came forward for me was the memories of my younger years, and the early days of SMS where you had to work for your words. For the younger generation, you had to push buttons multiple times to get a single letter, eg. The letter F was 3 presses of the number 3. So to type the word four, you had to press 3,3,3 – 6,6,6 – 8,8 – 7,7,7 although predictive text is enabled on here, so it wasn’t that much of a slog to get the right words out.

In the first couple of days with the phone, I spent far longer than I should have playing Snake (which transitioned well to the new era), and despite that, I got 7 days from the battery and probably could have pushed it one more day. I almost wrote an astounding 7 days, but in hindsight, when the device is doing nothing except pinging the tower to confirm it’s online, there’s nothing constant chewing the battery.

The storage is, by today’s standards, significantly lacking at 128 MB, but unless you’re going to take a lot of photos on the potato cam on the device, you’ll need a LOT of text messages to fill that storage up.

Performance: This is difficult to report on

I say this is difficult because there simply isn’t much to report on. The phone makes and takes calls, and does the same for SMS; that’s about it. When you try to look any further than this, you’re pushing the capabilities of the device.

When I wanted to make a call, it worked.
When I sent an SMS, it worked.
There’s little else to report beyond this point…

The point of this phone is to be contactable, but give you the opportunity to disconnect from some of the non-essential communication we’re all bombarded with daily.

I was quite entertained at one point when someone asked me about, then criticised, the fact that the 3210 doesn’t have 5G capabilities. When I stopped laughing and said that there’s nothing on the phone that uses any real data, that would simply be a label on the screen since there are no streaming apps, no data-hungry apps and the ones (browser and Facebook) that are there are terrible to use – the realisation on their face of how little this phone actually does was evident.

The camera is present

The 2MP camera isn’t great, in fact, I don’t think I’d even consider it a pass mark. It’s there, and it can take photos and videos, but it’s so far below the standard we expect in the current technology market that I know I simply wouldn’t use it. It’s something akin to first generation camera phones and, as I said, it’s there… but not worth using in the current generation.

The downfall of dumb…

One of the things I’ve found difficult in doing the “digital detox” is the fact that a lot of communication I have with friends is via messaging apps. WhatsApp, Telegram and Discord dominate my notifications during the day, with all three of those regularly letting me know someone was trying to chat with me. So, the disconnection meant that I had to let my close friends and family know that I wouldn’t be “online” as much for a while, particularly on weekends, and if they needed me, it’s best to call.

If you’re going to use a feature phone, it’s not just your habits that need to change; you need to educate your close contacts about what you’re doing and why.

Having the capability to receive messages on a couple of those big messaging platforms would make the Nokia 3210, in fact ANY feature phone, a lot more attractive. Allowing some of those messaging pathways to remain open would go a long way to eliminating a bit of the FOMO created by disconnecting those platforms while still keeping some of the toxicity of social media away from your eyes.

This is more an indication of the current state of the online world and how we communicate than a problem with the phone, but it’s certainly worth mentioning.

There is a web browser, but the experience is terrible and that’s actually a good thing

So this is a point of argument I had with a few people about the 3210. Some suggested that having a web browser and Facebook app, defeat the purpose of having a feature phone. I disagree, purely because they’re actually a really bad user experience, that — personally — I’d only use in an absolute pinch; like double checking an address, or opening times for a business I’m attending.

It’s a bit of a safety barrier to total disconnection, but it does leave a barrier between you and being constantly connected.

I need a smartphone a lot of the time, but it’s nice to have the chance to disconnect while being contactable

In my daily life, due to work and other (more complex than SMS and calls only) communication, entertainment and authentication needs, I do need to carry a smart phone. Add to that, the fact that I am entrenched in the tech world here, it is something of a necessity but there’s certainly a case for the good ol’ digital detox.

The Nokia 3210 (well, any feature phone really – but this is a lovely stroll down nostalgia lane) is a great way to remain contactable, without being ‘on call’. I enjoyed being disconnected, but knowing that people could still call me if they genuinely needed me now.

A dumb phone clearly isn’t for everyone as a daily use item – but if you’re going away for a few days with your family, I’d encourage you to be there, with them and give it a go. You’ll still get calls, you’ll still get SMS but you’ll lose the temptation to check your phone 40 times a day or more, “just in case” something has come up needing your attention.

The Nokia 3210 is a pretty reasonable price, retailing at a number of stores for just $129.00 in grunge black, scuba blue or Y2K Gold.

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