7 days with the Nokia 3310: is it possible to live without a smartphone?
Small, tough and bearing Nokia's signature. With the release of the new 3310, memories came flooding back, for former Nokia 3310 owners. I’m one of them and, after spending hours writing text messages using buttons on a physical keyboard and playing Snake, I couldn’t resist the temptation of pocketing one of the new versions launched by HMD at the MWC 2017. So what’s it like to use a phone like this in 2017?
The Nokia 3310 arrived in our newsroom in a small thin box. Inside, we found the phone, a charger, the battery (removable, of course) and a set of simple ear phones. So the test was about to begin, is it possible to survive with a phone like the Nokia 3310 in 2017? There was only one way to find out: do it.
And that’s how I decided to take this small device with me for my week-long vacation. In addition to warning my friends and parents that I wouldn’t have WhatsApp (my mother nearly called the Italian Embassy to ask about my whereabouts, not kidding), I also brought a safety net: my Huawei P10, just in case I got a bad case of withdrawal symptoms… but I hoped that wouldn't be the case.
Monday: Where did I put the SIM adaptor?
I charged the new Nokia 3310 and tried to open the case. In doing so, I actually broke a nail (which is now stuck on the left-hand side beside the mini-jack for the headphones) so it’s not as easy to do as it was on the original. I inserted the microSIM (or the nanoSIM with the adaptor that, luckily, was in a small bag inside the box) and I waited for the start-up music and the intro to enter the date and time.
Contacts? Luckily, I had moved my most important contacts to the SIM card since synchronizing my Google account to a Nokia 3310 would only happen in my dreams. Setting up the Nokia 3310 is child’s play as, to be honest, there are only a few options available.
No WhatsApp messages, unread emails, scrolling through Facebook to look at photos or uploading on Instagram: Finally, some peace and quiet to take in the surrounding landscape and listen to people around me, without distractions. I started off my week with enthusiasm.
Tuesday: fighting with the camera and Internet
The Nokia 3310 has a 2MP camera, so why not try it out? The results left a lot to be desired. Being used to big photos taken on smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6, Huawei P10 or Google Pixel, the photos taken on the Nokia 3310 are a bit of a joke. The resolution is another problem: it only took four photos to fill up the memory. To keep my photos, I had to insert a microSD card but, considering the resolution of the photos, it would ^have been better to use a camera to take photos. (I decided not to leave the house without my camera on Wednesday!)
I thought about sharing the photos on Facebook to make my friends at the office jealous. As a matter of fact, the phone allows you to surf the web (but take the speed into account, the Nokia 3310 has 2G and it needs 15-20 seconds to open a webpage) with the Opera Mini browser. With some (a lot) of patience, it loaded the page and I took a step back in time.
Among the saved web pages, Facebook, Gmail and BBC News will appear. However, for other websites, you have to write the URL address that you want and tap with your finger on the screen over and over until you get used to the fact that it doesn’t have a touch screen.
Wednesday: text messaging delirium
I decided to send a text message to my mom and I realized that I had forgotten how to use the physical keyboard and T9 for text messages. To think that ten years ago, I was sending messages without even looking at the keyboard and my parents were amazed… Now I do the same thing but with a virtual keyboard or I send voice messages, which are much easier.
To communicate, it’s better to call: writing a text message is seriously inconvenient. The voice can sound a little robotic but the message reaches its destination without any issues. In case you’re wondering, the Nokia 3310 has a loudspeaker. The earphones provided are made of plastic and the speaker still sounds tinny with them but, given the price, what more can you ask for?
Thursday: Where are WhatsApp and Google Maps?
I decided to go on a hike and the Nokia 3310 is perfect for this, in theory: it's light, resistant and fits easily in your pocket. The Nokia doesn’t have an IP67 or 68 certification, but rain and dust don’t pose much threat to it. Unfortunately, Google Maps isn’t available on the main screen: I felt lost just thinking about it.
I particularly missed my smartphone during down time: Snake is the only way to pass any time on the new 3310, but it’s not like the original version. It’s colorful and you can cut the snake’s tail off. I still burnt some time with it but I missed games like Crossy Road, that you won’t find in the Nokia 3310’s app store.
From time to time, I put my hand in my pocket to take out my phone to see if there were any notifications, but then I remembered that, without Facebook or WhatsApp, there simply were no notifications to be received. Luckily, I brought a book with me so travelling on public transport wasn't too boring. However, being the smartphone addict that I am, I couldn’t free my mind from thinking about the messages that were waiting for me on WhatsApp… Zuckerberg, what have you done to me?
Friday: I don’t know what a plug is
I don’t need to tell you that the battery on the 3310 has some serious juice. I think that for the Nokia 3310 to completely die, it would take a lot of use. At the same time, it doesn’t have a lot of the services that our smartphones have these days. No YouTube, high definition games or demanding apps.
For the phone to run out of battery, you’d have to play Snake all day on it non-stop, but I can’t imagine anyone would want to do that. Perhaps if Nokia had installed the original game, I would have…
Saturday: why has the week seemed so long?
When was the last time that I went without my smartphone? A few days here and there at the spa, but only for a few hours at a time, and last year when we tried the experiment of leaving our phones at home for 24 hours. However, having the Nokia 3310 in your pocket is like not having a smartphone because the Nokia 3310 isn’t a smartphone (nor does it claim to be), and that’s why it can’t replace my P10. It’s like being used to having a personal assistant who is always available to help you and having to leave them behind. There are positive aspects but they’re not easy to see when you’re immersed in daily life.
I missed notifications, being able to quickly catch up on the news online and capturing the surrounding scenery, as well as being able to send an instant voice message to my friends anywhere in the world. I missed my smartphone!
Sunday: back to reality
Well, I can now put my SIM card back into my P10 without even worrying about backing up Whatsapp chats. As soon as the phone turned on, WhatsApp buzzed: so many messages! I don’t need to tell you that, after all that time not having access to emails, messages and notifications, it took me a day to work through them.
The Nokia 3310 would be a great second phone, but a life without a smartphone is, in my opinion, unthinkable these days.
Taking a step back in time was interesting, but only briefly. In a world where friends, work colleagues and family members are all connected, where communication can be done via the web or channels like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, it means making some sacrifices that I don’t want to make. For me, it means isolating myself and getting used to basic services again, which have almost become obsolete. Having to use a physical keyboard without the help of a touchscreen in 2017 can be fun for a few hours but, in daily life, the absence of the quick and user-friendly platforms that we’re used to is really noticeable. For those who don’t use WhatsApp, who prefer reading printed information and who prefer phone calls instead of emails or chat messages, using the Nokia 3310 as a telephone won’t be as ‘traumatic’ an experience.
Using the Nokia 3310 for a week was a way of disconnecting, but it also meant that I had to take my camera with me and that I wasn’t up to date on what was happening around the world or what my friends were getting up to. The Nokia 3310 would be a great second phone, but a life without smartphones, in my opinion, is unimaginable these days.
What about you?
I don't have a smartphone and don't feel as if I miss out. People have turned into zombies these days. Get on a bus and everyone's eyes are glued to their phone. I even saw one father strolling around with his toddler in a pram and a tray in front of the kid with a smartphone playing videos. It's simply escapism and has harmed peoples' ability to have meaningful communication with others.
I was thinking to give it a try, but living abroad without Google Maps is NOT possible