Author(s): Ben Wood
When the rebooted Nokia 3310 first broke cover at Mobile World Congress at the end of February 2017, it quickly became the biggest story of the show. This was a curious state of affairs given the launch of other highly advanced flagship mobile phones such as LG's G6 and Sony's Xperia XZ Premium. Somehow, the little basic device from Nokia captured the imagination of the media and consumers around the world. One major media outlet has told me its piece on the new Nokia 3310 has generated more traffic than any other tech story it has covered in 2017.
So what's all the fuss about? Well, there's no question that the 3310 is a nostalgia magnet. For many people it was the first phone they had and the original 3310 was one of the best-selling phones of all time, with total sales exceeding 125 million units the first time it went on sale.
But it's also important to note that the market for feature phones is still viable. CCS Insight's latest global mobile phone forecast shows that, of the 2 billion handsets that will be shipped worldwide in 2017, feature phones will account for half a billion — see Market Forecast: Mobile Phones, Worldwide, 2017-2021 (April 2017 Update). In the UK, they will represent 1 million of the 21.5 million handsets that will be sold in 2017. For some people, a basic "talk and texter" with great battery life is all they want.
However, having used the device over the last few days, what struck me most is how far mobile phone technology has progressed. Everyone I show the device to swoons over the design and reminisces about the good old days of mobile, but they react with visible shock when I tell them it only has very basic Internet access and doesn't even have Wi-Fi. A simple Web page takes 10 seconds to load! As for showing it to teenagers, "no Instagram, no Snapchat — what?"
Despite this, the phone seems to have got off to a flying start, with major UK phone retailer Carphone Warehouse saying it has experienced "astonishing" demand. Whether this is sustainable remains to be seen, but HMD Global must be delighted it has been able to relaunch the Nokia brand so prominently — even if it is with its most basic phone. I'd contend that media and consumer interest would have been muted had the company chosen to focus on its three mid-tier Android smartphones alone.
However, despite this early success, HMD Global now faces a tricky balancing act. It must ride the wave of interest in the new 3310, while fuelling sales of its new Android smartphones, on which its future success almost certainly depends. It's going to be a tough challenge, but one thing is certain: the enduring appeal of the Nokia brand lives on if the early success of the 3310 is anything to go by.
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