‘Indestructible’ phone returns after 17 years

Don’t Nok it: The new 3310 is thinner than the original, and costs around a third of the price.

It has a month-long battery life. Its most advanced features are a camera, a colour screen, and the classic game Snake. Would we all be better off if we swapped our iPhone for a Nokia 3310?

Technology journalists from all over the world flocked to Barcelona yesterday for the Mobile World Conference. There was some mind-boggling technology on show: Sony’s latest phone cameras can film in incredible slow-motion. Google’s AI “Assistant” can learn your preferences and engage you in witty conversation. LG now allows you to use two different apps side-by-side.

But there is one phone that has the tech world buzzing with excitement. Its main selling points? A colour screen, headphone socket, basic camera and the video game Snake. It does not even have 3G — meaning no access to emails, Twitter or Whatsapp. “It’s essentially a phone for hipster grannies,” concluded The Telegraph gleefully.

The phone is an updated model of the Nokia 3310, an “iconic” mobile that was first launched in September 2000. Over 126 million were sold around the world, and it was beloved for its catchy ringtone and virtually indestructible nature. “This is what consumers have been asking us for,” said the president of HMD (the company which now owns Nokia). So they decided to “have some fun with it.”

In first few years of the millennium, the 3310 helped Nokia to become the biggest mobile phone brand in the business. But in 2007, “Steve Jobs walked onto a stage and pulled an iPhone out of his pocket,” explained the technology analyst Ben Wood. He “changed the world forever.”

Nokia has been sold twice since then, and its share of the smartphone market has plummeted. Meanwhile, smartphones have inserted themselves into every corner of our lives.

We now spend an average of two to three hours a day on our phones, compared to 18 minutes in 2008. Half of smartphone users “couldn’t bear” to be without them. And yet they have been blamed for a whole host of troubles: higher levels of stress, difficulty sleeping, shorter attention spans, loss of navigation skills, road traffic accidents — they have even been blamed for ending marriages.

Get smart

For some, the Nokia 3310 has returned at just the right time. We have become enslaved by the rectangles in our pockets. Smartphones were supposed to connect us to each other and make our lives easier; instead they have made us more isolated and damaged our health. A phone which is stripped back to the basics is more than just a gimmick — it is a lifeline.

Nostalgic nonsense, counter others. People love to reminisce about a “simpler time”. But it is a fantasy. The iPhone has changed the world for the better in all sorts of ways. Not only does it make everyday life more convenient — it has also kept us safer, overthrown dictators, and helped to bring more internet access to people in the developing world. We should not wish it away again.

You Decide

  1. Which do you think is better for you: a Nokia 3310 or an iPhone?
  2. Has society become addicted to smartphones?

Activities

  1. Create an advert for either the Nokia 3310 or the latest iPhone. Think about how each product makes its users feel.
  2. Keep a record of how many times you check your phone each day, and how it affects your mood. Report back to the class next week, and discuss the results.

Some People Say...

“It’s not a product; it’s an understanding of human nature.”

Ai Weiwei on the iPhone

What do you think?

Q & A

I could never give up my smartphone.
You’re not alone — many people feel the same way, especially at your age. You don’t have to of course, but it is important to be aware of how it affects you. Studies suggest that teenagers in the UK are now more confident talking through smartphones than in person. Plus around 91% of young people in Britain look at electronic devices before bed, which could affect sleep.
How can I use it less?
First, try downloading an app which records how much you use your phone in the first place. Some tips if you think it is too much: turn off notifications from social media; hide your apps in folders so you are less tempted to open them; schedule specific times each day to check messages; and use a separate alarm clock and music player instead of your phone.

Word Watch

Plummeted
In 2007, Nokia sold 49.4% of the world’s smartphones. By 2013, this had fallen to 3%.
Two to three
According to research in November 2016 by eMarketer, the average UK adult spends 2.5 hours a day on their phone or tablet.
Higher levels
In March 2016, a study found that those who described themselves as addicted to their smartphones also reported higher levels of depression and anxiety.
Sleeping
Smartphones emit “blue” light which suppresses the hormone melatonin, and tricks the brain into thinking that it is morning. This can make sleep harder.
Navigation
Perhaps unsurprisingly, constant access to GPS and Google Maps through smartphones has had severe impact on many people’s sense of direction.
Safer
In 2012, a study suggested that mobile phones helped to reduce crime rates during the mid-1990s as they made it easier to report crimes. Smartphones also help to track a potential victim’s whereabouts.
Dictators
Social media and smartphones helped to spread the “Arab Spring” revolutions in the Middle East in 2011. They also helped citizens report on the events as they happened.

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