Retro Tech: Nokia Phones that Changed the Mobile Industry



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It's almost impossible to talk about Nokia without feeling a pang of nostalgia. Although it's probably not the case, it just seemed as though everyone's (or at least everyone of a certain age's) first phone was a Nokia. And with good reason, as old-school Nokia phones were absolutely awesome.

I mean, how could we ever forget about the brilliant 3310? Not only was it a great little device for making texts and calls, but it also looked stunning, could easily slip into a pocket, was virtually indestructible, and had Snake (a.k.a the best mobile game ever).

3310 Meme

Sure, the 3310 didn't have any of the basic features that we expect from modern day smarthphones, including a camera, a multi-touch display, and an internet connection, but it was a beautifully designed and hardy phone that was a blast to use. And what's more, the 3310 was also customisable. Though that may seem a superficial feature, one of the first things many of us did when we got our Nokia was to go to the nearest phone shop a buy a sky blue case for it (in hindsight, it wasn't a very cool look at all). 

But we didn't care, the 3310 was our pride and joy.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

During their circa 1999/2000 heyday, Nokia were creating exciting and innovative mobile phones that helped to shape the mobile phone industry. One such device is the 7110, which was the first mobile phone to provide us with a humble glimpse of an always online future. 

Nokia 7110

While it may look kind of clumsy by today's standards (especially with that rather gaudy antenna), the 7110 was the first mobile device to include a WAP browser for access to the mobile internet. While WAP internet never really caught on, largely due to the fact that every web-page was drip-fed over an impossibly slow connection, it was Nokia that made the first tentative steps that would lead to 3G and 4G.

And then Nokia came out with the 3210. Sure it doesn't look like a particularly remarkable phone, as it had no camera, no access to the internet, or even an elegant sliding front panel like the 7110 had, but the 3210 was one of the most popular handsets ever created with over 160 units being shipped in total. 

Put simply, the 3210 was a breath of fresh air in the mobile phone market, as it managed to eliminate the antenna and launch T9 predictive text. And you know what, the 3210 could almost go for a week without charging it (unlike pretty much every smartphone out right now). 

Looking Forward

In spite of these iconic phones, it is fair to suggest that Nokia has relinquished its tight grip of the mobile phone market in the past decade. Although they've enjoy some successes, particularly with the 2600 and the 5230, the Finnish telecoms giant has quite simply been unable to create a smartphone that can compete with the iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy S series, or even Google's Nexus brand.

So to break the Android and Apple hegemony, Nokia has teamed up with Microsoft to offer phones that run on the Windows 8 operating system. One of their latest efforts is the superb Lumia 620, which is a device that provides a lot of the best features of a top end phone but at a significantly lower price (£150 on pay-as-you-go!). 

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The first thing that you'll probably notice about the 620 is its extremely bright and bold design. This is thanks to a number of swappable back cases that really remind me of the customisable nature of the 3210.  There are various colours available, including yellow, white, pink, blue, orange, or a safer black hue.

Peeking under the hood, you can see that the Nokia Lumia 620 runs on a 1GHz dual-core processor with 512MB or RAM. While these are relatively modest specs, the 620 is hardly sluggish, as swiping around the Windows 8 OS is a mercifully lag-free experience. The device is even capable of streaming video from Netflix or the BBC app with minimal fuss.

Full Circle: Nokia and Microsoft

Sure, we've been looking at Nokia phones that have changed the mobile phone industry. And while the Lumia 620 will never have an impact quite like the 3210, the 3310, and the 7110, it could still be an important device by helping to make the Windows 8 OS a more desirable platform.

Windows 8 OS

The 620 may not be able to solve this problem on its own, but if Nokia could release some similarly excellent phones with an affordable price tag, then Microsoft's platform may be able to better compete with iOS and Android.

But perhaps more pleasingly, the Lumia 620 shows that Nokia are still capable of recapturing the magic of their more retro handsets. In the mean time though... we might go dig out our 3310 for old time's sake.

Have you ever owned a Nokia phone? What do you think of Nokia's partnership with Microsoft? Let us know...