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Why the return of the Nokia 3310 is a brilliant move

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When the Nokia 3310 was a big deal in Zimbabwe, back in 2003, I didn’t have a phone. I had never owned one. I was in college and couldn’t afford a phone. But this was one phone model I knew about.

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We all know about the Nokia 3310. It was one of the two most fashionable consumer items I remember from that time.

Eventually of course I could afford a mobile phone and I bought one with my first salary. A Nokia. Not the 3310 unfortunately as the price thing was still a thing. It’s a model whose name I have forgotten. The other brands of those days; Samsung, Alcatel, Motorola, Ericsson all didn’t feel as solid as Nokia. The Nokia 3310 was a special phone.

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I remained a Nokia user until the smartphones took over and I started using Google devices. A lot of people did. They migrated from Nokia to smartphones. The guys that made dependable phones had decided to not be part of the future.

It’s easy to see the new Nokia as just a company trying to sell whatever they can using a once great brand. It may be true. But there’s an even bigger opportunity than selling a 3310 because people used to love it.

The opportunity is less about the 3310 and more about bringing the Nokia brand back into the arena. The consumer needs to start talking about and considering Nokia again. To understand why, look at this chart of Google Trends from 1 December to now which looks at the trend of interest people have in the Nokia brand compared to other smartphone brands; iPhone, Samsung, Lenovo, Huawei. The interest in Nokia is shown by that orange hockey stick on the bottom right

Looking at that chart above, it’s tempting to think that the Nokia brand has so much value any mention of it returning is what would result in that hockey stick interest. Tempting but that’s not what happened here. The nokia brand was mentioned a couple of times actually before the announcement of the 3310 without any meaningful rise in the interest of the brand.

On 1 December last year, Nokia announced that they were back and would be selling Nokia branded smartphones. In terms of the internet interest in Nokia, it was the case of a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it. In early January this year Nokia announced some new Android phones. The tech blogs covered them. But no one cared. Nokia remained a faded forgotten brand.

Then they announced the 3310.

Nokia needed to do something drastic. They needed nostalgia and emotion that makes people talk and long for. They needed something that doesn’t make sense so we would argue with each other. If the 3310 made perfect sense as a modern phone – that is if it was just one of the thousands of Android smartphone models on the market – nothing (even the Nokia brand) would make the Nokia android special enough for consumers to be interested.

Some mindshare however, which so far it looks like they are getting lots of, means when consumers replace their phones, they’ll consider a Nokia. And if there happens to be a current Nokia that’s good enough, like the Nokia 6 is, we might buy it.

So, ultimately, it’s not a big deal if the 3310 itself doesn’t sell very well. In fact, it’ll probably not sell well because dumb phones are now going for about $20. And that’s the price in a Zimbabwean shop, after the government, importer, wholesaler, and retailer have added layers of cost to it.

Even before people can buy it, and after people don’t buy it, the Nokia 3310 has done its job.


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8 thoughts on “Why the return of the Nokia 3310 is a brilliant move

  1. Argh no man! Now all my comments look like plagiarism! Sour grapes aside, I totally agree with this. People have become stuck on arguing the of the device as if it was the end game when the discourse itself was the larger goal.

  2. The model of phone you first bought with your salary you forgot, come on man, was is not Smadel or Gtide

  3. The biggest drawback is the 3310 is our kids don’t know it. A legendary phone coming back as a pauper. GPRS and EDGE? Really? When a number of countries in Europe are phasing out 2G by 2020. They should have at least tried basic 3G on it. Maybe not on the more expensive HSxxx capable chip but basic R99 would be ok. Now it’s competing with low end smartphones selling for almost the same price.

    I don’t think the interest generated will translate to sales. Let’s watch the space LSM and team.

    A number of new low end LTE Capable devices are on the market now. Once the ZIM mobile operators start to offer VOLTE, why would one need a mbudzi for $51? I would rather dash and buy a low end LTE phone. Check the Lenovo Vibe A, LG L20, Alcatel OneTouch Pixi, Lenovo A316i. Depends what you want the phone for though.

    1. I don’t think the interest generated will translate to sales. Let’s watch the space LSM and team.

      I also don’t think they’ll translate into sales of the 3310. No way people will buy a $51 mbudzi. In that sense, HMD, didn’t need to waste a 3G chip on a phone no one will buy.

      The point is that we’re talking about the phone and that means it’s achieved a lot. It certainly overshadowed the LG G6, Oppo and Sony Xperia XZ premium that were launched around the same time. A lot of people now know that Nokia makes Android phones and will consider them for the next buy.

  4. Am not into phones but I keep two phones. A smartphone to surf the net and a real dump phone to make and receive calls. I hate charging phones and I equally hate buying data. So when the Nokia goat hits the streets Hacha shall be number one in line because I also hate replacing goats every now and then.

  5. A comment on this: a long time friend from Zim was in west Africa for a job last month. And used one of the originals as “it is easy to pop in a local SIM card and where power can go any minute you will be fine”. My last “dumb” phone was a SonyEricsson and it would easily do a week on 1 charge. That was perfect in the outlying areas of say Mozambique or Malawi….

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