Nostalgia is a powerful drug. The sights and smells that remind us of our youth; the taste of a meal long forgotten bringing back not just the ingredients but where we were, who we were with and what we spoke about. Forgotten memories are summoned back into focus with the gentlest persuasion, expanded on and shared with those of similar age and experience.
Millennials are hooked on nostalgia more than most. Nineties kids who turned into naughties teenagers and are now pretending to be adults in a decade no one is quite sure what to call. Avocado-eating twenty-somethings with aspirations of no longer splitting bills between housemates by the time they reach 30. Mortgages, deposits, home ownership and realistic pension contributions may as well be made-up words, but at least they have their iPhones.
My God, do we have our iPhones. Because what’s the point in perhaps one day owning a bedsit in Stevenage when Apple’s latest is about £10 a week and can make your life look Instagram-perfect.
Somehow a £700 phone is perfectly justified. Yet half of that buys you a Huawei with broadly the same capabilities and less than a tenth gets you a phone with a heady dose of millennial-loved nostalgia thrown in for free.
This, in a roundabout way, brings us to the new Nokia 3310 – a phone so drenched in nostalgia that Lynx Africa runs through its veins, episodes of Gladiators flash before its eyes and Panini World Cup 2002 stickers are stuffed into its pocket with gel pens and a shiny Charizard.
The first 3310 arrived at the end of 2000, barely a year into a decade kick-started by the PlayStation 2 and brought to a close by the third iPhone. A decade of massive change, not just across the technology landscape, but in the lives of the young teenagers who received hand-me-down 3310s somewhere around the 2003 mark.
A first mobile phone for many, the 3310 was independence half a decade before your first driving lesson; a means of gossiping with friends without using the house phone. Before affordable computers and dial-up modems gave us MySpace and MSN Messenger, there was the Nokia 3310. The phone you could take to your bedroom, text with all night (or until that weekly £10 top-up voucher was exhausted after just 100 texts) and speak with friends, perhaps even members of the opposite sex, in hushed tones for 30p a minute.
Removable front and back panels meant the 3310 could be made uniquely yours, and should a friend copy you, a new look was just a few pounds and a bus trip to the local, dodgy phone-unlocking shop away.
Then there was the indestructible build quality, the iconic ringtone, a tool for the smart kids to compose their own melodies and a way for you to buy one for a fiver out the back of a magazine. The battery lasted a week and its Snake game injected the thrill to compete and desire to win into young teenagers more than cross-country and sports day ever could.
So what about the new one? It does all of these things too. But where the original was granted first-love status on day one, a decade of 3G, 4G, iPhones, Facebook, WhatsApp – and growing up to fear house deposits and pension plans more than where the next top-up tenner will come from – means its replacement is nothing but a nostalgic facade and clever marketing. Even 12-year-olds have iPhones now.
And once you spend just a few hours away from our hyper-connected world, once you realise Snake isn’t the same as before, and there’s no way to tweet your high score, the 3310 legend is washed away. What’s left behind is neither here nor there. Escaping social media and rolling news for the tranquil bliss of texts and Snake borders on the therapeutic at first, but soon brings with it anxiety and the fear of missing out. If you can’t share it on Snapchat, did that Snake high score even happen?
We remember the original fondly because it was not only the best a teenager could get, it was the best anyone could get. Texting and Snake is all phones could do and for everything else you went outside. The iPhone has spoiled us rotten, letting us gorge on gigabytes of data until our iCloud bursts at the seams. There’s no point in going back.
If you need a cheap phone for holidays and festivals, there are plenty to choose from. The new 3310 is a fine example, albeit at £50 a little on the expensive side for something destined to be lost in a Spanish bar or a Somerset field. For a precious few days it will remind you of your childhood and formative teenage years. Your friends will demand to play Snake and you’ll smugly not need to recharge for the entire trip.
But they’ll have taken better photos and captured memories to treasure in high definition, not look back on through rose-tinted spectacles.
As an updated pastiche of the original there is plenty to like about the new 3310. The design puts the fun into functional and there’s no denying the nostalgia summoned by a game of Snake.
But don’t be fooled; this may be a phone named to tugged at your heartstrings, but ultimately it was designed to be cheap, simple and to survive a festival.