When Nokia first launched the 2017 edition of the 3310, I wrote a story explaining why it should be a 4G smartphone. At the time, Reliance Jio was preparing to launch the JioPhone in India, something many thought would be a “revolution”.
However, the Nokia 3310 turned out to be a phone that tried to monetise nostalgia. It was a 2G phone in a 4G world, and reviewers like me were quick to dismiss it.
Admittedly, we don’t have statistics on how much this phone actually sold. Yet, it’s fair to say that the Nokia 3310 (2017) was a failed product, at least from a critics point of view. In this case, mine. But HMD Global is now said to be working on a 4G version of the product, apparently tying up with Reliance Jio for the same. Have they finally come to their senses?
But, do we need it now?
A year hence, the JioPhone is among us, as are a plethora of other 4G feature phones or low-cost 4G smartphones. As with Nokia’s entire smartphone line, the Nokia 3310 is also late to the party.
Admittedly, the JioPhone has been out of stock for the better part of its life cycle, while there’s no word on how many Micromax Bharat phones have been sold. But we do have many options already in the 4G feature phones and low-cost
In 2017, a 4G Nokia 3310 would have been the perfect mix of nostalgia and usefulness. It would have been the damage-proof feature phone with modern aesthetics and connectivity. It can still be that, but no one’s really asking that question anymore. Instead, the questions HMD Global will be faced with are,
Does this have WhatsApp?
Can I browse Facebook?
And so on….
And the answers to all those questions will be no. The Nokia 3310 (2017) doesn’t support WhatsApp, and there’s no reason to think this new one will either. But herein lies a twist.
Last year’s phone ran Nokia’s Series 30+ OS, a seriously hamstrung software for 2017. But this new one runs on YunOS, a fork of Android made by Chinese giant Alibaba. I’ve had the good fortune to interact with YunOS in my many trips to China, and I have to admit it’s impressive software. YunOS is on televisions, phones, and even home cleaning robots. While Series 30+ lacks app support of any real sign of modernism, YunOS is at the forefront of today’s software, at least from a feature phone point of view.
But then, YunOS has never been seen outside China either. Would this be the phone that finally gets Alibaba’s software across borders? Unlikely, but it could mean HMD Global will run a forked version of Android (much like Micromax’s Bharat 1) here in India. And it would make all the sense, if the company wants to take advantage of 4G connectivity. If not, it’s just a handy Internet dongle that costs you three-odd thousand bucks.
With Android at its core, the Nokia 3310 could actually be a “premium” 4G feature phone, something this market truly lacks. A huge chunk of the Indian market still uses feature phones, and for that market, the Nokia 3310 could suddenly become a sign of affluence. “Feature phones remain the dominant category in the total mobile phone market, with annual shipments of 136.1 million units. The category declined by only 9.4 percent in CY2016 as compared to 16.2 percent in CY2015,” said a report by the International Data Corporation, in February last year.
4G connectivity is not enough
Essentially, if Nokia, or HMD Global, is to sell a 4G Nokia 3310 in India, it has to be running Android. If not, it’s really the feature phone equivalent of the OnePlus 5 and 5T. It’s an upgrade for the sake of an upgrade. At the very least, HMD Global will have to add support for apps like WhatsApp and vastly improve the apps it does have. Given that Series 30+ isn’t capable of much more, it’s unlikely that that will happen. For a company that sells smartphones on the “Pure, secure and always up to date”, it shouldn’t take much to realise the importance of Android here.