Joanne looks at why there might be more to the return of the Nokia 3310 mobile than just nostalgia

I recently read in the news that Nokia is bringing back to life its 3310 mobile phone and was intrigued as to the reasons why a throwback from the turn of the millennium is being rebooted in 2017. The 3310 was the iconic Nokia model which sold over 126 million units worldwide following its launch in 2000.  Well-loved for its durability and long battery life, the phone boasted features including a calculator, a stop watch and the popular, and rather addictive, Snake game (remember this was 17 years ago!).

The resurrection of this classic phone, almost two decades after it was first released, has generated a lot of interest both in the media and with the buying public.  According to Carphone Warehouse, the only company to have opened pre-registrations for the handset, the demand has been significantly higher than they anticipated.  In the age of the smartphone with their sleek designs, multitude of features, fast internet access and endless apps - why is there so much interest in a retro phone with a tiny, non-touch screen – a “brick” phone? 

There are a few obvious reasons, such as battery life – the new Nokia 3310 has a battery life of 22 hours of talk time and up to a month on stand-by which compares very favourably to the power hungry iPhone and Android devices.  Then there’s the price, predicted to be around £40 – a cheap phone that won’t break the bank to replace and is perfect for taking to festivals or the beach.   So all in all the Nokia 3310 would make an ideal second, emergency phone but maybe there’s another more nostalgic reason….

The interest in this throwback phone may have more to do with what the phone can’t do than what it can.   In fact it could be the perfect antidote to our present day smartphone dependence – a digital detox phone. 

It’s a well-documented fact that an increasing number of people are becoming addicted to their smartphones. According to a recent report from Deloitte, one in three adults check for messages at night, one in ten smartphone owners reach for their phone as soon as they wake up, a third of respondents admitted to using their handsets while with friends or watching television and, alarmingly, one fifth of 18-24 year olds are looking at their smartphones when crossing the road! Another study found that the average person swipes, taps and pinches their display about 2,617 times a day – that’s over a million times per year!

Smartphone obsession seems to be most prevalent amongst teenagers, with a USA survey revealing that over 50% of teenagers felt they were addicted to their mobile devices. There’s a great deal of concern that we are creating zombie like kids who are constantly glued to their screens and missing out on vital social interaction.  Interestingly, an LSE study found that the effect of banning mobile phones from school premises adds up to the equivalent of an extra week’s schooling over a pupil’s academic year.   It also found that after schools banned mobile phones test scores of students aged 16 improved by 6.4%.  And it’s not just limited to teenagers – over 50% of kids think their parents check their devices too often.

We’ve all become so attached to our mobile phones that there is now a recognised condition for those who fear being without a mobile device, or beyond mobile phone contact. Nomophobia (or, no-mobile-phone-phobia) – described as the feelings of anxiety or distress that some people experience when not having their phone.   The proliferation of Smartphones, with anytime anywhere access to social media, is also driving the “FOMO” (fear of missing out) phenomena. A social angst defined as “the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you’’.  Again, a condition more commonly experienced by younger people.

By quoting these statistics you may think that I’m a mobile phone disparager but I’m anything but. I appreciate the huge and positive impact  that mobile technology has had on our lives –  the convenience of being able to contact anyone at any time and the ability to capture memories with photos and videos anywhere. I’m old enough to remember queuing in the rain waiting to use phone boxes and I often bemoan the lack of photos from my teenage years (although if you remember perms and rah-rah skirts this is probably no bad thing!).   The smartphone revolution has evolved communication to the next level. Thanks to these clever devices, we can communicate with friends and millions of other people worldwide, no matter where we are, have immediate access to global news and information and access to a whole plethora of entertainment options all in our pocket.   

However, I believe that as a society we need to adjust to the smartphone revolution to ensure that we don’t put phone interaction ahead of human interaction. I recall sitting in a restaurant on a recent holiday in Crete where, at an adjacent table, there were four older children, all of whom were glued to their phones.  I thought they were taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi whilst waiting for their food – the Wi-Fi at the resort hotel was notoriously ropey. However, once their food arrived they still continued to either swipe or watch their phone in between mouthfuls of moussaka. Most families go on holiday to spend quality time together but that’s difficult to do if the children are glued to their phones and not engaging in any conversation other than to pass the salt!

Smartphones are inherently distracting - I often find myself picking up my phone to catch up on e-Bay bids or Trump’s latest faux-pas and the next thing I know 20 minutes have passed and I’m watching a video (albeit a very funny one!) of a BBC interview hijacked by two small children or a singing dog.  

Some research has also suggested that smartphones are also having a detrimental impact on our attention span. According to a Microsoft study the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015 – so apparently most of us now have an attention span shorter than Dory!

As with most other things in life it’s moderation that’s the key and for those that feel they are being stalked by their shiny smartphone - the Nokia 3310 might just be the answer to help them unplug from the digital world.  As for me, I’m going to put my phone away whilst watching TV so I’m not watching a large screen whilst simultaneously staring at a smaller one! Ironically, I’m also going to download an app (aptly named – Breakfree) to monitor my usage and tell me how much of an addict I really am!