Why This $90 Nokia Dumbphone is Trending

6 min read

Twenty-five years have passed since Nokia released the iconic 3210 mobile phone, this was THE phone in the ’90s and early 2000s that had endless battery life, was built like a brick and surprisingly, it’s been relaunched: this is the NEW Nokia 3210…and it even has 4G compatibility.

Hey friends, Andrew here – hope you’re well.

I’ve been using this phone on and off for a month and it’s rather refreshing to use a dumb phone I’ll share my review of the new Nokia 3210 and this phone could be the ultimate dumb phone in a period when dumb phones are ironically becoming more popular. 

The Rise of Dumb Phones

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But why are dumb phones on the rise? 

Well, I think a lot of people are realising just how attached we are to smartphones and it’s becoming kind of a problem. 

Like, for example, my average screen time on my iPhone is almost 5 and a half hours daily. That doesn’t even include the other Android phones I’m currently testing and my computer screen time. 

That’s a big chunk of our time staring at a phone. Dumb phones, like the Nokia 3210 do a great job in embracing simplicity in the smartphone era and it’s becoming a movement: you can see on Google Trends that the global interest for a dumb phone has been steadily climbing and it still has a market.

I’m going to review the Nokia 3210 from the lens of a dumbphone, because its camera, operating system, and everything about it is not going to compete with an OPPO X7 Ultra, Samsung S24, or an iPhone.

But despite all of that, it’s been a joy using the 3210 for surprising reasons. 

Design

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So the design…it’s quite nice and I love just how small it is. I almost forgot how convenient a small phone is in hand and the pocket.

It has a candy bar form factor, it’s under an inch thick and the Scuba Blue color is striking. 

The physical buttons are tactile and pleasant to click, it thankfully has USB-C so I’ve been able to charge it just about everywhere, and… if you need to use this dumbphone for multiple purposes – there are even dual SIM slots. 

They’ve done a decent job retaining the retro aesthetic of the classic but giving it a modern spin. I have to say though, compared to the god-tier durability of the original, this feels more plasticky to hold than I remember the original being but I’ve already dropped this phone and even tried stepping on it and it still looks and works perfectly fine. Unfortunately, it’s missing any sort of waterproofing, which if you’re going to use as a daily phone would’ve been nice to have some sort of IPX rating. 

Display

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When I turned it on for the first time, I was surprised at how decent the display was. 

It’s a 2.4” IPS LCD, it’s not any good next to a modern smartphone, but it is better than the recently refreshed Nokia 2660 flip and 3310 phone – I believe they have TFT displays so the IPS display on the 3210 has a better clarity and colors overall.  

Although the 240 by 320-pixel display would be terrible for Instagram and TikTok doom scrolling but hey, lucky for us we’re using this phone to run away from that addiction.

It’s plenty bright for indoor use, but expect to squint at it outdoors in sunlight. The display is completely glossy too, which doesn’t do it any favors but it’s passable and enough to make calls and text with. 

The camera though…let’s just say it’s terrible and move on because it is a 2MP camera that’s going to get you as good a photo or video as a potato. 

Honestly, I took a few snaps just to test it out but very quickly moved on – I’m surprised you’re able to manufacture camera units this bad nowadays but I guess if at last resort you need to snap a picture at least you have the option to if this is the only device on you. 

Battery Life

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Now battery life though: this is what I’m talking about, it lasts forever. I’m getting anywhere between 4 to 7 full days of use before I need to plug it in.

The caveat here is it’s a dumb phone so I’m not putting in 5+ hours of daily screen time, it’s also not running a 4K display and it’s not pumping out spatial audio from its speakers. I’ve used it to text, make calls, and play some Snake once in a while. 

But it has quite a long battery life for its pocket-sized design, great if you want to go off-grid without needing to bring a charger. There’s even an option for battery optimization, which limits charging to 80% to preserve battery capacity.

S30+ Operating System

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The 3210 runs on Nokia’s updated S30 operating system, known as the S30+ and although it’s dated it works more than fine for a smartphone. So we’re looking at a stable operating system that runs well on tiny 64MB of RAM, is battery efficient and this operating system does exactly that.

I’m able to scroll through the menu quite quickly, messaging is as snappy as number pad texting can be, and it boots up faster than some smartphones I’ve used.

I was also pleasantly surprised when I found out that iconic games like Crossy Roads and Doodle Jump come built on this phone…that is until I realized they cost 10 international text messages to buy, which is about $5. 

They are great games for passing time, but if you’re using a dumbphone, I’m sure you have more interesting habits to pass time with like reading a book or maybe even…calling a friend and having a conversation. 

Negatives

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Now, I have found some negatives over the last month using this phone. 

The speaker on this phone when making calls isn’t great it sounds like crap and the other person on the phone can hear their voice played back to them so you’ll want to stay away from the speakerphone.

The second negative is the lack of any type of app store – well, Nokia killed that off years ago by no fault of their own, and even though this isn’t a smartphone, I would’ve appreciated having the option to download frequent apps I use like WhatsApp.

But then again…I need to be careful because soon I’ll want a better screen, hot spot tethering, more RAM, and well suddenly…it becomes a smartphone all over again. And let’s be honest we don’t need any of this on a dumb phone, it’s not like we need to play Snake in 4K.

Conclusion

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The Nokia 3210 is a dumbphone with a very affordable price tag of $90 brand new, it’s a pretty good remake for what it is. 

It has all the nostalgia and design wins of the classic and I noticed day to day I was getting a lot less distracted by my phone. I saved an hour or two on-screen time and directed it to getting more done or just spending more time with friends and family in real life.

And that’s the beauty of dumb phones, it’s a sort of counter-movement to not be sucked into the void of our screens but instead go back to basics and use our phones for the essentials: calls and texts.

I can see how this phone would appeal to some, people who don’t want to complicate their digital life or want to spend more of their time in real life than their digital lives: if that’s you, you’d likely love the new Nokia 3210. 

But be warned because what I found is it’s hard to get by without a smartphone: so many things require it to get by these days from scanning QR codes to entering a sports stadium with an e-ticket.

For me personally, I enjoyed using this as a backup phone but I can’t go without my smartphone and in fact, I’d probably still recommend buying the cheapest smartphone you can buy because that phone will give you so much more useability, even if you feel like you won’t need it. You’ll just need the willpower to not download TikTok and doom Scroll.

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