The furore around the all-new Nokia 3310 has been a joy for phone fans to behold – as thousands upon thousands get enthused all over again about an update to a phone that has become the most iconic of all time.
But despite this early burst of enthusiasm, the new company behind this reimagining must be careful that it does not become a nostalgic millstone around its neck.
A straw poll of what people were looking forward to from this year’s Mobile World Congress showed that rather than the new flagship LG G6 phone or the burgeoning Huawei P10, it was the Nokia retro phone that was picking up the most attention.
You can understand why; this was a phone that established itself as a true classic; robust, functionally perfect in its simplicity and with a battery life measured in days not hours. And then there was the game that everyone still remembers: Snake (or Snake 2 to be strictly accurate).
This new offering is a little different – and not just because its features have been dragged, probably kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.
The Nokia phone brand is now licensed by a company called HMD, and manufacturing the new range of phones is being looked after by megalithic Chinese company Foxconn.
But although capitalising on the retro cool of a revamped and low cost 3310, the popularity could also be a pitfall for HMD.
The general consensus is that HMD will be looking to quickly push the loyal old Nokia fans on to its more modern wares (like the newly announced Nokia 6.
In the same way as Nintendo appreciates our custom for its retro cool Nintendo Entertainment System Classic but would really really like it if we could all start spending a considerable larger number of our pennies on the new Nintendo Switch, HMD Nokia will be desperate to move us on from nostalgia to new fairly swiftly.
In fact, there’s a very real danger that the new Nokia will be written off as a retro phone company, unless the smartphone offering can now step out from the shadow being generated by the classic chassis.
It’s a view shared by Ian Fogg Head of Mobile Analysis at IHS Markit: “HMD must balance two competing brand goals with its new handsets,” he suggested.
“HMD must appeal to those consumers who recall the Nokia brand from when Nokia was the leading handset and smartphone manufacturer in the early 2000s while establishing Nokia as a modern and up to date brand again known for innovation.
“The launch of the new re-imagined Nokia 3310 featurephone threatens to overshadow HMD’s modern smartphones. HMD must avoid the Nokia brand being seen as purely a nostalgia brand.”
It’s a cliche that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but as politicians in the past 12 months have proven it’s got a big chunk of truth attached to it.
Ultimately HMD Nokia will be delighted with the wave of interest the 3310 has generated, and having a phone that is overshadowing your others in the range is not a bad problem to have.
It just doesn’t make it any easier to solve.