‘Retro’ tech for those tired of smartphones – The Irish Times

Nokia 3210 (2024)

Price: €80

Where To Buy: HMD

There is something disconcerting about devices you used not so long ago being considered “retro”. I can cope with the idea that my smartphone has more power than my first laptop. I can deal with the fact that DVD players are an oddity, and the once cutting edge CD is practically antique. I can even get on board with the reboots of various consoles that were once the cutting edge of gaming, even if the graphics don’t look quite as good as I remember.

But there is something about the Nokia 3210 being described as “retro” that makes me feel like I should start making plans for my retirement.

HMD Global has been reviving some of the old favourites, giving them a fresh coat of paint and a few new features before sending them out into the world as a “retro” favourite.

The latest to get the update is the Nokia 3210. Originally released in 1999 – maths says 25 years ago, anyone over the age of 40 swears it’s less than 15 – the phone was one of Nokia’s most successful. The keypad tones could irritate an entire bus in a short commute. The battery life would last all day, and the next one, and the next one – in fact it could last almost an entire week as long as you didn’t make a habit of lengthy phone calls every day. It had three games, and swappable covers so you could change up the phone to fit your outfit. You could compose your own ringtones via the keypad tones, and it even had predictive text. It was a guaranteed hit.

Fast forward a quarter of a century and some things have changed. The 3210 now has a colour screen, an internet connection and bluetooth. Instead of Xpress On covers, you get a choice of three colours. And you can’t create your own ringtones with the keypad tones anymore, but you can set any stored music on your phone as your incoming call alert.

The phone also has a camera, though it is only 2 megapixels, and there is no front-facing camera for selfies, so you need to go old school to take a picture and hope for the best. The resulting images won’t faze any of the premium smartphones out there, but they will capture a moment when needed.

Snake is still there, although with more colour and a few more features than the purists would like. It’s just as addictive as the original though, so if you were hoping to spend less time on your phone, you probably shouldn’t start playing again.

And that’s really the main reason for going back to the last generation of phones.

I’ve never really been tempted to ditch the smartphone for a simpler version, not long term at least. It just isn’t practical in a hybrid working environment, unless I plan to carry around a laptop from Monday to Friday. A dumb phone – what else do you call a phone with significantly fewer features than the current crop of mini computers we carry around in our pockets – wouldn’t cut it.

My kids, on the other hand, were fascinated by the “dumb phone”, and frustrated by the lack of games on it. Snake held them for a while, although the inclusion of some other games as trials – limited plays – caused a bit of frustration.

It also meant the return of something I haven’t done in a while: the random pocket dial. Not all nostalgia trips turn out flawlessly.


If you want to get rid of some of the distractions in your life, cutting down on smartphone use is a good place to start. The Nokia 3210 strips it down to the essentials – calls, texts, plus some content through the Cloud Apps – so you don’t have 20 notifications an hour to drag your attention away from work, school or family.

The phone itself is cheap

However, I can’t be held responsible for your relapse into Snake addiction.


Sometimes only a smartphone will do. The lack of third-party apps for this phone won’t appeal to everyone. The camera is fine rather than outstanding.

Also, be careful not to forget the lock code – assuming you have one – on your phone, as bitter personal experience tells me it’s not easily reset.

Everything else

The phone charges over USB C, the same as your new iPhone or Android device. It also comes with a headphone jack, making it an increasingly rare device.


The nostalgia is strong with this one. A good replacement for your smartphone when you need a break from the notification noise, but probably not a practical long-term solution.

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