Nokia 3210: The Classic Turn of the Century Phone

By N Mark Castro

For all intents and purposes, as cliches go, Nokia’s ascent as the top mobile phone manufacturer on earth was also the reason for its decline.


It rested on its laurels, became complacent, and was late to innovate. It was dead even before the coffin came and was in denial that it was dead. The value kept decreasing because it had diversified so much looking for niche or a new target market when there was a time that they lorded it over everyone and was sold to everyone.

As a customer that saved up money for a Nokia mobile phone, it felt awful that the unit I just bought became worthless as a new unit came into the store by the time I left it. That was how fast they were churning out newer models over their new products. And they were doing it across all their models it was hard to keep track. Then they kept releasing more expensive and exclusive models that no longer enticed aspirations but rather instilled frustrations.

Samsung seems to be great at replicating that process.

Microsoft bought Nokia’s faltering mobile phone unit for US$ 7.2 billion in 2013 after declining sales in the face of competition from Apple. Nokia, by then, was the largest seller of the Windows mobile phones. Nokia was probably the only one that sold it, which was why it made sense to have bought it.


Both companies never really made a dent in the smartphone ecosystem, but whether or not they could resurrect is something dying fans would nostalgically hope for.

An anecdote wishes to be inserted at this point:


They gave Pandora a box. Prometheus begged her not to open it. She opened it. Every evil to which human flesh is heir came out of it.

The last thing to come out of the box was hope. It flew away.

I did not make that depressing story up.

The Ancient Greeks did.

This was a Steve Ballmer deal. Yes. You remember him. He’s the same Steve Ballmer who laughed at iPhone’s release.

On the surface, Ballmer did seem to have got a good deal that would see Nokia adopt Windows Phone as its primary platform on future smartphones, replacing both Symbian and MeeGo. The deal also included the use of Bing as the search engine on Nokia devices, and the integration of Nokia Maps into Microsoft’s own mapping services.

So far, so good.

So Nokia unveiled its first Windows Phone 7-based devices, the high-end Lumia 800 and the mid-range Lumia 710, on 26 October 2011 at its Nokia World conference and, bada-Bing-bada-boom, after this announcement, Nokia’s share price fell about 14%, its biggest drop since July 2009. Nokia’s smartphone sales, which had previously increased, collapsed.

There went the ballgame.

Who lost what? What went wrong? Various theories, of course, are proposed. But, and I quote: After write-offs, an impairment charge, and thousands of job cuts, can Microsoft recoup any value from its $7.2 billion Nokia acquisition? 

Regardless of the outcome, this debate will be a good case study for business schools and, of course, for companies to consider.


If there’s one thing, however, that older mobile phone users will remember with fondness and nostalgia, it would be Nokia’s greatest and innovative gift at the time. The Nokia 3210.


At the time of its release in a memorable date March 18, 1999, the Nokia 3210 sold over 160 million units worldwide, making it one of the most popular phones in history.

This metallic piece was one of the first — and certainly most popular — to come out with the internal antenna, and was also the first phone where you could send pre-loaded pictures through the SMS service.

Oh sure it couldn’t offer Google Maps, didn’t support corporate email, wouldn’t shoot HD video, didn’t use GPS, couldn’t remotely control my home media library, didn’t include a wireless movie rental store and certainly couldn’t provide augmented reality experiences.

But do you know what it could do? Make great calls, make texting quick, and didn’t run out of battery power in 24 hours.

Someone once said:

In terms of being a phone, Nokia’s 3210 was, historically-speaking, as impressive as the wheel, sliced bread and hair straighteners. It did everything perfectly that the iPhone and Samsung sucked at: being a phone.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

The interface, the user-experience, the simplicity of design was so revolutionary at the time that you could actually compare it to the eventual release of the iPhone.

Consider the specifications, total weight of 153g and measured 123.8mm x 50.5mm x 16.7mm (min), 22.5mm (max) and featured customizable fascias.  The 3210 was designed by Alastair Curtis in Nokia’s Los Angeles Design Center.

maxresdefaultNokia initially intended it for young people to young professionals at a time mobile phones were often seen among top executives. Not only did it bridged the gap, it overwhelmed it so much with its crossover.


There’s a reason why this joke has done the rounds on the internet:

Just put on a jacket I last wore at a wedding in 2001 and found a Nokia 3210 in the pocket. It still has 2 bars of battery left.

The average battery life of an iPhone had been its Achilles Heel ever since it was launched. It barely lasts a day and even Samsung smartphones fare no better.

The 3210 could last for a week, or even two weeks, depending on how often Snake was played.

Check how huge or small your powerbank is. You never had to carry those with a Nokia 3210.



Look at your phone now. What cover or bumper or protector does it have? Despite being produced as a thin phone, it actually looks like a huge ice crusher, doesn’t it? You drop it and it breaks.

For a Nokia 3210, you drop it and you’ll break the floor.

e4308a06-22ce-4d51-a0d1-85a7d1548b46-bestSizeAvailableLast I heard, even its successor the 3310 was actually a military grade equipment.



Look at the color of your phone now. Space Grey? Slate? Gold? Silver? White? That’s who you are.



Nokia 3210 was exactly what Benneton meant with its foundation of colors: the glitter ones, the decals, the stickers, the knock-off ones breaching numerous different film and music copyright, the coloured rubber keyboard panels!

There was nothing that was off-limits when it came to decorating the 3210.


So you have billion choices of mobile games in AppStore or Google Play. Injustice? Clash of Clans? Angry Birds? SIMS?


Nothing can beat the pure, and purist, adrenaline rush of Snake. Pause and you were screwed. Everyone knew that rookie error.

snakeNokia 3210 may or may not be the greatest and innovative phone at the turn of the century, but everyone certainly remembers it.

Value for value, it never made you feel less owning one even if the top executives were brandishing their Communicators. It was a different piece altogether that stood on its own.

I’d like to get one piece again, for old time’s sake, and I’m glad I can get it with available pieces to make a great refurbished Nokia 3210.

I’m planning to update my Facebook Status with it.


About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on July 14, 2015, in General and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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