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20 things you'll only understand if you owned a Nokia 3310

The greatest phone that ever was

20 things you'll only understand if you owned a Nokia 3310
14 January 2018

On 1 September, 2000, Finnish telecoms group Nokia announced an update to its quietly impressive 3210. 

No one could have predicted the cult status that the 3310 would achieve - shifting 126 million units worldwide. One of the team still has a working model at home.

With a new version of the 3310 released in 2017, we thought we’d take a moment to look back at the highlights of this champion device: nostalgia is calling.

Snake 2

Snake 2 divides opinion amongst many hard-core Snake fans: rather remaining contained within the boundaries of the screen, the sequel would allow players to “circumnavigate” the play area.

There were also bonus bugs (for casuals) and maze modes. Your high score would determine your social status in the playground.

Limited contacts

More than 250 friends? Time for a social cull.

You had to be selective with the 3310, which could only hold 250 contacts on its SIM card. 

The longer texts

While the modern communication constraint sees us attempting to share our witty observations in 140 characters of Twitter, SMS messages used to have a limit of 153 characters.

Not so the Nokia 3310. The daddy of texting, this could run three messages together for a whopping 459 characters. Sure, it could only store a handful of them, but it was groundbreaking back in 2000.

Home screen images

Forget 3D Touch screens - the height of luxury for the 3310 was in updating the home screen with a personalised “image”.

We once spent £1.50 getting a background of the Leyton Orient crest. Worth every penny.

Predictive text messaging

Long before autocorrect started playing merry with your texts, the T9 predictive messaging service played havoc with your rushed communications.

First debuting on the 3210, it was revolutionary at the time, reducing your multiple button taps to input every single letter to predict the words you could have meant with your random input of keys.

Anyone for instance called ‘Jordan’ would often receive messages opening: “Hi Korean!” 

The price

At launch, this state-of-the-art handset cost a mere £129.99 for a pay-as-you-go contract.

Anyone looking for a long term investment: £29.99 on a 12 month Vodafone contract.


While many older phones were a good deal hardier than modern touchscreen counterparts, the 3310 was a notably tough cookie.

Weighing a solid 133 grams (the iPhone 6 is a comparable 129 grams), the various gaps and plastic layers of the phone gave it a rugged, drop-proof durability. Just check out how well it stands up to a flaming ball of nickel

Personalised greetings!

In addition to booting up in eight seconds flat (Usain Bolt-times in comparison to modern smartphones), you could add your own personal greeting message to the 3310.

Not that much of a deal, but hilarious when you changed your mate’s to a four-letter expletive.

Customisable ringtones

Everyone had a friend who had worked out the Nokia-specific notes for Match of the Day.

Sure, it came with 35 pre-programmed ring tones, but none of them were as good as that 15 second tune you spent the better part of three hours composing on a slow Sunday. Yes, it was hassle, but the Tone Composer was truly brilliant. 

Free ringtones!

Okay, so not Nokia 3310-specific, but that composer ability meant that the internet, TV and magazines were filled with ringtone ads. Hundreds of them. And if you signed up to receive one, you’d spend the better part of £50 trying to unsubscribe from them.

Custom cases

So. Many. Cases.

Look at that thing. It’s hideous. But someone, somewhere, had to design it, print it and sell it.


That lock combination

Menu button, star key.

An essential button combination every teenager of the day knew about, but one that would utterly perplex modern kids. 

Super-hot charger

Back in the day before micro-USB chargers, this little badger could reach room-warming temperatures.


Just 10 of them.

Any more than that and you had to resort to sticking post-it notes to the back of the case.

Exchange rate

“Do you know what the current exchange rate is between Pounds Sterling and the US dollar? I need it in order to use the Currency Conversion function on my 3310… anyone? No? Is it on Teletext?”


How many times did your 3310 set off a random spark?

Never? Yep, never. But Nokia were obliged to include this message in the instruction book…

The battery life

This little block of grey was a Tardis of energy storage. Left alone, it would keep your phone ticking over for 245 hours. Yep. Standby life of ten days. Your iPhone probably doesn’t make it to lunch. 

The other games

It wasn’t just Snake 2 that occupied the thumbs of millions - there was Pairs II (which was rubbish), Space Impact (the side scrolling shoot’em’up classic, which would ruin your 2 and 8 buttons), and the surprisingly complicated Bantumi.

By virtue of not being able to download new games, it did mean that everyone was forced to compete on a level playing field. Your Space Impact score was only 21,000? You are a lower form of human than someone with a high score of 22,000.

You could open beer bottles with it

So hardy was the 3310’s plastic construction that you could use it to lever off beer tops without any fear of damaging your handset.

Check out some nifty 3310 opening skills in this video. Seriously, don’t try it with an iPhone 6 - it doesn’t end well.

The need for a clip case

Your dad probably had one of these.

Given the bulk of the 3310 (113 mm × 48 mm × 22 mm), it wouldn’t slip that readily into slimmer jeans pockets. You either had to lose it in a more girthy jacket option, or get one of these hideous-yet-practical belt clips.

They weren’t for protecting the phone - it was just to give you that secondary carry option.