We go hands on with HMD Global’s latest Nokia original, the Nokia 5310.
And just like that, the Nokia 5310 is back. Once pitched as Nokia’s answer to Sony’s Walkman, the 5310 is an important part of history which means that it needs no introduction. Even if you’re blurry about the exact model number, I am sure many of you will recall XpressMusic, a Nokia lineup of yore that spawned several phones all focusing on making music ultra portable and accessible. The seemingly new Nokia 5310, which is launching in India today, may not exactly be an XpressMusic phone, but everything else about it is a trip down memory lane.
The Nokia 5310 joins the likes of the Nokia 3310 and Nokia 8110 as part of HMD Global’s “Nokia originals” feature phones. Much like the Nokia 3310 and Nokia 8110, the Nokia 5310 also tries to make nostalgia do much of the talking (to make a selling) and while simply on the basis of specs (and design), there’s every chance that a majority will just write it off, HMD Global believes that there is a method to this madness. One is of course the fact that there’s a big chunk of feature phone users in India, even today, which means that there’s a lot of potential for the category (still) even though smartphones are thriving now more than ever on the back of their affordable pricing and value proposition. I couldn’t agree more (but not entirely).
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The Nokia 5310 is a throwback to 2007 when feature phones were a big deal. So were portable MP3 players. The Nokia 5310 combined the two in one smart and sleek-looking package. The XpressMusic branding did the rest (to attract buyers). Think of it like an iPod that could also do phone calls (no, don’t think about the iPhone!).
It was a portable music player (and a phone) through and through. Not only did it look the part with its funky dual tone colour schemes (this was a phone clearly designed for the youth), it also came with music-oriented quirks, such as dedicated play and pause buttons, expandable storage, and an audio chip, a concept still new at that time.
The Nokia 5310 in 2020 is mostly the same deal, in fact it’s so similar, it poses a challenge to its existence in this day and age, but again as I said, there’s a method to this madness. Before I jump into that, let me quickly take you through the new Nokia 5310’s design and feature set.
The new Nokia 5310, like the original, is also a candybar-style feature phone with a T9 keyboard. There are also separate keys for play and pause on one side (like the original). HMD Global has made subtle changes, the biggest one being the addition of volume up and down keys, on the other side of the screen (this was missing in the original). The front (and back) of the new Nokia 5310 is a lot curvier, while in the original this was mostly flat. Also, the new Nokia 5310 gets dual front-firing speakers, which is probably the biggest change when it comes to the feature set.
The new Nokia 5310 has a 2.4-inch (QVGA) colour display and expandable storage has been ramped up to 32GB – it was 4GB in the original. You will need that, if you’re looking to make this thing your dedicated music player on the go, because under the hood the Nokia 5310 has only 16MB of storage. The feature phone also supports wireless FM radio and has a 3.5mm audio jack. Its 1,200mAh battery is meanwhile claimed to offer up to 30 days of standby time.
But here’s the thing. The new Nokia 5310 is also a dumb feature phone running Nokia Series 30+ operating system. This can be both a good thing and bad depending on how you perceive it. If you’re simply looking to relive the good old days and use this thing for a digital detox, the Nokia 5310 will have you covered. If you want anything more, well, it won’t make the cut.
Unlike the 3310 and 8110, the Nokia 5310 doesn’t run on KaiOS software – and there’s no 4G or even 3G. This means, you can’t really enjoy surfing the internet on this feature phone (even though it ships with the Opera Mini browser). Plus, there’s no app store, so you’re basically stuck with what HMD is going to pre-load this feature phone with. Luckily, it has Snake and a couple of other demo games, if that’s any consolation.
HMD Global had launched the 3310 in a similar way but down the line it also brought a 4G variant for more demanding users. Whether or not it does the same with the Nokia 5310 is something that only time will tell.
As for why it exists, the reason is simple. The Nokia 5310 wants to cure your digital fatigue with a dash of music, old school style, in these challenging times. For a lot of people, this would be a companion phone, but HMD Global believes there’s also an audience (an audience that still invests in a feature phone), that would buy it for its brand name and high quality and reliability standards. Again, I couldn’t agree more, but also, it’s high time this audience also got what they deserve in 2020, which is faster connectivity and possibly access to apps like WhatsApp. HMD has access to all this tech which is why it also holds a responsibility towards the society as a whole. Just calling it a modern-day avatar is not enough, it would have been really nice if it also worked like one. The Nokia 5310 has been launched in India at a price of Rs 3,399. Watch this space for our full review of the Nokia 5310 in the days to come.