For a couple years now, we’ve seen the return of Nokia-branded phones. While many of them have been Android phones in the same vein as those of any other smartphone maker, there’s been something of a retro resurgence, too — at Mobile World Congress last year, we saw the Nokia 3310, a revival of the old brick phone. The new version was a cheap 2G phone that could do email, games, and some limited web browsing — basically, what late ’90s/early ’00s Nokia phones were capable of. The new Nokia 3310 was a hit in emerging markets and among retro fans, so naturally, another classic is getting revived at Mobile World Congress 2018.
This year, it’s the old banana phone. The original Nokia 8110 had a sliding cover that went over the keypad — in a call, it could be slid out to bring the microphone closer to the user’s mouth. Because getting the cover over to the mouth required the phone to be long and curved when extended, the 8110 ended up looking like a banana! It was distinctive enough to secure it a supporting role in The Matrix, so it’s certainly secured its piece of pop culture history.
While the original phone was black, they’re leaning all the way in to the banana phone thing this time. The new Nokia 8110 is extremely bright yellow (it comes in black, too, but why?) and has the same curved build of the original. It’s not an Android phone, and while it’s not what you would usually think of as a smartphone, it might not be as limited as the Nokia 3310 — the phone runs the Smart Feature OS, which will have its own app store. Whether or not anyone will develop anything for it is a whole other question, but at least there’s a possibility!
It’s probably not all that important how many apps it has — phones like these are sold today to people who just want a cheap handset that will do email, calls, texts, and not much else. That simplicity means great battery life, with the new Nokia 8110 getting about 25 days of standby time. The 2.4″ non-touch display isn’t much of a battery hog, anyway. What might put a bit more strain on the battery is 4G connectivity — the 3310 only had 2G, later getting a separate 3G version.
Now’s a good time to point out that it’s not exactly Nokia making these new phones. A new company called HMD is designing the phones and licensing the Nokia name — Nokia has been out of phones since it sold off its handset division to Microsoft, a disaster of a deal that led to Microsoft writing off billions in losses. However, HMD isn’t exactly a pretender — among its co-founders are ex-Nokia employees who lost their jobs when the Microsoft acquisition went south, so they have something of a legitimate claim to the title.
HMD announced a handful of other phones at MWC 2018, from cheap Android handsets like the Nokia 1 to high-end, nearly all-glass premium Android phones like the Nokia 8 Sirocco. Unfortunately, all of them, banana phone included, are not likely to be sold in the United States — HMD will focus on emerging markets where they’ve already had success, like Indonesia and India, plus Russia and some parts of Europe. But, the new Nokia 3310 eventually made it to the United States, so it’s not out of the question that that banana phone could start ringing in the U.S. before the end of the year. As for Europe, when the phone comes out in the spring it will be €79 — just a bit lower than the nearly €1,000 the original sold for in 1996!