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Why feature phones are on the rise... again.

Raun Forsyth
4 min read
Nokia 2660 Flip in Pink

Perhaps “dumb phones” aren’t so dumb after all

Dumb phones have been enjoying something of a comeback lately. We could put this down to several reasons, like their durability, nostalgic vibes, digital detoxing, and more. But to really understand this resurgence, we have to go back a bit, to before the smartphone era. Let’s take a look.

How it began

In the 90s and early 2000s, Nokia phones were a range of simple, easy-to-use, and robust devices that were loved by millions. Back then, all phones were just phones and the distinction between smart and feature phones didn’t exist. You could snap a selfie, play games, text your mates and even browse the web. Nokia phones were the devices everyone talked about and those classic phones of the noughties are now referred to as "feature phones."

Feature phones have developed a reputation in media headlines as "dumb phones." What tends to get left out is the fact that they are still highly evolved pieces of tech in their own right. When it comes to functionality, they deliver. They really can go the distance with their robust build and everlasting battery life and it’s no secret that they are designed to handle most things that life can throw at them. In fact, the same tests that were carried out on the original phones – such as the iconic Nokia 3310 first unveiled over 20 years ago – are still used on the Nokia devices by HMD Global today.

Put to the test

The SPR (Standard Product Requirements) for Nokia phones are legendary in the industry. There are over 50 tests for hardware durability which is way above the industry average. The dreaded tumble test is when a phone continually falls 1 meter and needs to pass 100 continual drops. This testing process is like boot camp for phones because we pride ourselves in delivering the promise of quality craftmanship using premium materials that are built to last.

We take a holistic approach to each of our designs from the materials we use, to the form factor, the specification and the detail touch points. Like all Nokia phones by HMD Global, we design our classics and our smartphones from the inside out. It’s all about purposeful design using premium materials that can go the distance. This way of thinking and designing helps the environment. Durable phones that last longer help reduce e-waste which is critical if we are to improve the impact that consumerism is having on our planet.

Nokia 800 takes on the outdoors

Classic by design

The design team behind Nokia phones by HMD Global are very passionate about the future of mobile tech including new essential phones – phones that are designed around a specific experience, or a focused set of tech features, and deliver the perfect everyday experience at an affordable price. We also listen to our fans – we constantly evolve guided by what real-life Nokia phone owners want from their device. And, behind every good design is a design philosophy. Here’s ours in a nutshell.

  • We want everything to be the best it can be – we’re quality obsessed which shines through in every Nokia feature phone and smart phone design
  • We seek and find inspiration everywhere – new tactile materials, a pattern in the environment, the way copper and glass combine on a light fitting, all to inform purposeful design and engineering
  • We infuse our products with Scandinavian soul – they’re bold and pure and physically tactile and built around an authentic use of materials
  • We stay true to the spirit, values and craftmanship of the first Nokia phones while designing phones that meet the needs of today

Designing phones with this philosophy in mind doesn’t mean building phones that cost the earth. Rather, it’s about striking a balance – the capability to run an essential set of applications at the perfect level of performance.

This thinking gave birth to one of our more innovative feature phones, the Nokia 5710 XpressAudio, a phone designed for the 21st Century with built-in wireless earbuds. This unique approach moves our XpressAudio experience into the future with the earbuds housed beneath a sleek and robust slider so they save space in your pocket and are always with you and always charged – why carry and charge two sets of devices?

Here's to the feature phones

Now, we’re seeing more and more feature phones making a comeback. In an always-on digital world, people crave quality and simplicity. We hope today’s generation of feature phones will remind us just how sophisticated they are, delivering all of the essentials with a touch of nostalgia to boot. And they are, indeed, a little fun.

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