What's your Nokia memory?

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan
The king has returned.
NOKIA 3310 was relaunched last night at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and across the world, a billion collective sighs of nostalgia could be heard.


People less than 20 years old would be scratching their heads wondering what the big deal was after reading the specifications of the mobile. I mean, a 2 megapixel camera, outdated OS and small screen! What exactly are we old folks going gaga about?


Kids, we totally understand your raised eyebrows. But you see, to us, the Nokia phones that came to India at the start of this century were game changers. They represented a shift in generation we had never considered possible even a year earlier.

A mobile phone was meant for the likes of James Bond, not us! Back then, once you leave your house, there was no way to contact you unless you phoned in from an STD booth or after you reached your destination. Samsung and Sony-Ericsson flattered to deceive and many an improved version of Nokia would arrive but to us, the Nokia 3310 was the game changer.

It had such awesome features too!

  • A phonebook! No more by hearting dozens of numbers (you only had a dozen people worth calling.)
  • An alarm clock - this feature was actually part of their ad back then. 
  • Ringtones which could be changed - I mean, whaaa! Our landlines had two tones at best. 
  • Games. - And not just any game. Snake - the game to end all games.


The value of things like a battery that lasted for days and a body that could take being run over by a car would only be realized years later once we moved on to touchscreens. But for us, this was the start of a magical era.

Everyone has their share of Nokia phone memory from the 2000s. Here's one I recall that I'd like to share.

Now, this would be around 2000-2002, I guess.
Students in our medical college hostel have started getting these coveted devices called mobile phones. There is just one problem. You see, the rules of the college state that we cannot use mobile phones in the campus. So, as you can imagine, we need to be sneaky, keeping the ringtones volume low and talking behind locked hostel room doors to avoid getting caught.

One evening, me and my friend are returning back after going out when we get a warning SMS from batchmates that the warden is checking everyone who enters the hostel for mobile devices. We look at each other, worried and start weighing in with different options. We don't have a bag between us and can't very well bury the mobile in the ground somewhere for safekeeping throughout the night.
And then, staring at the guys returning from football practice, my friends hits upon an idea.

Ten minutes and a kilometer later, we reach the hostel along with the players and the warden is there at the entrance to greet us all. He is indeed on the prowl and we are all made to empty our pockets to show we have no such devices. Pens and wallets appear but nothing else. Satisfied we are decent 'non mobile' wallas, he lets us go and we walk nonchalantly to our room.

He doesn't think twice about why we are, like the tired football players, limping slightly. It is only when we have reached the safety of our room that we take off our shoes. There, sitting happily in silent mode, crushed against the ground with every step we took for the last one kilometer, is our Nokia 3310. Not a single scratch. No a damn scratch at all.

Can you imagine hiding your touchscreen phone in your shoe and walking a kilometer through uneven roads? Do you even think you would consider it today with your iPhone?

I've watched the Nokia 3310 fall off pockets and disperse into 4-5 pieces on Mangalore's main roads and helped collect the pieces with cars honking behind us, just to watch the miracle of it coolly starting up again with that Iconic 'hand-shake' image as though nothing had happened.

Yes, the new version of the phone offers no magic to you all (other than 25 days of standby) but to us, it is the equivalent of a photo album we lost and have now found again. It is our past - a past filled with memories, fond and unique.

  • Making calls back then were initially at the rate of Rs 8/min for incoming. So you can imagine how scared we were to even accept calls! 
  • Once messaging became free, we abused that privilege to the maximum. We would send messages to fellow roommates while in the same room, including 'what's up', 'what you reading' and of course, the ever so polite 'good night'.
  • Group sms' were also sent to friends in adjacent rooms when it was time for dinner - 'dinner?' instead of making an effort to just walk 2 steps across the hall and knock on their door. 
  • We have all sat around a single Nokia phone and kept re-sending the required SMS code for a full afternoon, getting ball-by-ball updates as Laxman and eventually Harbhajan (with the bat in the end) won us the third and decisive thriller of a test match against Australia in that unforgettable 2001 series.

As the years went by, we would get introduced to even more amazing things with new Nokia phones:

  •  bluelit screens
  • a photo gallery
  • radios
  • making personalized Ringtones
  • having GPRS which meant I had access to the actual Internet! 
  • Torch!
  • And then the era of vga cameras came - OMG! How cool were we having mobiles with camera phones on it? 
  • Colour screens on a mobile phone? Truly modern and futuristic. 


Yes, I know how old I sound. But that's okay. It was a different era and I do not regret these 'mobile memories' in the least bit.

What about you? Got any memories of your first Nokia days to share? I would love to hear them. 

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Let me know what you think.

  1. That looks so cute and tempting! I identify with all that you listed on the nostalgia lane, Roshan. I agree Nokia phones are solid and made for marathons. I still use my Nokia 5350, among the first of its touch-screen intros in the market and its battery beats my second 5.5inch screen phone hollow. My first Nokia was a 3550 and I remember my excitement at being able to click those tiny grainy photos, and then struggling to transfer them to my PC. Sury had a 3310 and my office phone was a princely 6233.

    Wonderful memories. I am curious to know how well this phone does. And yes, it really felt great to hold that tiny heavy candy bar phone in the palm of the hand! :-)

    1. wow... had to look up the 5350 :)
      And 6233 was a stylish set!
      They had build and battery life in their favour almost throughout their run. They just did not convert quick enough to the touchscreen era.

  2. Oh, I heard the news that these were being re-launched. Damn, the nostalgia!

    To be honest, I never had a 3310. My brother had a 3315 (which was pretty much the same thing), and I didn't want the same phone as him. Plus, nearly everyone else had a Nokia in my class, and as a teenager, of course, I didn't want what "everyone else" had. So I went through Samsungs, Motos, Sony Ericssons before considering a Nokia (I kill phones really fast; even the Nokias I did eventually have died a swift death)

    1. Moto had a few stylish phones. Remember the Moto Razr? At that time, people thought it was the coolest phone ever!

  3. I was a little surprised when I read the post, I thought you were joking that Nokia had launched the phone again!
    My god, what wonderful memories with Nokia, I used Nokia till a couple of years ago, E63 and one more, I forget the number. I loved it. Still waiting for an amazing good phone from Nokia, Hope they are listening.

    1. In addition to this tribute to our past, Nokia does indeed have 3 touchscreen phones also lined up with quite decent rates. I assume all will launch simultaneously next month.

  4. Oo I had Nokia 1100 as my first phone and the memory of it can never fade away! I still remember the classic Nokia ringtone it had! Sure, today's generation would never get what Nokia phones meant to us and this post, Doctor, is a true abode to go to those memories!


    1. Haha... a tough competition for 3310 was in fact 1100. I remember after years of use, the lettering on its buttons would have faded away!

  5. So much memory with the iconic 3310, the first one I got the day I landed in Mumbai in the Monsoon of 2003 at the phone shop in Colaba for 6.5 k. It became a companion for four years. It accompanied us during the flirty sms and once a teacher threw a girl out of the class for the beep sound. Everyone in college owned the 3310 and can still feel the sleek touch button and designed..how we pulled the button at the back to open the battery. Of course, the games. Of course, the new walla doesn't compare with the iconic one. I will soon write a post on my blue wala good ole Nokia 3310.

    1. Yes, even my first impression is that new version does not look as sturdy as the iconic one... which is weird. I thought they would stick with the most popular features. And yes, looking forward to your post :D

  6. lol... I got my 3310 when I came back to India in 2002 from my significant other. naturally this was a secret phone which was used for clandestine activities. I had taken mine to college when I joined and it was always like a ticking bomb waiting to be discovered by the warden and when it was discovered and confiscated and handed over to my grandmother my friend and I cooked up an elaborate plot of it not being my phone and I was just using her phone, etc. At that time for me the games were not so important because my need for the phone was for other reasons. Not to say I didn't play the game, I was quite good at it too. I had also mastered the art of typing the messages without looking at the screen. Anyway lots of memories

    1. That's got to be the best memory yet :) And most importantly, you reminded me of a feature i TOTALLY forgot. We could all message without looking at the screen, something noone can do today :D

  7. I remember playing Snake on the Nokia phone, and the experience is so much better in the old phones than in the colour version in the newer versions of Nokia. I do hope the latest phone has a classic black and white option to play Snake!:)

    1. I had a looksie at the videos and it is the colour version... and sadly, it doesn't look very appealing, as you mentioned.

  8. Nokia should just plug this as an advert/testimonial for the 'upgraded' 3310. :P

    All jokes aside though, it was definitely one of the best phones that I've ever owned. In fact, I remember that all the old Nokias were so much in demand - and they kept on improvising.

    All hail the king, indeed.

    1. They were all smash hits back then.. even the egg shaped 6600. And back then, the advertisements would showcase features like 'personalized ringtone', 'torch' and all and we would go 'wow! this is so awesome!'
      Today, nobody will be believe us when we say this :D

  9. Oh how I loved my Nokia phones. All of them. They were robust, would last for days, and were so stylish! Do you remember the model that you answered by pressing a button and the cover would slide down? I coveted that phone (never got it though, boo!).

    Loved going down memory lane...thanks for the memories!


    1. Wow... I will have to go back and check which one that is. i remember Moto Razr had one like that around that time which was awesome.

  10. Even my first phone was a Nokia and I cannot agree more to your observations on the same. How excited were we to have owned a mobile phone, with which we could call anyone anytime we want. I have read more than one nostalgic post today and I would say, this post really touched me deep and took me back to my college days :)

  11. My first Phone was Nokia 3310,i have my cousins telling me what the big deal when this new version was launched and then i told them about the era , what a game changer this phone was and how everyone in this world had this iconic phone.

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