When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works

Home / Features / The Nokia 3210 at 25 – we remember one of the best mobile phones ever made

The Nokia 3210 at 25 – we remember one of the best mobile phones ever made

From Snake to custom fascias, the Nokia 3210 reimagined mobiles for the masses

Nokia 3210

It seems like only yesterday that we felt quite flash sporting a Nokia 3210. In fact, we’re going to pretend it was yesterday and not 25 years ago, because we don’t want to think about what that might mean.

How did that famous ringtone go again?

Dee-dee-do-do. Dee-dee-do-do. Dee-dee-do-do-do!

Ah, yes. And now we’re all having ‘world’s most irritating ringtone’ flashbacks. Sorry. The thing is, though, while the 3210 became synonymous with those 13 notes, that ringtone had been used for years on other blowers. But that was half of the point of the 3210, which was all about smart recycling. A lull in new chipsets gave designer Frank Nuovo and his team space to rethink existing tech for new markets. He set out to make a deeply uncool thing cool, so it would click with young people.

‘Young people’? OK, grandad. So what did Nokia think the kids wanted?

They wanted a friendly design that didn’t look like your dad’s phone, cleverly tucking the antenna inside; games, hence bundling SnakeMemory and Rotation; T9 text entry, because texting became cool by virtue of necessity (younger folks had less cash and had to stretch limited talk time); and personalisation, which was the 3210’s biggest innovation, by way of Nokia Composer’s custom ringtones and the phone’s swappable fascias – many of which were so sharp-edged they could slice cheese.

Well, variety is the spice of life. Unless you slice off a finger. So what went wrong?

Well, Nokia’s market segmentation reached comical levels, to the point that you wondered if it would release a distinct phone for every individual. But by 2007, Apple’s iPhone showed that no array of snap-on plastic shells could compete when Nokia’s tech lagged. Still, the 3210 laid the groundwork for Apple’s success. It shifted how we thought of phones, from boring business tools to mass-market everyday companions that emphasised fun and ease of use – core principles that define quality smartphones to this day.

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor


I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.

Enable referrer and click cookie to search for eefc48a8bf715c1b 20231024b972d108 [] 2.7.22