Pinching myself to reality, I had to force myself to come to terms with the existence of a phone like the Nokia 5310 in the year 2020.
But, HMD (parent company of Nokia) wants to cash in on the popularity of the brand’s genre-specific feature phone days. The spiritual predecessor of the 5310 XpressMusic is the 5130 XpressMusic phone first launched in 2008 and Nokia has done well to keep the family look while updating the material feel and stretching the screen out just a smidge.
It’s an unusual sensation to even be holding something this light of a phone in your hand. My muscle memory just isn’t used to this form factor in more than a decade and it takes a few seconds to recalibrate yourself to this new-old Matrix. The screen is now 2.4in, making no claims about its non-smartness, using the Series 30+ OS that is happy to run with 8MB RAM and 16MB of storage. So all the music will need to be stored on a microSD card – up to 32GB is supported. Problem is, with streaming music becoming part of our daily life and routine, even finding MP3 files and saving them on to an external card before you can insert it into the 5310 and play your tunes just sounds like a chore. It has the essentials for anyone hoping to buy this purely from a calling or secondary phone POV. Options of a single SIM or Dual-SIM model, more than 20hrs of talk time and its affordable price tag mean that you can simply keep one in your travel bag and forget about it.
Thankfully, the phone also supports FM radio without the need for plugging in your earphones. There is a quick prompt, though, that reminds you of better quality FM radio reception if you DO plug in your earphones. You get a 3.5mm headphone jack to that effect and controls for music on either side of the phone, distinguished by red accents. One side controls playback and the other side, volume control. The volume control is universal too, so it will work across the board from music to alarms to call volume etc. And the one great thing about this sub ₹4,000 phone is the new dual-speaker array. For its intended audience, this works well with loud and acceptably clear dual front-facing speakers that don’t make headphones a necessity if you want to use this as a speakerphone all day or as a background radio.
The screen as expected is still 2008-looking and the VGA quality rear-camera doesn’t help. It barely qualifies as a camera in this day and age and pictures taken from it are just an approximation of the actual scene. You can forget about colours or detail or resolution. Pre-installed apps include Facebook Lite, Opera Mini browser and a couple of games (yes, Snake too), but there’s no WhatsApp support, which may be a no-go for many targeted customers. You are expected to go back to SMS and it’s hard to imagine even the entry-level daily wage worker in times of Jio-plans not using WhatsApp to stay connected to his family or friends.
So the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic is an out of place device, and while the retro charm is strong and it does get loud with music and has an insane battery life of more than 20 days in standby mode, its relevance as a daily and primary phone for anyone but those who have never heard of the internet is limited. I can see how it can be bought as an “emergency” or secondary phone for those already surviving on a more recent primary device – and it’s a great fit in that role. With a battery that is both long-lasting and replaceable, you can always count on it to rescue you out of a sticky situation.