It’s 1999. Geri Halliwell leaves the Spice Girls, Gil Junger drops the most iconic Shakespeare adaptation of all time in 10 Things I Hate About You, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire lands on screens for the first time, yet an event eclipsing all of this, in a manner akin to Neil Armstrong’s foot first planting itself on the moon, was the release of the Nokia 3210.

The phone was, and is, famously indestructible, and has been hailed as the iPhone of its time. Its modest 480p video camera had little awareness that it was a harbinger of a golden age of phone cameras. It is a wonder to imagine a battery that lasted beyond a day, let alone an entire month of standby from a single charge.

Yet tragically, wonders do indeed cease. Nokia seemingly saw the reboot of Doctor Who in 2005 and felt that the world had quite enough to be getting on with, as its 3210 model was discontinued that year. The new ‘it’ phone was briefly the Blackberry Curve, before being dominated by the iPhone.

Snake’s alive!

Thankfully, what goes around comes around. Just as Girls Aloud reunited, Gavin and Stacey is set to return, and the BBC announced a new Outnumbered Christmas special, the Nokia 3210 landed once again, celebrating its 25th birthday in three colors—scuba blue, grunge black, and Y2K gold.

Admittedly, Y2K gold is more of a jaundiced yellow, but the effect remains, nonetheless. This updated version comes with a full-colour screen and 4G, as well as a two-megapixel camera and flashlight. And it wouldn’t be a Nokia without Snake, the Pokémon Go of its time.

The ‘Dumb-Phone’ renaissance

Calling the likes of the Nokia 3210 ‘dumb’ is frankly disturbing when it wields the fortifying nostalgia of pressing the number ‘7’ four times to type the letter ‘s’, but it is a natural antonym to the smartphones of today’s world.

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With the infamous debate around said smartphones and endless doomscrolling sapping up hours a day and causing detrimental effects on mental health, the most disruptive generation of our time has turned their Y2K obsession to the trusty Nokia brick, among other more simple devices.

It seems, suddenly, that ‘kids these days’ are beginning to turn away from their screens, and no longer have the desire to be glued to their phones, enwrapped in TikTok, Instagram, and whatever other mysterious goings-on happen behind that mystical ceramic shield of glass.

Gen Z crave the simpler things in life, and, above all, crave a greater sense of peace and mental stability. Jonathan Haidt revealed in his book, The Anxious Generation, that there is a tangible link between screen time and poor mental health. While Gen Z is characterized by growing up alongside and connected to technology, they equally are the generation most equipped to deal with the negative impacts of the smartphone, given the more open conversations now being had about mental health.

Nokia 3210 – too little too late?

Escaping the world of notifications and perpetual connectedness to find solace in the world of Snake feels like a rare delight amid the general turmoil of today, yet whether the approach is practical is yet to be discovered.

The simplicity of the phone is attractive, yet reality strikes in the sorry realisation that, ultimately, no one texts anymore. WhatsApp has harnessed the voice of all generations and pinned us irrevocably to the mercy of the smartphone.

Without the smartphone, many of us lose calendars, work emails, digital train tickets, navigation apps, and online banking. The Nokia 3210 may have Bluetooth, but without Spotify, we’re left with just the whirring start-up sounds of the Google homepage to listen to. Modern life seems all too embroiled in the utility of apps.

There’s life in the Nokia 3210 yet

However, it is well known that Gen Z is the most disruptive generation yet. While they may have to get to the station 20 minutes early to print off a physical ticket, head to the nearest WHSmith to pick up a new Filofax, or even become accustomed to printing directions off the AA website, their latest mark on the world could be making the old brick all the new rage.

Our beloved Nokia 3210 may have the potential to be a bedrock for a new generation that rejects the smartphone!