As networks get smarter, the nostalgic Nokia 3310 gets a 4G refresh
In the age of feature 4G phones, Nokia 3310 could bank on its familiarity among consumers
As consumers shift from voice to data, the Nokia 3310 has a lot going for it
India remains the country dominated by feature phone market even as the world moves towards a smartphone only market. According to Counterpoint Research, the feature phone segment recorded an astonishing growth of 55 percent in shipments during the fourth quarter of 2017. In comparison, the overall mobile phone (including smartphones and feature phones) shipments grew around 37 percent.
The data released by Counterpoint shows there is continued interest in feature phones and it is a segment poised to grow more than the smartphone segment. In the past quarter, the segment was mainly led by JioPhone, which brings a modern aspect to the feature phone that we have known and grown with. JioPhone’s major differentiator, apart from its effective price of Rs 0, is the ability to transmit voice over 4G network. However, the feature phone segment has always belonged to one name: Nokia.
HMD Global, the Finnish company with license to sell Nokia-branded mobile phones has been selling mobile devices for just over a year, but it has already created a mark with nearly 6 percent market share in the country. Last year, it resurrected one of Nokia’s all-time best-selling feature phone, Nokia 3310 with a modern avatar. Now the company is taking a page from Jio’s book and is bringing 4G support to the resurrected 3310 feature phone.
4G is the only way forward
Since the launch of Jio’s 4G-only network in September 2016, it is clear that 4G is the only way forward for telecom service providers. While Airtel launched its 4G mobile services in 2014, the service gained real popularity with the reach of Jio’s network.
While 4G, the fourth generation of cellular broadband network technology, brings major gain in the areas such as data connectivity, there’s no discounting the fact that it also brings superior wireless communication for mobile phones with voice over Long-Term Evolution or VoLTE. While Jio was the first to support VoLTE in the country, the high speed wireless communication is now also being offered by service providers like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone.
The VoLTE support brings better voice service as it is being delivered as a data flow and does not depend on circuit-switched voice network that needs to be maintained in the case of 2G or 3G network. In technical terms, VoLTE supports up to three times more voice capacity compared to 3G and up to six times more than 2G.
The first and the most meaningful change with Nokia 3310 4G for Indians will be the ability to use a Jio SIM card but the wider benefit will be to make VoLTE-enabled voice calls. All major telecom operators have announced their plans to migrate voice calls to 4G spectrum with VoLTE and refarm their 3G spectrum for data connectivity. This will lead to 4G being available even in remote areas and support better voice service in comparison to data and Nokia 3310 will be capable of supporting such networks when they become available to consumers.
From feature phone to smart feature phone
With JioPhone, Reliance Jio showed that a feature phone need not be about just voice calls and text messages. The telecom service provider added features like data connectivity, support for live streaming with bundled apps and even a voice assistant. Nokia 3310 4G variant is also getting smart with a new operating system.
Nokia 3310 4G variant comes with YunOS, a forked version of Android developed by Chinese internet giant Alibaba. While details of YunOS are sparse, it basically seems to be dropping Google services in favor of its own services in the country. A switch from Symbian 30 platform to YunOS means that Nokia 3310 will support basic browsing and might allow for digital transactions as well.
It is likely that Nokia 3310 4G will not launch with YunOS in India but there is a possibility that HMD Global will tweak Symbian to offer additional smart features. The ability to browse and watch videos is something most consumers seek since it has become easier to get better connectivity without breaking the bank. Just don’t pin your hopes on Android Go variant of Nokia 3310.
Nostalgia with fourth generation connectivity
Let’s admit it: We all have owned a Nokia phone at some or the other point in time. It is still a common scene where the primary phone might be a premium smartphone but Nokia phone is a secondary device. With Nokia 3310 4G, HMD Global is not getting rid of nostalgia even a bit.
The 4G variant of Nokia 3310 comes with the same design seen on the resurrected model last year. It still has a small color display and a keypad that doesn’t have a learning curve. It also has that replaceable battery that can last for days on a single charge. Nokia 3310 4G is that sort of a thing that is not limited to Dad and Mom anymore and caters to all users who seek superior voice experience on their mobile phone.
Smart feature phone as an opportunity
Smart feature phone is still a great opportunity for companies catering to this segment. Counterpoint Research says the segment can grow to 200 million units over the next five years in terms of volume as hundreds of millions of current feature phone users in the country will upgrade to VoLTE handsets.
HMD Global has already gained familiarity in the market and this year could be the oppportunity for it to attract volumes. The Nokia 3310 4G could be its best bet to attract new consumers in the Tier II and Tier III cities who would not be interested in going through the process of booking JioPhone and are willing to invest in a household name instead.