Retro Nokia phone hits the right buttons on return to Vietnam

By Tuan Anh   May 23, 2017 | 02:22 pm GMT+7

‘It has triggered a hunt like when the iPhone first arrived.’

classic-nokia-phone-makes-successful-comeback-in-vietnam

A Nokia 3310 is displayed after its re-launch at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Photo by Reuters/Paul Hanna

Nearly two decades after being crowned the king of Vietnam's cellphone market, Nokia’s classic 3310 has made a successful return to the mobile-crazy country, proving that its charms still work.

The classic talk and text phone, which was reintroduced in a brightly colored version at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last February, hit Vietnamese shops on Monday and has already become a phenomenon.

“It has triggered a hunt like when the iPhone first arrived in Vietnam,” said one customer who has been trawling the shops in vain for the revamped model.

Many mobile retailers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City said they had received limited supplies that sold out in a day. An independent shop in Hanoi was sent 20 phones while a retail chain received 500 for its more than 400 outlets.

A source from the official distributor said that supplies will stabilize from next week. Many buyers have put deposits down for the phone, which costs VND1,059,000 ($46.67).

Retailers said customers are buying out of a sense of nostalgia.

The phone is a powerful reminder of Nokia’s popularity back at the start of the millenium, when the 3310 was one of the most popular models in many markets, including Vietnam.

The original 3310 sold 126 million phones, the 12th best-selling phone model in history. Nine of the top 12 selling models were produced by Nokia.

Many Vietnamese still consider the old model a benchmark for durability and battery life. The new model is designed for 22 hours of talk time and up to one month of standby time, which might heighten the phone’s appeal as a backup for smartphone users.

Analysts hailed the 3310 launch as a smart retro gambit, but one which could overshadow the Finnish company’s re-entry into the global smartphone market. Nokia has also launched four moderately priced smartphones ranging from 139 to 299 euros ($156-336).

Nokia sold its by-then ailing handset operations to Microsoft for $7 billion in 2014, leaving it with its network equipment business and a large patent portfolio.

But last year, it gave the Nokia brand a fresh start by licensing its devices brand to HMD Global, a new company led by ex-Nokia executives and backed by Chinese electronics giant Foxconn.

Industry analysts say the revived Nokia 3310 has the makings of one of the hit devices of 2017, appealing to older Nokia fans in developed markets looking for an antidote to smartphone overload, while also appealing to younger crowds in emerging markets.