Nokia 8210 4G review: The Nineties called, they want their phone back

·4-min read
The phone runs on a modern operating system, making it marginally easier to navigate  (The Independent)
The phone runs on a modern operating system, making it marginally easier to navigate (The Independent)

The original Nokia 8210 was announced approximately one billion years ago, in the year 1999.

According to stories told by the elders, the mood at the time was grim. Still reeling from the fallout of Cool Britannia, society had found itself on a collision course with the dreaded millenium bug.

Cash machines were predicted to start spitting out two pence coins like molten bullets. Jet planes would revert to a time before aviation and simply come cartwheeling out of the sky. Microwaves were expected to suddenly unmoor themselves from your kitchen wall at midnight and lurch hungrily towards your pets.

Now, somehow almost a quarter-century later, the Nokia 8210 4G threatens to drag us right back to Y2K. The latest attempt by phonemaker HMD to reach into the wheelie bin of the past, dust off a forgotten piece of tech ephemera, and serve it back to nostalgia-hungry 30-somethings.

The Nokia 8210 4G takes the infamous design of the pre-smartphone mobile and injects just enough modern conveniences to make it usable today. That means there’s a mix of old and new features. The Nokia 8210 4G has a colour display rather than the monochrome of the original. But you still use a keypad and predictive text to send your messages, rather than dictating voice notes or tapping on an on-screen keyboard.

You’d have been burned at the stake if you whipped out a mobile phone with a camera in 1999, but the Nokia 8210 4G has one built into it. At a mere 0.3MP, the sensor has less than one third of one percent of the resolution of a single lens of the Samsung Galaxy S22 ultra, this phone’s great, great, great, great, grandchild.

If slipping into the comforting embrace of a Nineties timewarp sounds appealing to you, keep reading for our full verdict.

Nokia 8210 4G: £64.99, Nokia.com

 (Nokia)
(Nokia)
  • Rating: 6/10

  • Display: 2.8in QVGA

  • Camera: 0.3MP

  • Battery life: 8hrs talktime / 27 days standby

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, 3.5mm, Micro-USB

  • Storage: 128MB (expandable to 32GB)

  • RAM: 28MB

Of course, nobody with a shred of sense is buying the Nokia 8210 4G for its photography credentials. This refreshed version of one of the coolest phones of the Nineties is part of HMD’s ongoing “feature phone” range, and is pitched as a retro chic fashion accessory for fun-loving nostalgia nerds.

Nokia boldly asks us to remember that this is “the Charlie’s Angels phone”, as if anybody could make it all the way through the 2000s with that piece of sub-pub quiz trivia still rattling around their subconscious.

 (Nokia)
(Nokia)

Like the re-released Nokia 3310 and subsequent resurrected classic phones, the shape of the Nokia 8210 4G has been distorted to accommodate a colourful 2.8in QVGA screen. That means it doesn’t look exactly as you remember it. Instead the phone resembles a badly taxidermied version of the original Nokia 8210, which somewhat lessens the appeal for anyone looking for a truly authentic Nineites roleplaying experience.

The tribute act continues when you pick up and use the phone. There’s a torch, a 3.5mm headphone jack, an MP3 player and even an FM radio. You can play Snake, although it’s the inferior, upgraded Gameloft version of the game, where the snake has cartoon eyes and can turn freely instead of just at sharp right angles.

You can see if your brain remembers how predictive text works (it doesn’t), and it has a battery that just won’t die. Nokia claims it can run for 27 days on standby power – longer than we’ve had our review unit.

The verdict: Nokia 8210 4G

The Nokia 8210 4G suffers from the same problem all of these revived zombie phones face, in that it doesn’t know if it wants to be a kitch retro toy or a genuinely useful cheap phone. It’s a fun device, but we feel that the overzealous design changes chip away at the phone’s biggest selling point: it doesn’t look quite enough like the Nokia 8210 to trigger a nostalgia response, but instead it feels uncannily familiar, like a phone you’ve met in a dream.

You can technically view tweets on this thing, but it’s such a pain that you won’t want to bother. That lack of social media distraction, combined with the long-lasting battery life and deliberately basic features, make this a great choice of phone for anyone desperately trying to reverse the passage of time and claw their way back to a simpler way of being. If you can manage it successfully, feel free to send us an SMS from the past.

Nokia 8210 4G

Buy now £64.99, Nokia.com

We also reviewed Nokia’s G21 which had us feeling nostalgic with it’s impressive battery life