Great mobile phone design: Nokia 5110

We first met Gareth Stranks when he tweeted asking for help finding a cover for an old Nokia 5110 he bought. Here he tells us about him, iPhone 9 and his love for a curvy mature Finnish model…


If you could show an iPhone (or any other similarly amazing touch screen smartphone) to someone from the late 1990s, they’d be stunned. In fact, I expect you’ll probably be able to do exactly that with the release of iPhone 8 or 9, which should ship with an app that allows the user to smugly travel through time, show it to Tutankhamen, Queen Victoria, and Tupac Shakur, and laugh in their confused faces.

I admit I’m one of those people who evangelistically rave about smartphones. My iPhone is great. Every time I stroke and prod its sexy glass body I feel like I’m properly living in the 21st Century. Well, iPhone, I really, really like you, but I have a confession to make. Being with you makes sense, but my heart belongs to a curvy, slightly more mature model from Finland.

Nokia 5110 I love the Nokia 5110. It’s an old flame I bumped into online: I needed a cheap handset to use at work, and I stumbled across a treasure trove of vintage mobiles. As I scrolled through auctions of 5110s, working perfectly after nearly 13 years of service, with their green displays shining and plastic aerials raised proudly in salute, the memories of our time together came flooding back: the original Nokia ringtone, before it went all polyphonic! Those Xpress-On covers! Snake!


Looking back in time – Leaving messages for 20 years!


The relationship has been rekindled. I’ve been living with my new old Nokia (good working order, metallic blue plastic fascia, £6.99) for about a week, and it’s just as brilliant as I remember. It has beautifully designed hardware and software. It’s quick – turn it on, and instantly it’s up and running. No delay, fanfare, or complaining, it’s efficient, understated, and straightforward. It’s simple to use, feeling like the sort of instrument an ancient Egyptian, a Victorian monarch and an American rapper could all learn to easily use. It’s lived through a technological world that’s changed almost beyond recognition, and it hasn’t given up. That extra heft feels reassuringly tough and rugged. It’s as hardworking as a Shire horse, it feels like it has enough juice in the battery to single-handedly jumpstart a tank, and it manages to keep a signal whether you hold it with your left or right hand.

It’s undoubtedly a well loved mobile – over the past week I’ve been impressed at how many people have told me their own fond memories of using the Nokia 5110. Maybe I’ve inspired you to dig out your old Nokia, and remind yourself why they were such great phones? Maybe you’re still using a late 90s handset as your everyday mobile? Let me know in the comments below.

Want to get in touch with Gareth? You can find him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/gcstranks.

Liked this? Then try these