It feels slightly silly to associate the Nokia 5110 with design, but considering this mobile phone is over 20 years old it does seem apt. Released in 1998, it was perhaps the first real handset which started things rolling in Nokia’s favour as they dominated the early part of the next decade with their phone designs.
The phone succeeded earlier models such as the Nokia 1610 and the original ‘banana phone’ Nokia 8110 and in the UK the release coincided with a real explosion in mobile phone usage. Previous users were on expensive pay as you go tariffs, but monthly contracts such as Orange’s ‘Everyday 50’ quickly brought the cost of talking down. Text costs could remain high, something that saw the start of instant messengers.
Nokia quickly moved and this particular model came out on almost all networks and in all formats (pay as you go and pay monthly).
Perhaps to offer the networks the feelings of differentiation, there are several different model numbers which the base Nokia 5110 is known as: the Nokia 5130 (1800Mhz networks), the Nokia 5146 (One2One network), or the esoteric Nokia nk402 (Orange). All accessories are compatible between these phones.
The phone was a massive success, and was succeeded by the Nokia 3210 in 1999 which amazingly built upon many of the good things and made them better.
Nokia 5110 review: Pros
The design of the phone was striking. Perhaps not true by todays standards but against competition at the time, the Nokia 5110 was much less brick-like than other phones and had a degree of portability to it.
The phone also the first Nokia model to feature interchangeable front covers. These were available cheaply and in abundance and allowed a customisation of the handset unseen before.
The faithful Nokia OS came of age and really focused upon its user groups. It featured three games, the most playable of which (Snake) would become a staple and forever associated with Nokia.
The Nokia 5110 also came with a choice of battery: a slimline one or an extended capacity one (which weighed slightly more), thus appealing to both business and leisure.
Nokia 5110 review: Cons
Despite the reduction in size from earlier models, the phone did not quite feature the same small footprint as the Motorola StarTac (although these traded in slightly different price points).
The phone also featured a non-negotiable external aerial: these were quickly on the way out as subsequent designs would show.
Nokia 5110 Future Prospects and Current Pricing
It feels safe to say that this phone will be a collectors item: it is instantly recognised as a phone, and defines a year really well, thus guaranteeing some ‘retro’ appeal. Even now the phones can trade for over £20 and more depending on condition. The huge abundance of these models mean that there are many faulty ones out there too. These early Nokia models were fairly robust and short of water damage can be fixed.
Where can I get one?
Interested in more phones? See a list of phones I own here.