What made Nokia phones so reliable

Nokia 3510 - Self-experiment: Is a cell phone from the past still enough today?

Do you remember your first cell phone? How about using an old Nokia instead of a smartphone? I've tried it and reached my limits.

My experiment starts on Sunday evening. I plug the Nokia phone into the socket and press the orange power button. The display lights up - I should insert the SIM card. So I take the SIM card out of the narrow card slot on my smartphone and open the back of the Nokia phone. When I look at the silver metal rail into which I am supposed to insert the SIM card, I recognize the first problem.

The missing adapter

My SIM card is way too small, it doesn't fit. Sure, I could have thought of that earlier. I try anyway: put the card on the circuit board, place the battery over it and switch the Nokia back on. "Insert SIM Card". Okay, I have to get a SIM card adapter first.

The adapter costs a proud ten euros. Nano-Sim, Micro-Sim, normal SIM card. The set has an adapter for everything and also a metal pin to open the card slot in modern smartphones. The orange-blue Nokia accepts my efforts and now my SIM card too.

When I was 14, I got my first cell phone. I don't remember exactly what it was, only that it was blue and looked more like a baby monitor. I currently have a Samsung S8 and I know exactly what it looks like because I look at it every day. So often that it annoys me myself and I want to change something about it. That's why I now hold this blue Nokia 3510 in my hand.

I quickly get used to the operation again. Press twice for an H, once for an A, press the 5 three times for an L, wait, press again, press the six key three times for an O. It used to be blind, now I have to look at the keyboard and every time there is a soft click.

Shock moment internet menu

After the familiarization phase, it’s time to set up. Save important phone numbers, set the alarm clock. Only one wake-up time is available - is that OK? I'm usually one of those people who have set at least three wake-up times. The calendar function is also rather spartan.

The cell phone vibrates - a text message from my cell phone provider: "Dear customer, now you can also receive MMS". MMS? Is that still there? I don't remember ever sending an MMS, it was way too expensive and I doubt I'll use it this time either. The SMS function, on the other hand, will become important later - but I don't know that at this point.

I click through the menu again and am shocked for a moment. A blue globe shines on the display - go online here. My first thought is not to click on it. Memories of beads of sweat on the forehead and hectic pressing of the back button emerge. At that time there were no data flat rates and every minute on the Internet cost extra. That could get expensive. Fascinating how such experiences can get stuck in you. But then I realize again that there is a SIM card with several gigabytes of data in this little Nokia - relief.

Gray concrete walls during lunch break

The next morning. "Ring. Ring". The little Nokia reliably wakes me up at seven o'clock, but something else is pleasant. As soon as I open the door and the cold Berlin air takes in, I notice for the first time that I am missing my smartphone. I usually listen to my favorite podcasts on the way to work. Now all I can hear is the noise of the big city cars and the screeching of the S-Bahn brakes. I can't read the newspaper I have subscribed to that morning either, because it's on my smartphone, broken down into bits and bytes. When I arrive at the office, I don't notice any difference at first. Until lunch break.

Checking private emails or reading WhatsApp messages while eating - that's not possible this time. Instead, I stare out the window at gray concrete buildings while I eat my spaghetti. Not exactly an exciting prospect and nobody is in the kitchen to talk. Just me and my portion of spaghetti. I wonder when it actually happened that I can't even go to lunch without additional distraction?

The cell phone has been in my pocket since that morning. I would have had my smartphone in my hand several times. I use my smartphone between three and four hours a day. I unlock it over 30 times. This is the relentless balance of a tracking app on my smartphone that measures exactly which apps I use and for how long. This is supposed to help restrict your own smartphone use, which is called in new German: "Digital Detox". I don't need such an app for the old Nokia. What should I get out of my old cell phone for?

Digitally locked out

I notice that in the afternoon, because a function that is supposed to protect my accounts from strangers becomes my greatest enemy that day. I want to check my mail because I am expecting an important package that day and need the access code for the packing station. I do not know the password for my e-mail inbox. I use randomly generated passwords that I manage in a manager. I still know the password for the manager, but now I have a real problem - two-factor authentication. This should make accounts more secure. In addition to the password, you have to identify yourself in a second way. Usually a numerical code that is generated randomly, either in a special app on the smartphone, the so-called code generator, or by SMS.

No matter how nice my password manager is, it suggests sending me an SMS as an alternative to the code generator on my smartphone. Now the old Nokia is still in use. After all, it can receive SMS. But I'm afraid that my mailbox is not so gracious. Indeed, without the code generator, it won't let me in. If the internet were my apartment, I would be out of my apartment, so to speak, would have left the key inside and my bank card with me. Because online banking doesn't work without my smartphone either.

Am I addicted to my smartphone?

Back home, I hope to be able to solve my problem with the package. So laptop opened and booted up. I open my e-mail client and finally, without a complicated password or code generator, there is the e-mail. I write down the collection number on a white piece of paper. I even find the pick-up station without using Google Maps to navigate me - I walk past the station every day.

The packing station is located in a small kiosk next to sweets, spirits, lottery tickets and cigarettes. I wonder if the smartphone is my cigarette. When I stand at the bus stop, I look at my cell phone, when I stand in line at the supermarket for a long time, I take the cell phone out of my jacket pocket. When eating, on the bus, at parties where you don't know anyone - the smartphone is always at hand.

Am I addicted or have I just forgotten how to endure moments of stagnation? Why has it become so unbearable not to be able to solve a problem with a swipe of the cold glass surface?


As for me: because the smartphone is more than just a device for making calls and texting. For me it is newspaper, music player, calendar, navigation device, trainer for sports, bank and most importantly: contact with friends and family. Of course, you can also do without a smartphone, and with better preparation and conversion, a life with the small orange-blue Nokia cell phone would also be possible.

But I'm happy when I take the SIM card out of its adapter and put it back in its original place. Missed WhatsApp messages 15, incoming emails 9, SMS one, MMS - none. Nokia's battery: 98 percent.