Lessons from the Indestructible Nokia 3310

Lessons from the Indestructible Nokia 3310

Every week, we get a roundup of recent developments in Right to Repair news, courtesy of Jack Monahan and Paul Roberts from Fight to Repair, a reader-supported publication. Sign up to receive updates in your inbox. (It’s free!) Or become a premium subscriber for access to exclusive content and live events!

Nokia’s 3310 cell phone is nothing short of iconic. Playing off the fact that it’s practically indestructible from daily use, internet memes of this ugly (but sturdy) phone have been around since the early 2000s. If these phones are likely still functional, shoved into junk drawers around the world, why aren’t people still using them?

Well, the answer’s pretty obvious. People want more out of a phone than the ability to make phone calls and send texts via T9. Still, you can reduce the burden of e-waste by slowing down your own upgrade cycle, using your phone for longer.

Working to drastically lower the 176 pounds of e-waste that each U.S. household creates a year will take more than repairable design choices and access to parts. Almost everyone in the U.S. (97%) has a cell phone, but the average person will only keep their phone anywhere from two to five years—despite sturdy phones like the 3310 that stand the test of time. The Nokia 3310 is a reminder that “durability” is only one piece of the “long-lasting electronics” puzzle.

Device Page

Nokia Phone

Repair guides for cell phones by manufacturer Nokia, including smartphones and a wide variety of the iconic "brick phones". This category is for phones not using an Android or Windows operating system.

View Device

Many electronics manufacturers rely on a model of constant upgrades to capture more revenue year to year. Barrages of marketing from advertisers coupled with faster and faster roll-outs for new products are contributing to our e-waste problem. Sure, you probably expect more out of your cell phone these days than when the Nokia 3310 came out. But just think, do you remember the major differences between the iPhone 11 and 12?

We need devices that are not only durable but also upgradeable, without trashing all the components that still work. That’s one of the things that’s most promising about the Fairphone—you can upgrade the cameras and speakers in the Fairphone 3 without having to trash the whole phone.

But even still, repairability and upgradeability still leave users with some responsibility: You’ve still got to choose to repair, and on that front, we’ve got a long way to go. A Consumer Reports survey from 2021 found only “16 percent of Americans who had a phone break in the past five years say that the most recent time it happened, they fixed it at home or got it repaired professionally.”

As the news around e-waste gets worse and worse, there is a pressing need for this model of fast tech to change. We need more durable stuff, yes. We need more repairable stuff, yes. And we all, as a society, need to seize the opportunity for repair.

More News

  • Apple announced changes to its iPads: After the EU passed its Digital Markets Act for owners in Europe, Apple is making changes to iPads that will include software updates from selecting your own search engine to allowing companies to create alternatives to ApplePay, cutting down on the ability for Apple to lock out competition in the marketplaces they dominate.
  • Vermont is considering an agricultural repair law: A bill in Vermont would force manufacturers to give more access for owners to independently their equipment. However, the bill has been watered down after a year of standstills, with a change that now makes any legal action against companies breaking the law go through the Vermont Attorney General’s Office. Vermont’s story reminds us that not all right-to-repair bills are built the same, and that the details matter.
  • Connecticut trying to pass right-to-repair electronics: Connecticut is working to pass right-to-repair for electronics as part of a broader consumer protection omnibus bill. Consumer Reports cites that in addition to the bill are clauses on “creating a broadband affordability program, ensuring network neutrality, eliminating deceptive marketing around prices and fees, and even allowing consumers to receive prorated rates when canceling streaming services.”
  • Rising demand for electronics repair services: A new report that says growth in the repair market is being driven by sustainability initiatives, technological advancements, and consumer preference for extending device lifespan over replacement.