9th August 2016
Firstly it should be noted that this is not the ‘iconic’ Nokia 3310, but is exactly the same bar the 3330e’s claim to be WAP compatible (which allowed map expansion packs for Snake II to be downloaded...) and have the ability to save contacts to the phones memory as opposed to sim card only. While this generation of phones is usually praised for it’s extreme robustness and heroic ability to carry on working (see 3310 vs Tank etc.), this leads to many of it’s more delicate features being overlooked, such as it’s significant role in bringing SMS to the forefront of communication in the 00’s due to the fact that it was the first phone to send messages longer than 150 characters. Nonetheless, this was the first phone I ever owned as a hand-me-down and I thought it would be good to compare the internals against that of the iPhone 5S in my previous teardown.
Even from a quick look, the phone gives off an appearance of pure function. Where new smartphones do an excellent job of concealing a magnitude of functions within a simple metallic box, the 3330e almost displays all possible functions without the phone even being turned on: with clear text and number inputs as well as navigation and selection.
The 3330e also displays reasonably considered ergonomic attributes; which as opposed to the majority of smartphones on todays market allows all buttons on the phone to be reached without manipulating the phone in your hand.
No special screwdrivers needed here, the NOKIA’s back uses a simple release mechanism.
Similar story for removing the battery where handy spring release buttons with clear signifiers are used.
A good signifier here to show how battery technology has progressed as the battery in the 3330e weighs considerably more than the 5S counterpart: even though it is quoted for 900 mAh and the iPhone has 1600 mAh.
Again the front of the phone is a simple snap fit, but removal does reveal screws that will need to be dealt with before we can progress further.
An interesting point here is the assembly that comes together to create the main tactile interface of the product. It is fair to say that when the buttons on the 3330e are pressed they have a reasonably solid feel so it is surprising to see that they are simply constructed from a flexible bit of plastic sandwiched tightly between the two surfaces.
Comparing the main screws of the 3330e to those of the 5S they are actually deeper than the 5S body
The speaker of the 3330e bares a resemblance to some form of powerful electromagnet with its coils of wire but I noticed that the connection to the loudspeaker is incredibly weak and relies purely on the touching of two wires: surprising when we remember the ‘indestructible’ tag line that accompanies the phone.
Unsurprisingly when we consider what the component is being asked to perform, the screen appears to be one of the simplest components in the phone. The 3330e features an 84 x 48 pixel monochrome display where the visible pixels cater to Snake II perfectly but seem slightly underwhelming when compared to the iPhone 6’s 1920 x 1080.
I am again surprised by just how easily this phone comes apart; with the majority of components being pulled out by hand or a slight pry with a screwdriver, I’m sure L.I.A.M. would feel like he had been given the day off if he was presented with a 3330e. There is something quite pleasing about taking this phone apart, where it feels almost like a DIY home assembly kit, with each component falling into it’s dedicated space.
As opposed to other teardowns resulting in snapped bits of wire and plastic, there is an aesthetic element to taking this phone apart.
The internal wiring of the power input reminds me of a city flyover shot from Blade Runner or The Fifth Element.
Once we get down to the main logic board we can understand how the shape and proportions of this phone are determined. The micro electronics involved are clearly making use of all the real estate and therefore the phone is pretty much as small as it could be.
We then look at the main layers and see that depth of the phone is influenced by the battery.
After getting the phone down to the plastic frame I was able to get a closer look at the handy battery release mechanism: which is really the only moving part on the whole phone. I love how obvious the touch points are and how this outward motion is translated into a vertical motion through the rotation pins and flexible plastic. A great representation of a mechanism that utilises simplicity in it’s effectiveness.
Really all that is left to examine is the logic board that lies at the heart of the 3330e. For some reason I don’t feel as high a level of admiration for this component as the rest of the phone; possibly because of what the 3330e represents. Because the complete product so clearly displays pure function and the physical components all have such a clear purpose, when we get down to this array of complex electronics where there is no tactile engagement, it is the first time that we feel lost. Although we sense that time has been taken to intelligently design the board and that the component as a whole provides a function, we struggle to understand how it works.
So what have we learnt about the 3330e during this teardown? The biggest point for me has to be the fact that the design always uses simplicity to it’s advantage. One of the clearest reasons why the phone has such a reliable history is because there is just so little inside that can actually go wrong. With all electronics constrained to the main board which lies protected in the centre of the phone and the small number of other components all isolated from each other; meaning that their function is not dependant on others working.
As mentioned earlier, the fact that all the parts are easily removed and don’t require dedicated manipulation makes the product feel more robust as it isn’t counting on the user being careful but instead simply hasn’t allowed sophisticated components to be part of it’s makeup.
Needless to say the phone has undoubtedly become a classic which has brought with it a wealth of social media hilarity. But I feel that for a large portion of our generation we need to remember what this phone meant to us at the time as it was possibly our first sense of freedom as we were given the ability to contact those around us. So instead of merely thinking of the phone in terms of reliability, think about what this reliability meant to you.