Review: Nokia 8110 4G

When Nokia Mobile announced the 4G version of the resurrected Nokia 3310, that first appeared with 2G at MWC2017 and later with 3G during summer of the same year, I personally was very sad to see that the phone won’t leave China. In other words, the Nokia 3310 4G is a China-exclusive device, but at MWC2018 this year, Nokia Mobile announced the second device in their “Originals” series of resurrected iconic Nokia phones – the Nokia 8110 4G, that’s targeted for the global market.

The 8810 4G features the iconic sliding  “mechanism” as the original Nokia 8110, and is HMD’s first globally available (or globally intended) feature phone that supports the current 4G standard of connectivity. The device isn’t made for the mass feature phone market (which seems logical considering a good part of the world still isn’t covered with 4G), features a unique form factor and premium price tag (for a feature phone). The device runs KaiOS and has solid specs compared to other feature phone offerings from Nokia Mobile.

A question that arose after Nokia Mobile announced the 8110 4G, considering it supports 4G and has a somewhat smarter OS than usual feature phone, was can this device replace a smartphone and is it a better buy than a lowcost smartphone? Well, that was one of the main things I wanted to find out during my time spent with our black review unit, and the answer is somewhere down below.

Strong hardware, unique form factor, but lacking Nokia build quality

HMD really did invest in Nokia 8110’s design, making the phone unique on the feature phone market thanks to the slider, but such a form factor comes with a drawback, and that’s a build quality lower than on other Nokia feature phones. The primary material is plastic, but the phone looks solid for a feature phone. The keyboard cover does degrade the overall quality feel of the device, because the plastic is somewhat hallow (which seems reasonable considering its role), and when you’re touching it or firmly griping the device you can feel that.

The phone comes in a banana-like shape, with curved back, which allows the phone to spin on flat surfaces. There is no need for a bottle if you’re playing truth or dare, just spin the 8110 4G. Because of the curviness, Nokia 8110 4G is comfortable to hold in hand when the keyboard cover isn’t open. The situation is exactly opposite while using the device, because you need the keyboard and the keyboard cover is a pain for your palm when you’re using the device.

The slider is cool, but also makes the phone less comfortable to use

The sliding mechanism is the main feature of 8110 4G’s design, so you’ll get used to the downside of this “feature”, but the 8110 4G looks cool and special because of it.

On front we find a 2.45-inch display with QVGA (320×240) resolution with the earpiece and Nokia logo above. On top we find the 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB port for charging, while on the phone’s left side we have the power button.

On the back we have a 2MP camera with LED flash, that will more be used as a torch than in lowlight photography. The curved back is removable, and below the cover we find the 1500mAh battery and a dual-SIM and MicroSD card slot. It’s interesting that one SIM slot is microSIM, while the other is nano-SIM. Boths slots support 4G, so if you have nano SIM you don’t need to find an adapter, and if you have a microSIM you don’t need to cut or exchange your SIM to use the 8110 4G. Other specifications include Snapdragon 205 (MSM8905), 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage and support for WiFi, 4G and WiFi hotspot, which works well.

KaiOS is smarter than Nokia Mobile’s in-house feature phone solutions…

Now, let’s talk software. Nokia 8110 4G officially runs “Smart Feature OS powered by KaiOS”. This is HMD’s fourth operating system running on a current feature phone. For the record, others are S30+, Feature OS (Nokia 3310 3G) and YunOS (Nokia 3310 4G).

KaiOS is based on the discounted FirefoxOS and owned by KaiOS Technology, an US-based company with offices around the world. Many feature phones run KaiOS, and in its recent financial round, KaiOS Technologies received a 22 million dollar investment from Google, securing the future development of the “smart” OS for feature phones.

The 8110 4G runs KaiOS with HMD’s own UI. The phone features all the options you would expect from a feature phone, including the converter app for converting different units from one system to another, the calculator app, clock app with alarm and stopwatch (but no world clock), notes app, audio recorder and even FM Radio. All the mentioned apps are used offline and can be found on any other feature phone. What is really special about KaiOS are the internet options and the connectivity standards phones running KaiOS support.

The banana phones supports WiFi and 4G, allowing the user to access internet practically wherever coverage is available in the world. The phone has an email client, in which you can set up multiple accounts and receive and send emails. Typing an email on a numerical keyboard and reading an email on 2.45” isn’t a great experience, but it is possible. The app even sends regularly (refreshing from every 5 minutes) notifications that you can view pressing the “Notices” button the home screen.

…but still isn’t nearly as productive as a low cost smartphone.

The internet browser feels like every other feature phone browser, but thanks to 4G and WiFi, it loads pages faster and the navigation (with the on-screen mouse) is smoother. The pages still load slow and it’s hard to navigate, but certainly a better experience than on 2G Nokia phones. You will be able to open some news site or Google things, but it takes a lot of time. To save time, you can use the built-in Google Assistant. It recognizes the questions really well, and does Google searches for most, but sometimes also telling the answer, if that is possible.

The app that surprised me the most (in a good way) is “Maps”. Google Maps work really well on the device. The UI navigation is good, loading times are OK, and it even offers you turn-by-turn view of your route, but there is no voice-based navigation, which would probably be asking too much for a feature phone.

Nokia 8110 4G also features an app store. I am very disappointed in the app store, because of the app selection. You have a dozen of games, the weather app and Twitter that can be downloaded from the store. Apps like YouTube, Twitter, Maps, Google, Assistant come preloaded with the device. At the moment, there is no Facebook app and neither a Whatsapp app. The app store looks like a ghost town.

The Twitter app is basically a better optimized Twitter website. The navigation isn’t great and the app, quite frankly, isn’t really useable. YouTube is much better and you can really watch videos and leave comments. Quite useable actually, especially for a feature phone. It’s also more a better webpage, than a real app, but it works well.

The best looking WiFi hotspot on the market!

In my review period with the Nokia 8110 4G, I tried to use the phone as my primary device and that didn’t went well. The 8110 4G, at least in this stage, cannot replace a smartphone and if Whatsapp became available, considering all the other things about the phone, it still wouldn’t be good enough to dump your smartphone and live a more productive life. If you want to cut your time online, but not go crazy in the meantime, I recommend buying a Nokia 1. As a hotspot, the 8110 4G works well. I got a 13Mbps download speed on the 8110 4G, and around 8Mbps on my Nokia 5.1 connected to the 8110 4G. If you plan to use the 4G hotspot feature more often, keep in mind that it will have an effect on your battery.

As a feature phone, Nokia 8110 4G works quite well. In fact, it will be more useable to people that want a feature phone, because they can check the wheater, see when they get an email, and even ask the Assistant something that would usually require turning on a PC.

The performance of the device could be better, considering that 512MB of RAM and Snapdragon 205 are respectful features. There is small lag between pressing the button and the phone doing an action, and that’s something I’m not fond of. It isn’t bad, and most people probably won’t notice it, but that small lag exists. Nokia phones with 16 or 32MB of RAM (yes, that much RAM) have the same, if not better performance (but less capable OS) in navigating the UI.

An attractive feature phone, but no way is it a better solution than Nokia 1, for example, for someone that wants to stay connected with the world (and cut time spent online).

I do like some software solutions from KaiOS that make using the phone easier. For example the “Shortcuts” and “Notices” options that you can press the left or the right button below the screen to access. It gives you all the notifications, but also offers shortcuts to quickly turn on the connectivity features, camera, torch, adjust the brightness, volume etc. More than anything, I would like to have a real home button on the 8110 4G, that I can press in any app, in any part of the UI and that would lead me to the homescreen, and close open apps (there is no multitasking, so that’s something the OS has to do). Currently, you can just press the back button to go back (that’s the button for hanging calls), or in browser press options and “Quit”.

Using the device as a feature phone, you can expect a 5 day battery life on a single charge. If you will be going online a lot, two to three days is what the battery will endure. The call quality is good, and that includes a decent loudness on the earpiece and a ok microphone. You cannot make phone calls when the keyboard is covered, because that way you also cover the microphone. I would prefer a more louder earpiece, though.

Feature phone users will welcome the added connectivity features allowing them to check weather, email, maps, do quick searches, but the 8110 is primarily a feature phone and should primarily be used as one for maximum consumer satisfaction.

To conclude, the Nokia 8110 4G is a fancy device that you can spin or play with the slider when you are bored. It offers internet options that can be better implemented and all the usual feature phone options that work fine. It’s priced premium, primarily because of the unique design. It will work well as feature phone, while for a more smarter experiences, I would still recommend getting the Nokia 1 located in a similar price category. All in all, an attractive feature phone, that is unique on the market and will surely serve well for feature phone users. There is lots of potential in KaiOS and in raising the productivity level of the 8110 4G with updates, but the question is – is it worth it? For about the same price, lowcost Android solutions are available (from Nokia, too), so this device targets the usual feature phone users, which it will allow to connect online, check weather and see and read received emails (and everyone who wants a stylish back up feature phone). It’s a step towards smartphones for the usual feature phone user, but not the most effective step.