Nokia 8110’s slider ‘Matrix’ feature phone returns with 4G and a €79 price tag

Nokia’s 8110 — the distinctive ‘candy bar’ feature phone with a slider opening — was once the phone that everyone wanted but no one could afford, made popular through the Matrix film franchise. Now HMD, the company that has the license to make Nokia phones, is hoping for a hit by bringing it back. Today, at MWC in Barcelona, Nokia officially took the wraps off the new 8110 — a new feature phone that will come with 4G connectivity and a selected group of apps such as Google’s Assistant, Maps, and Search; as well as Facebook and Twitter (and yes, Snake). It also comes with a battery life befitting of feature phones: 17 days, with 9 days of talk time. The 8110 comes in “banana yellow” (in keeping with its “banana” curved design) and black.

This is the second feature phone that HMD has announced since picking up the licensing deal with Nokia for feature and smart phones. The first, the 3310, has been a big hit for HMD. The company told TechCrunch that it is currently the leading handset maker in the feature phone category, part of a bigger milestone, selling 70 million devices overall in 2017. That figure includes both feature and smart phones; and while the company does not break out specific models or categories publicly, it described feature phones to TechCrunch as the “bigger runner” within that number.

“This gives us a responsibility to innovate in this part of the business, to bring something new to consider in feature phones going forward,” said Pekka Rantala, EVP and CMO of HMD Global said in an interview. “It was very clear that we needed to be able to deliver and keep the Nokia promise when it comes to quality, reliability and ease of use.”

Juho Sarvikas, CPO of HMD Global, described the 8110 as a “vacation” phone when people might want to switch off from being continuously connected. And indeed, this has found a counterpart in Silicon Valley, where has been a big wave of thought among tech people who now believe that the continuous connectivity of smartphone life has detrimental effects.

“There is a huge population of feature phone loyalists,” Sarvikas said. “We see a lot of potential in innovating in the feature phone space, not a simple redesign of the [older] 2G experience.”

The operating system and accompanying app store comes by way of KaiOS, a company that builds operating systems for feature phones with more of the functionality of smartphones. It is a Linux-based system built on a fork of Firefox OS, the mobile platform that was discontinued by Mozilla in 2016 when it pulled back from its own mobile efforts. The company claimed to be installed on some 30 million phones in 2017 and will be getting a push again with the new 8110. (Other devices include the OneTouch Go Flip from Alcatel and the Jio Jio Phone from Reliance in India.)

Sidenote: in my experience of the launch of the handset, HMD’s partnership with the company was relatively quiet in the its presentation of the phone: KaiOS itself was not mentioned in the specs provided by the company, and the only time you can see a reference to it is a flash of the brand when the phone launches its app store. (I’ve now updated the specs to include the name.)

As with the previous iteration of the 8110 from many years back, the slide feature is used to answer and hang up on calls, along with voice-over-LTE calling, an app store and a Qualcomm 205 processor.

Full specs below.

  • 2G: 900/1800, 3G: WB-CDMA 1/5/8/39, 4G: FDD-LTE 1/3/5/7/8/20, TDD-LTE 39/40/41/(38)
  • OS: Smart Feature OS from KaiOS
  • Chipset: Qualcomm® 205 Mobile Platform (MSM8905 Dual Core 1.1 GHz)
  • RAM: 512MB LPDDR3
  • Storage: 4GB eMMC internal memory4
  • Display: 2.4-inch QVGA display, curved display
  • Camera: 2MP rear camera
  • Connectivity/Sensors: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, BT 4.1, GPS/AGPS, micro USB 2.0, 3.5mm AV jack
  • Battery2: 1500mAh
  • FM radio
  • Audio playback file formats: AAC, AMR, MP3, MIDI, Vorbis
  • Micro SIM slot