The year is 1996: MSNBC just launched, there’s a new computer called the Sony Vaio, the inaugural Mission: Impossible movie is in theaters, Spice Girls just had their first ever Number 1 hit, Wannabe, and a virtual butler called Jeeves now lets you type your innermost questions into a search bar – provided you’re allowed to unplug the house phone for long enough to get dial-up internet.
Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to own a cell phone, it’s probably a Nokia that doesn’t look too dissimilar to the two new models the company just released in the here and now – the Nokia 130 and 150.
These are phones for people who want to disconnect, and who want to be reminded of simpler times. I’m talking about a time when scrolling was a passive activity that meant watching and waiting for the TV dial to tick over to the number you’d keyed in on your remote on whichever teletext service you had access to.
Look, Nokia is undoubtedly still one of the world’s most recognized phone brands – our roundup of the best Nokia phones proves it. And this isn’t the first time I’ve been delighted to see a retro-trip handset from the company; see the 2022 Nokia 5710 XpressAudio, which is little more than a novelty burner with free true wireless earbuds squirreled into the back and a hit of added 4G.
Opinion: Nokia’s feature phones tend to ace the basics
So, what of the not-so-smart class of 2023? The handsets seem remarkably humble in an era of wildly expensive flagship foldable smartphones, and if you’re thinking that one of these feature phones sounds suspiciously familiar, you’re right – the Nokia 150 isn’t actually a new model. It was first announced in 2016 and received another glow-up in 2020. Now it’s back for 2023, with a more angular look and scant new features – if being a more environmentally conscious build and still not being a smartphone count as features.
Nokia is being guarded about the processor, but its 1,450mAh battery should last a glorious few days – and yes, it’s removable! Do you yearn for the days of whipping out a fresh black mini-disc-like battery from its little plastic wallet, taking the back off your handset, lining up the three battery contacts, squeezing the whole thing back together again and firing up the power button? Have at it.
You also get a very basic 0.3MP rear camera (for context, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max sport a 48MP main snapper) and there’s no front camera. It runs on an operating system called S30+ rather than Android, but the most notable feature for me as TR’s resident and often reticent audiophile is the 3.5mm headphone jack, rarely seen in smartphones these days with the exception of Sony’s newest Xperia V and older Xperia 1 IV flagship smartphones.
Nokia 130 is for ‘long calls and loud audio’ and I love that
Both models charge via the now archaic micro USB port too, so unless you’ve got an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 Bluetooth speaker, you’ll be needing a collection of cables for juicing up different things.
Elsewhere there’s an MP3 player (which takes me back to my beloved iPod Classic, but this solution requires a microSD card), voice recorder (also needs the card), FM radio receiver (wired and wireless dual mode), an onboard mic and a speaker, plus an IP52 rating – which means dust will struggle to get in, but water can.
The Nokia 130 (pictured above) is not an awful lot different in terms of specs (although the colorways are contrasting, and here I do like the purple option for the Nokia 130), apart from two main things: first, there’s no camera at all, and second, where you might expect to see a lens notch on the back of the phone, there is instead a pretty large speaker grille.
Nokia lists this only as a “big speaker” and promises “loud audio” from it, but it still piques my interest, and will doubtless appeal to users who don’t care for Spotify or in fact any of the best music streaming services (no dice with this “dumb” phone, of course) but who do enjoy calls without having to hold the phone right up to their ear or like listening to the original wireless, the radio.
Forget your Galaxy Z Fold 5 display, here’s a humble 2.4-inch QVGA screen with 240 x 320 pixel resolution, and I think that same 1,450mAh battery will last even longer in the Nokia 130.
Given the lack of smart features, you may even be tempted to make actual phone calls on this thing. And because either one of these Nokia phones will only set you back around $50 / £40 / AU$75 – and could become someone’s social lifeline – you love to see it.