Gringo Honasan, New DICT Secretary, is a Fan of the Nokia 3210. So Are We

Forget the 3310. The 3210 is legend.
ILLUSTRATOR Nokia / Senate of the Philippines

While it was already reported as early as last year, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) will likely have a new chief as early as next week. Senator Gregorio ‘Gringo’ Honasan will be the agency’s new head and it has already raised a few eyebrows. The 70-year-old senator and former Philippine Army officer may be well known as the leader of several failed coup attempts against the Cory Aquino-led government but if his colleagues in the Senate are to be believed, he’s also a fan of early cellular technology.

Senator Honasan is said to still use a Nokia 3210. While his cellphone model choice may be at odds with his new position as DICT chief who needs to be on top of current technology trends, it’s hard to fault the senator for his choice of a legacy communications device.

When did the Nokia 3210 come out?

Released in 1999, the 3210 is probably the greatest phone model ever released by Nokia, and possibly the greatest phone ever made.

How can a two-decades old phone be the gadget equivalent of Queen or Muhammad Ali? When it first came out, the 3210 was unlike any other phone that came before it. To put a bit of historical perspective, cellphones, even the ones that were made by Nokia prior to 1999 looked like ugly bricks with eye-poking antennas sticking out from the top. Functionality was more of a priority rather than sleek looks. Even compact models like the 5110, Motorola StarTAC or Ericsson T10 still had a disruptive profile in your pocket.


The 3210 got rid of the most annoying feature of cellphones from its era: the external antenna. It still had antenna but Nokia was able to magically integrate it within the confines of the chassis. At the time, it looked like the phone equivalent of a Ferrari Testarrosa while other phones looked like Land Rover Defenders: The unibody design of the 3210 showed that phones could be sleek, making it truly a pocket phone that could smoothly slide in and out of the skinniest jeans.

How can a two-decades old phone be the gadget equivalent of Queen or Muhammad Ali? When it first came out, the 3210 was unlike any other phone that came before it.

Nokia 3210 started a trend of antenna-less cellphones. IMAGE: Nokia

In terms of customizability, the 3210 had changeable front and back fascias. Previously, early models such as the 5110 only had removable front covers. This allowed 3210 owners a degree of personalizations that was unheard of at the time. Nokia also introduced a low-profile flat keypad on the 3210 which was a far cry from other phones that had keys that looked like Tic Tacs arranged in straight columns. The 3210’s large flat keys made texting easier and faster especially when predictive was texting turned on. In the pre-emoji era, the 3210 also had pre-installed picture messages and greetings.

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Between long exchanges of T9 texting and metered calls, the 3210 had another trick up its sleeve. It came pre-installed with games such as Rotation, Memory, and the legendary Snake. Sure the green backlit monochrome graphics was crude even by 1999 standards, but it was utterly devastating when you ended up crashing into your extremely long tail.

For those with a musical flair, the 3210 had a built-in ringtone composer. If you didn’t like the stock ringtones, you could recreate the first few bars of “La Vida Loca” or “Baby One More Time”. As a further bonus, you could send these user-made ringtones to entertain or annoy your friends with your musical tastes.

By today’s standards, the 3210’s lack of Bluetooth, internet connectivity, or even a color screen make it absolutely a jurassic piece of technology. But, like surviving fossils from that era, the 3210’s greatest feature is its extreme durability. When you dropped it on a hard floor, the worst that could happen was the back or front cover popping off and the battery detaching. Then you picked it up, reassembled it, turned it on, and went back to forwarding an SMS joke to your friends.

The 3210’s successor, the 3310 may have become popular because of the indestructible phone memes, but durability was already baked in the original phone’s DNA. Between having a fancy smartphone that’s obsolete the following year or having a phone that works after almost two decades, the choice seems pretty obvious.


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Ed Geronia Jr.
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