Nokia: A long and innovative history

Take a photo trip down mobile memory lane as CNET revisits some of Nokia's most successful and iconic cell phones from its glory years, from the early 1990s to the N93.

Kent German
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Kent German
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Nokia 1011

As any mobile phone geek can tell you, there was a time when Nokia was the cell phone company that mattered. Starting in the 1990s and until the advent of the iPhone and Android, it produced many of the planet's most successful phones. Join me to relive some of Nokia's biggest hits and craziest leaps of faith.

Naturally, it all started somewhere. With Nokia that was the 1011. It wasn't the first commercially available mobile phone and it wasn't the first GSM handset, but it was the first mass-produced GSM phone. It did little more than make calls and send text, but it was all Nokia needed to start on a worldwide roll.

Introduced: 1992

Editors' note: This slideshow was first published in April 2014 and was last updated on February 25, 2018.

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Nokia 2110

The 2110 wasn't much for looks or features, but it was the first Nokia phone to have the company's iconic ringtone.

Introduced: 1994

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Nokia 6110

Bearing a similar design to the 2110, the 6110 earns its spot on this list for being the first Nokia with the wildly addictive game Snake.

Introduced: 1997

4 of 30 Wikipedia Commons

Nokia 5110

Almost everyone seemed to have the 5110 as the millennium turned. It was the very first cell phone that I ever owned.

Sturdy and simple, it also had a battery that lasted forever. For a bit of personalization, you could swap out the outer cover for one with a different color.

Introduced: 1998

5 of 30 CNET

Nokia 8110

The distinctively styled 8110 was the first Nokia phone to have a slider design. Its other names were "banana phone" (it had a curved shape when the slider was open) and "'The Matrix' phone" (it appeared in the film). Features were still slim at this point -- you didn't even get an alarm clock. At Mobile World Congress 2018, Nokia brought the 8110 back in bright yellow. And this time, it had 4G.

Introduced: 1998

Nokia 7110
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Nokia 7110

Next came the 7110, which added the spring-loaded slider we saw on the film version of of the 8810. It was also the first Nokia phone to have a mobile browser and T9 predictive text.

Introduced: 1999

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Nokia 8210

The small and light 8210 was another model that almost everyone had. It had an infrared port -- sort of a Bluetooth precursor -- and you change the covers. Also a silver screen star in its own right it appeared in "Absolutely Fabulous" (Patsy mistook it for a small shoe) and the first "Charlie's Angels."

Introduced: 1999

Nokia 3310
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Nokia 3310

The trusty, sturdy 3310 had voice dialing, interchangeable covers, a calculator and a user-friendly design similar to that of the wildly popular 3210 from 1999. And at the 2017 Mobile World Congress, Nokia brought it back in a new version.

Introduced: 2000

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Nokia 6310i

Long and thin, the 6310i was Nokia's first Bluetooth phone and by this time Java-based games, voice commands, 2.5G data and a basic personal organizer were standard features. You could even send photo messages -- it just didn't have a camera.

Introduced: 2002

CNET review bottom line: The 6310i's design is ho-hum, but it's an affordable workhorse mobile with a strong feature set and impressive battery life.

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Nokia 3530

The 3530 was one of many Nokia phones to feature a wacky keypad. The next year the 3595 added a few more features to a similar design and the 2300 splashed on a bright pink and purple skin. Color screens were still a new feature by the time.

Introduced: 2002

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Nokia 7650

Another actor -- it got its turn in "Minority Report" -- the 7650 was the first Nokia phone to feature an integrated camera. It also was known for its slider design, the Symbian operating system, a color display, and a navigation joystick.

Introduced: 2002

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Nokia N-Gage

As fun as Snake was, Nokia knew that more sophisticated mobile gaming was the future. Its next play was the curious N-Gage. Thanks to a clunky form factor that required gamers to remove the battery to swap titles, this one didn't last long at all. There was also the weird way you held the N-Gage to make a call (with its spine resting against your face). That earned it the name, "the taco phone."

Introduced: 2003

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Nokia 1100

Simple to the core, the 1100 was designed for customers in emerging markets who needed only the most basic features. It remains one of the world's best-selling phones.

Introduced: 2003

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Nokia 3200

The 3200 was a unique phone on a few counts. You could take apart the handset's shell and replace the paper faceplate with a selection of designs that came in the box, or you could draw your own. Also, instead of nine individual buttons, six oval keys set in uneven rows had two characters each. Its features included a flashlight, a CIF camera (remember those?), an FM radio, an infrared port, and polyphonic ringtones.

Introduced: 2003

CNET review bottom line: Though it comes with some nice features, the Nokia 3200's dare-to-be-different design will not appeal to everyone.

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Nokia 3650

Powerful for its time, the 3650 was an early smartphone of sorts running on the fledging Symbian operating system. It also had a display that supported 4,096 colors, Bluetooth, a speakerphone, and an external slot for MultiMediaCards.

But its biggest story was the remarkable circular alphabetic keypad. Nokia later kept the features and the basic shape, but opted for a more traditional keyboard on the 3620.

Introduced: 2003

CNET review bottom line: The 3650 is a cutting-edge mobile that sports all the must-have features for a less than astronomical price.

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Nokia 5100

It was fitting that the 5100 was part of the company's "Active" 5000 series. Encased in a durable rubber shell it was protected from moisture, shocks and dust. The offbeat feature set included a thermometer, a flashlight, a calorie counter, and an FM radio. And if you didn't like the blue shell, you could change it for one in orange, green, or dark gray.

Similar models included the 5210 (also with a changeable shell) and the 5140.

Introduced: 2003

CNET review bottom line: The sports model of cell phones, the rugged Nokia 5100 is packed with nifty features but offers middling performance.

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Nokia 6600

Sure it resembled a brick, but the 6600 was the company's most advanced model at the time. It had Bluetooth, the Symbian operating system, an infrared port, a VGA camera, a memory card expansion slot, an integrated RealOne player, e-mail, and an XHTML browser. In the riveting 2004 movie "Cellular," Kim Basinger's rescuer spoke to her on a 6600.

The nearly identical 6620 was adapted for North American cellular networks, and the 6630 upgraded the feature set in a design with a bulbous bottom end.

Introduced: 2003

CNET review bottom line: The Nokia 6600 isn't the sexiest or the smallest cell phone we've seen, but it packs plenty of high-end features that will please smartphone addicts.

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Nokia 7600

Who other than Nokia could make this phone? Part of Nokia's "Fashion" 7000 series, the teardrop-shaped 7600 had a 65,000-color display with keys arranged on either side. It also had interchangeable covers, a VGA camera, an MP3 player, Bluetooth, an infrared port and USB support.

The Nokia 7610 that came the next year opted for an elongated teardrop shape with a swirled keypad. Then in 2009, the bizarre 7705 Twist coupled a square shape with a swivel design.

Introduced: 2003

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Nokia 3300

An early pass at combining an MP3 player with a phone (the 5510 was an earlier music phone), the Nokia 3300 got a few things right, including great sound quality, an FM tuner, support for voice commands and an external memory. But if the split keyboard didn't put you off, like the N-Gare it was a "sidetalker."http://www.cnet.com/products/nokia-3300-t-mobile/


Introduced: 2003


CNET review bottom line: If you want to carry around fewer gadgets, the music mobile might be for you, but serious cell phone users should look elsewhere.

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Nokia 7710

Looking a bit like the 3300, the Nokia 7710 was the company's first phone with a touchscreen.

Introduced: 2004

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Nokia 6820

The follow-up to the bulkier 6800 from 2003, the 6820 featured a novel flip-out keyboard for messaging. It was very cool at the time, and I loved how the display switched orientation when you opened the keyboard.

Introduced: 2004

CNET review bottom line: The full-featured Nokia 6820 is a solid phone and is sure to please text-messaging fans.

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Nokia 3220

"Give 'em the old razzle dazzle" must have been the theme of the 3220's designers. Four rubber grips on the side of the phone illuminate in red and green when it rang and when you placed a call. Like on the 3200 you could make custom stencils, but the 3220 had a bigger surprise in store. If you added a special faceplate and wrote a message on the keypad, you could spell out the message in lights by waving the phone in the air.

Introduced: 2004

CNET review bottom line: Although the 3220 includes a VGA camera and a speakerphone, this handset will appeal mostly to those looking for an attractive but fairly basic cell phone.

23 of 30 CNET

Nokia 7280

Yes, this was a phone. Also called the "lipstick phone," the 7280 pulled apart in the middle to answer calls. Since it didn't have a keyboard, you interacted with the handset solely through a scroll wheel, a menu button, and two other keys. Dialing phone numbers on it was a pain, but texting was easier than you might think. Inside there was a VGA camera, an FM radio and Bluetooth. It even had a WAP browser, though it was frustrating to use on the tiny display. I only saw one person using it in the wild. In 2005, Nokia released a second version with the gold and shiny 7380 as part of the company's "Fashion" series.

Introduced: 2004

CNET review bottom line: While its design is purely a matter of taste, the 7280 is a feature-packed cell phone that performed well in our tests.

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Nokia 7260

Look! Another crazy Nokia keypad!

Introduced: 2004

CNET review bottom line: With a focus on 1920s art deco style, Nokia has created a striking tri-band handset with features slanted towards the world of fashion.

25 of 30 CNET

Nokia 9300 Communicator

A successor model to the original 9000 Communicator, the 9300 had a color display and a spacious keyboard. Though slimmer than its ancestor, it was still bulky and relatively heavy (5.9 ounces).

Introduced: 2005

CNET review bottom line: The Nokia 9300 includes handy features for corporate users, though some of them could use work.

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Nokia 7370

Another model in the "Fashion" series, the 7370 was one of the company's few swivel designs.

Introduced: 2006

CNET review bottom line: The Nokia 7370 is a decent fashion phone with a good mix of design, features and performance.

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Nokia 6133

Nokia only dabbled in flip phones. I used the Nokia 6133 for a year or so just before the iPhone appeared. It had an expandable microSD slot, EDGE connectivity and FM radio among other features. There was also a button on the right side of the hinge that lets you flip the phone open.

Introduced: 2006

CNET review bottom line: The midtier Nokia 6133 is well-designed, packed with features, and performs well, too.

28 of 30 CNET

Nokia 3250

Made for music, the 3250 had a unique twisting design that enabled you to rotate between a numeric keypad and dedicated music controls. And it came in pink! It could store up to 2GB of music with a memory card; by rotating the camera lens, you could take photos. The Nokia 5700 Xpress Music had a similar design.

Introduced: 2006

CNET review bottom line: The Nokia 3250 has some very strong features, but we found its most significant design element -- the twist mechanism -- to be more irritating than intuitive.

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Nokia E71

One of the first of Nokia's E Series, the less sophisticated alternative to the N Series, the E71 was a slim workaholic phone that almost looked like a BlackBerry.

Introduced: 2008

CNET review bottom line: Mobile professionals who need a powerful but sleek messaging-centric smartphone will be well-served by the Nokia E71; just be prepared to pay a price.

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Nokia N93

It opened, it twisted and it turned. The N93 was the pinnacle of Nokia's "give 'em everything we got" strategy for its N-series smartphones. Sure, it was gigantic, but it had a ton of features like a 3.2-megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss lens, video recording, Wi-Fi and a full web browser.

Introduced: 2006

CNET review bottom line: If you want a tidy phone for your pocket look elsewhere. But for fun and games with moving images, there is no handset to beat it

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