Alicia Silverstone's phone in 'Clueless'
- Date launched: 1994
- Network: TACS available on Vodafone and Cellnet
- Form: Candy bar
- Size: 53(w)x147(h)x23(d) mm
- Weight: 204g
- Cost new: £50
- Can you use it today: No
Mobile phones and teenagers were already making a connection, at least in the USA, in 1995. Alicia Silverstone played Cher in the film Clueless, a comedy drama about the ups and downs of high school life in Beverly Hills. Her phone was the Nokia 232, giving Nokia a second celebrity endorsement and a rather different image from that of Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union, who was seen using the Nokia Cityman 1320 in 1989.
Frank Nuovo designed the 232 for Nokia. He designed the 232 to be futuristic, but nevertheless true to Nokia's tradition of form follows function. In 1995 Nuovo joined Nokia permanently and spent his time between the USA and Finland.
The 232 was a neat, small design for style conscious customers. Technically the Nokia 232 was also impressive, with 16 hours of standby time and a 98 number memory when Nokia launched it in1994. It was a consumer product rather than a business phone.
Nuovo called the 232 the Ferrari of phones. It had plenty of external recognition as well. The UK's 'What Cellphone' magazine was impressed by the Nokia 232. It won the 'What Cellphone Best Consumer Phone' award for 1994-5. 'What Cellphone' recognised its sharp style. The 232 also took the Design Award for 1995 and the magazine still recommended it in 1997.
The 232 was launched in several countries. It had a strong following in the USA. Nokia introduced a range of exciting colour options for the US market, including tortoise shell, raging red, indigo blue, black ash, silver stone and green slate. Matt Wisk, Nokia's Marketing Director explained that people chose a tie, a scarf or a watch to match their personality, clothes or car, now they could do the same with a mobile phone. He saw mobile phones go in the same direction as the personalised Swatch style watches which emerged in the 80s. However, mobile phones were still expensive enough to make owning multiple handsets out of the question, and generally people would want to use the same phone number. So in reality black was the most popular colour.
The Nokia 232 had a recommended retail price of £49.99. However, you could purchase one from Cellphones Direct in 1996 for £24.99, including free connection to Vodafone LowCall, Vodafone's analogue consumer package (1) and The Link offered the same phone on Cellnet for £19.99 (2).
The 232 developed a strong following and like other Nokia products, a reputation for robustness. There was a loyal band of customers with a great affection for the Nokia 232, which in its long production run was available in several colours, as well as a burr walnut finish. There are website reviews praising it as late as 2000.
The Nokia 232 is quite rare find in the UK. They were much more common in the USA.
(1) The Guardian, 22 April 1996, display advert.
(2) The Guardian, 2 November 1996, display advert.