Nokia 232

Nokia 232

Alicia Silverstone's phone in 'Clueless'

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.

Collectors' information

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.

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Comments (14)


Not that rare in the UK as it was a popular choice with Cellnet.

I still have mine with the extra large battery.

Jeff B

The Nokia 232 was the first mobile phone I bought here in Australia. I paid approximately AUD$700.00 when it was first released in 1994. For that price I received the thin light battery as well as the large long life battery. A leather case, car and wall chargers and all cables as well as the extra laptop connection cable you could get. The Nokia 232 was one of the early consumer phones that could connect your laptop to the internet. Many people didn't know that because the laptop connection cable didn't come standard with the phone. When it was very first released it was considered to be a cross over between a top of the range consumer phone and a business phone. For that price I purchased the phone outright. It was possible to get it cheaper in Australia back then if you signed up to an expensive lengthy contract with a phone carrier. It was better for me to buy the phone outright and have cheaper ongoing fees for network access. £49.00 to buy it outright sounds very cheap.

Joe M
I have a "mint in box" UK Nokia 232 (from peoples phone if you remember them!) Original battery and a thick lng life battery. Original supplied box and accessories. Are these collectable....
Erkki Ruohtula
Nokia 232 was available in Finland for the NMT system. It was my first mobile phone, purchased second hand in 1998. This item had initially reception problems, but after having it repaired it worked very well, and was conveniently small compared to most other mobile phones at the time. Still have it sitting in a drawer, but cannot be used because in Finland the NMT network was shut down in 2001.
Lovely Loulou
I found this phone touched away in a cabinet with a car charger attached. I read however it will not work in the UK, but does that include Canada and the US. Is it at all possible to charge?
No. It's an analogue phone. It won't work at all in the UK.
Mr nice
Does it work with a normal sim card??

Analogue TACS phones did not have sims, they were programed by plugging in a proprietary box.

Nokia 232 my first mobile in the life
Salut C'est une bonne collection. Vous devez aussi acheter un Nokia 2110, le premiere phone avec le Nokia ringtone.
Salut C'est une bonne collection. Vous devez aussi acheter un Nokia 2110, le premiere phone avec le Nokia ringtone.
je possède le même (I have the same) my collection is : 1-Nokia-Talkman-620-NMT900 (année 1980) 2-Nokia 101 - The First GSM Mobile Phone (1992) 3-Nokia 232 (1994)
Hi Miguel, I think the price quoted above is the 1996 price. I've done a bit more research and found out the the Nokia 232 was announced with an RRP of £249.99. However, by the time it went on sale that price had dropped to £149 + VAT. Best regards
Strange, the 232 retailed for ?49.99? I got my first mobile phone in 1994, a Nokia 232, and it cost me ?89.00 with a Vodaphone subscription, and this was with a company discount! I was working for NEC in Reading at the time. NEC set up an account with a mobile phone retailer so we could buy the latest digital phone to tear down. I just found my 232 in my junk box. Still in it's leather cover.
Mobile phone history