The phone that started it all...
- Date launched: 1999
- Network: GSM 900Mhz/1800Mhz
- Form: Candy bar with internal aerial
- Size: 51(w)x124(h)x23(d) mm
- Weight: 151g
- Cost new: £149.99 
- Can you use it today: Yes
Teenage mobile culture began with the Nokia 3210. It was small enough for the average pocket and you could send text messages to your friends without drawing attention. Texting was fast on the Nokia 3210 for those who mastered predictive text, a skill that came easier to children than adults. At the same time cheaper PAYG deals made mobile ownership for teenagers a reality.
In 1999, the year Nokia introduced the 3210, 35% of under 18s had a mobile phone. Some were spending fortunes on them. A 15 year old girl called Shaniqua, from a North London comprehensive, claimed she spent £100 a month on her mobile phone. Every break time Shaniqua's school friends gathered together to check their messages. They ran the risk of having their mobiles confiscated if they rang during lessons.
The Nokia 3210 came to the market at the exactly the right time. It was small, although not that light and it was easily customisable. Although the Nokia 5110 had introduced the idea of customisable fascias, with the 3210 you could change both the front and back of the phone.
Nokia advertised the 3210 as 'Fun outside. Serious inside'. It was a dual band phone. As well as predictive text, you could send pictures with SMS messages. It had no camera phone though. The pictures were crude pixelated monochrome images.
In September 1999, Wayne Hemmingway, Jasper Conran and Justin Oh designed covers for the Nokia 3210. They were sold at auction to raise funds for an Aids charity. Nokia offered the public a facility to design their own covers for £30.
The craze for customisable covers led to many aftermarket businesses opening. Mark Hodgson, who was made redundant from a mobile phone company, started his own business, CoverFrenzy. He supplied covers for the Nokia 3210, 3310, 3330 and 8210. The customer uploaded a picture to his website and CoverFrenzy did the rest for £19.25. Hodgson's oldest customer was 71, although his business was aimed at the 'young trendies'. To them a customisable mobile phone was as important as a pair of designer trainers. 
On the serious side, the Nokia 3210 also boasted the first Hindi UI. 
Initially the Nokia 3210 was far from cheap on PAYG. However, prices soon came down. By the end of 2000 you could get one for less than £70. By then the smaller Nokia 3310 was the latest thing.
The 3210 inspired affection in its users. Many years later some said that they prefered it to a modern day smart phone. Gavin Bramwell compared his Nokia 3210 to a Ford Sierra. It was simple to use and hard to damage. His Nokia 3210 was run over by a car, but did not survive! 
The Nokia 3210 was also the mobile phone owned by the murdered thirteen year old Milly Dowler. Police found that detectives working for the News of the World had hacked into Milly's phone and deleted some messages which may have hampered the police investigation. The phone itself was never recovered, but police were able to access messages with the help of the service provider. 
 From the Link (on One2One Pay and Go February 2000)
 From The Times, 11 October 1999, page 70.
 'Boredom the spur for frenzied activity' by Elizabeth Judge, published in The Times, 11 May 2002, page 76
 Mobile Usability by Christian Lindholm, Turkka Keinonen and Harri Kiljander, published by McGraw-Hill 2003, page 107
 'Smartphone? I'd prefer a brick' by Kaya Burgess, published in The Times, 15 August 2011, page 66
 'The News of the World hacked into Milly's phone' by Sean O'Neill, published in The Times, 5 July 2011, page 1
Add your comments
PLease Help Me!" Zanda Bayfield 09/19/2012
The 3210 is quite a bit bigger then the 3310. Both have customisable fascias and both are readily available on eBay and from other sellers. I guess it's up to you which style you prefer.
best regards" SteveB 09/21/2012
katie" katie 11/19/2014
Are they worth anything yet ?" Steve 04/16/2015