Thursday 18 October 2018

Nokia 3660 (2003)

Launched October 2003

Sometimes Nokia’s weird designs are too weird even for Nokia. The Nokia 3650 (launched in 2002) is a case in point. The 3650 was a very early Symbian smartphone and it ticked all the boxes for an early-noughties Nokia device. Smartphone OS. Tick. Candy bar format. Tick. Biggish screen. Tick. Camera. Tick. Expandable memory. Tick. Weird design. Tick.
Nokia 3650 (left) and 3660 (not on the left)

The Nokia 3650’s design is made up of sweeping lines and curves and at some point, somebody though it must have been a good idea to extend those curves to the keypad. Why make it square? Let’s make it round! A behold, the Nokia 3650 was launched with a rotary keypad.

Instead of being arranged in a grid, the number keys were set out in a circle. Nokia immediately polarised opinion on this, with many people thinking it was just plain stupid but also a significant number who liked it and thought it was easier to use.

Sure it was edgy and radical, and Nokia always did like to push the limits of design. But this was meant to be the launch of mainstream device that was going to carve out some market share for Symbian. But instead Nokia launched thousands of flame wars instead.

So, a year later Nokia reworked the 3650 and came up with the 3660 instead. Gone was the rotary-style keypad and in its place was something a bit more like a traditional grid, but still maintaining the circular shape of its predecessor. More mainstream, yes, but other than the keypad the only other improvement was a 65k colour screen over the 4096 colours in the old one.

Despite managing to annoy both factions in the keypad debate, both the Nokia 3650 and 3660 were successful enough to help cement Symbian as the market leader in smartphone platforms. It took a while for Nokia to stop messing around with keypads though, as the weird-looking Nokia 7610 proves.

Today the Nokia 3650 is very collectable, with typical prices for a good one being £100 or so. The 3660’s more sober design makes it a bit less interesting and these are very much cheaper.

Image credits: Nokia

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