Saturday 11 May 2019

Nokia 3220 (2004)

Nokia 3220
Launched May 2004

On the face of it, the Nokia 3220 looks like the sort of fun and inexpensive phone that Nokia used to be so good at making. A lightweight thing with a 128 x 128 pixel display, VGA resolution camera, it ticked all the boxes for a midrange phone for 15 years ago.

Like the Nokia 3200 which it sort-of-replaced, the 3220 could be customised with different inserts, either ready-made or ones that you could design and print yourself. These inserts was a bit less complicated than the 3200’s, but it did mean that you could only really customise the back rather than the whole phone.

The chunky design of the 3220 gave it some appeal, but it also hid a secret. Out of the box, the phone had a rubber shell with built-in LEDs that would flash when a call was received or while playing a game.

The secret was that this shell could be swapped out for shells with other functions. An optional “fun shell” had a tilt sensor in it for playing motion-sensitive games, and it also came with a different set of LEDs that could be used for “wave writing”.

It turned out that the shell could be used for other things too, and Nokia also developed an NFC shell for the device. This allowed – in theory – the 3220 to be used for contactless payments amongst other things, but despite being technically clever there were very few real-world applications available. Nonetheless, Nokia were committed to NFC more than a decade before it started to take off.

As with a lot of vintage Nokias, the 3220 can be picked up quite cheaply with £25 for an unlocked version in good condition being typical. The ground-breaking NFC shell is a different matter – but if you collect obscure Nokia ephemera, it might be worth looking out for.

Image credit: Nokia

Wednesday 1 May 2019

Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen (1979)

Mercedes-Benz 300 GD, Techno-Classica 2018, Essen
Introduced 1979

Think of a boxy four-wheel drive vehicle designed for the military but also popular with civilians, which ended up in production for decades long than was reasonable. You might think of the Land Rover Defender, but in this case we are talking about the Mercedes-Benz G Class, introduced in 1979.

Superficially similar to the Defender, the G Class (or “G-Wagen”) is a more refined beast – or perhaps more accurately, a less unrefined beast. Despite being overhauled in the 1980s there was no escaping the Land Rover’s 1940s roots. The Mercedes was full to the brim of late 1970s engineering though.

Compared to the Defender, the G-Wagen is better on-road, quieter, more solidly built and arguably even better off-road than the Defender. Both platforms should have been pensioned off years ago – however the G-Wagen remains in production. But where the Defender never quite lost its utilitarian roots, the G-Wagen turned into something rather more luxurious.

These days you are quite likely to see a Defender in an Army convoy, or a farm or doing some other important and practical function. But you are more likely to see a G-Wagen being driven by the very rich or famous, by people protecting the rich or famous… or by your friendly neighbourhood drug dealer.

Starting new at a little under £100,000, the G-Wagen is rather expensive. Bling it up with a BRABUS-tuned AMG engine and you could be looking at a cool quarter of a million quid. Make it six wheel drive and that's even more. There are honestly better cars available for that sort of money. But few have the presence of the G-Wagen. Even the cheapest pre-owned models are priced between £20k to £30k. Ouch.

Fortunately, if you are looking for a capable off-roader that it also a relic from the past, then the Lada 4X4 (launched in 1977) starts at around €12,000 for a new one if you pop over to Germany. But perhaps that’s not quite as luxurious as a new G-Wagen.

Image credit: Matti Blume via Wikimedia Commons