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
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