Museum of 21st Century Design
Nokia 1100 Mobile Phone
Image credit: Nokia
Electrical hardware, plastics, unspecified metals, and screen
Ongoing research into the working conditions of the phone's creation, manufacturing, and distribution
Nokia and Nokia manufacturing (Finland, Germany, and India)
Calling over cellular networks
The Nokia 1100 is known as one of the least expensive cellular phones available, although they are in 2023 only available second hand.
When in production, it was inexpensive and available for purchase in convenience stores across the globe
The long-lasting battery uses a far smaller amount of electricity to charge than other mobile phones on the market. Although the Nokia 1100s endure for years, the company has no solution for recycling or reusing the materials that comprise the phones
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A Phone for Everyone to Use Everywhere
In 2003, the Finnish telecommunications company Nokia began manufacturing the Nokia 1100, a mobile phone roughly the size of a candy bar and weighing 93 grams. Its feature set included a small monochrome screen (95 x 63 pixels), flashlight, alarm clock, stopwatch, calculator, ring-tone composer, console (including the game Snake!), and screensaver. Its memory capacity allowed users to keep fifty contacts and retain fifty SMS messages. But that’s not all.
In the original press release, Nokia explained that it developed the phone for first-time users in Russia, India, China, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia-Pacific. The company hoped to bring “the benefits of mobility to consumers in new-growth markets” with a practical, simple, and inexpensive mobile-phone option. The company priced it accordingly. According to Global Media, Nokia initially sold the phone in the European market for €114.00 (about $100.00), and users would spend 15-20 cents per text or have a monthly allotment of texts. These prices were much more accessible than the Blackberries and eventual iPhones joining the market.
With this goal in mind, the designers also gave the Nokia 1100 a keypad and front cover designed to protect against dust and sweat in humid weather. Users could pull the phone apart and purchase replacement parts when necessary rather than purchase an entirely new phone. The most impressive feature? Its battery power — a fully charged phone could stay on standby for 400 hours without powering down. Or, one very long, 4-hours-and-30-minute conversation. An article in The Print shares a series of stories about the amazing durability of the Nokia 1100. For example, the phone saved a man’s life in Afghanistan when a bullet lodged itself in the device rather than his body.
Nokia succeeded in its goal of manufacturing something that lasts. In 2011, Nokia announced it had sold more than 250 million phones. It remains the world’s best-selling mobile phone by the number of units sold. The BBC notes that the Nokia 1100 isn’t only the best-selling phone but the best-selling “electrical gadget” of all time, beating the Playstation II for the top spot.
Making a Comeback
Low-tech phones like the Nokia 1100 have enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in North Amercia and Europe. One report from Counterpoint says that global purchases of low-tech phones were due to hit one billion units in 2020, up from 400 million in 2019. Nokia itself "is making a comeback with a line of old-school Nokia phones that are exactly as amazing as we remember,“ and, as the article notes, just as accessible as ever. The tactile buttons, limited functions, and lack of screens make these types of phones easier to use, especially for those who prefer not to spend much time on them.
M21D and the Nokia 1100
M21D designated the Nokia 1100 as the first design in our study collection because of its durability and global prevalence. The phone warrants additional study into the environmental impact of its life cycle, affordability, the working conditions of its manufacturing, and social impacts.
Before Apple & Android’s world domination, the unbreakable Nokia was the mobile phone to have, The Print
How Do Old Nokia Cell Phones Work and Why Are They Popular Again?, Make Use Of
Nokia 1100 phone offers reliable and affordable mobile communications for new growth markets, Nokia
Nokia Products That Changed The World: Stephen White, Microsoft
Did you know that the Nokia 1100 is the world's best-selling handset?, Phone Arena
Nokia 1100 Review – World’s Best Selling Mobile Phone, Profit Warning
The most popular mobile phone ever is not an iPhone or Android device, Wales Online
Throwback Tech Thursday: The Indestructible Phone, Cambridge News