At the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, we saw two formerly great smartphone brands—Nokia and BlackBerry—try to win their way back into consumers’ hearts with the relaunch of decidedly old-school gadgets. BlackBerry Mobile, whose name is licensed to Chinese electronics maker TCL, introduced its newest throwback the BlackBerry KeyOne, an Android phone that looks like an updated, more modern version of the BlackBerry 9900. Nokia, now run by HMD Global, just decided to straight-up bring back the 3310 form-factor, but with a color screen, a camera, and crazy battery life.
I’m a huge fan of retro gadgets—the NES Classic Edition was one of my favorite pieces of tech from 2016—but I’m decidedly against this trend of brand revivals in the name of nostalgia. It’s one thing to launch a retro console that lets you play classic games on the cheap; it’s another to try to compete with actual smartphones simply on the basis of a name that was popular ten years ago.