Nokia CONTACT SERVICE unreliability

It is commonly said that the Nokia 3310 is indestructible. By extension, we can assume this applies to other Nokias that use the same form factor. But I can proclaim that at least its close relative the 3330 isn’t reliable at all, at least after all these years. I’ve had two of them fail with the message “CONTACT SERVICE”.

The first one I believe failed overnight. I had left it in my backpack and its battery had fully drained, so it would only briefly power on with the dreaded “CONTACT SERVICE” message. After charging the battery up with a working Nokia, it still didn’t get past that message.


The second one failed in my pocket while I was on a train. There’s really no conceivable reason as to why this happened when it did. I just pulled it out of my pocket at some point, and there it was — “CONTACT SERVICE”. Rather than immediately display the message, this one instead displayed it a few seconds after being powered on — about the time it takes to enter two digits of my PIN.

I don’t remember when these phones are from — they were purchased late into the 3330’s life — but I think it was around 2005 or 2006. So maybe the flash simply fails after about 17 years?

According to Janus Cycle, the error may be caused from software/firmware corruption, leading to invalid checksums. If it’s simply corrupted rather than physically damaged, it would be possible to fix it, but that requires fancy cables and old software that I don’t have.

It’s highly unlikely they died from overuse, as they were only used a few times back in the day, before I acquired them in 2021. I only got about a year’s use out of each one.

Since it’s hardly worth getting them fixed, both of them have since been recycled. Which is unfortunate, but they aren’t particularly rare or valuable. There are plans to switch off the 2G networks in the UK, but that isn’t happening soon, so old phones such as those Nokias remain an option in the 2020s.

For now, I’m back to using a Samsung Galaxy S5 for receiving text messages, which has really long boot times on modern versions of Android. I might buy a cheap smartphone to tide me over in the meantime, such as the £93 Galaxy A04s with 4GB of RAM. We’ll see.

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