The Nokia 5110 was announced at the CeBIT exhibition in Hannover, Germany in 1998 as part of the 5100 series of handportable phones.
With the 5100 series, Nokia recognised that the mobile phone was becoming a fashion item that people wanted to personalise. It introduced the concept of Xpress-on interchangeable covers. Nokia's marketing campaign stated that now you could match your Nokia mobile phone with almost any clothing, style and occasion.
Initially a simple colour range was available but the concept of changing your mobile cover soon grew to become a standard feature of mobiles and a major business with an enormous range of designs becoming available.
A total of seven different cover colours, in addition to black, were initially available for the 5110.
On the 23rd September 1998 Nokia announced the first limited edition covers for the winter holiday season. These were the Silver Bells Xpress-On and Snowflake Covers.
The story behind the interchangeable covers is very interesting. The lead mechanical engineer, Jussi Hakunti
, was responsible for the mechanism that allowed the 'A' cover to be user changeable. This introduced a challenge that had never been faced before. All the components had to be retained in place without this cover and Jussi introduced a second cover to do this.
One little known fact is that when making the sound ports for the internal part for the speaker, Jussi added a little smiley face to the design. Everyone loved it, and smiley faces became a feature on the internal parts of Nokia phones for many years – including the Nokia 7650
To support its strategy of offering interchangeable covers, Nokia deliberately made the 3D design files 'open source'. This allowed third parties to create 1000's of variations which helped fuel sales of the phones as the personalisation options were almost endless.
Targeted at the consumer market, the Nokia 5110 shared much in common with the business orientated Nokia 6110
, but offered a simpler user interface using the Navi-key. It also lacked the infra-red port.
Its monochrome graphical screen could display five lines of text. Menu access was facilitated through Nokia's Navi-key feature that was first introduced in the Nokia 3110
The phone book could store telephone numbers and associated names within the SIM card memory which allowed for up to a maximum of 250 entries. Speed dialling was provided on nine entries using the keypad keys 1 to 9. Call logs recorded the duration of calls and the last five missed and received calls and the last eight dialled calls. It also included a calculator, clock with alarm and a selection of ring tones.
The Nokia 5110 had another important feature in common with the Nokia 6110
, the introduction of the mobile version of the popular computer game, Snake. This game went on to become an enormous success and many have claimed, kick started the mobile gaming industry. Nokia introduced two other games at the same time and these too were included on the Nokia 5110; these were Memory and Logic.
The Nokia 5110 also found fame as the mobile used by Agent Dana Scully in the X-files television series.
Some information courtesy of Nigel Linge & Andy Sutton, the authors of 30 Years of Mobile Phones in the UK (Paid Link)