Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been systematically deleting text messages from his phone every day for the past few years. According to the Prime Minister, this was necessary because his old Nokia had limited space. Only messages that Rutte considered relevant for archiving, he forwarded to officials. Was there really such a shortage of space?
Rutte is regularly seen with the Nokia at his ear. Other photos show the phone lying on the table. It is not a very old Nokia, but seems to be a somewhat modern model with a camera on the back and even a color screen.
Mark Rutte used a Nokia 301 since 2017
Image analysis by Metro continues to show that this is almost certainly a Nokia 301. Mark Rutte was spotted with this device on his ear back in 2017 and he was still walking around with it until recently. Only since last Thursday has Rutte had a work phone with more memory. “I was forced to switch to a smartphone,” says the prime minister. He also had a smartphone for years, but he says he only used it to follow the news.
The Nokia 301 came out in 2013 and was described as a cheap phone with some smartphone features. At the time, this type of device was described as a feature phone. In the Netherlands, the device was sold until 2015, according to historical data from the pricewatch of techsite Tweakers. It is therefore not a very old Nokia 3310 from the year 2005.
Rutte with the Nokia 301 in 2021 (Image: ANP / Bart Maat)
Memory for hundreds of thousands of messages
What turns out? That Nokia 301 has enough memory for hundreds of thousands of messages. The device has 256 megabytes of memory. That may not seem much in 2022, but remember that this is a Nokia with a small screen and old-fashioned push buttons. A text message can only contain 160 characters, which means that, with a huge margin, over 6000 messages fit into 1 megabyte. So in theory Rutte’s device had room for 1.5 million messages. If half of the storage space in the phone is used for other things, it is still capacity for hundreds of thousands of messages.
This contradicts the story that the Landsadvocaat held in a lawsuit filed by the Volkskrant. There it spoke of “very limited capacity”. There would only be room for about twenty messages, so the inbox was necessarily emptied daily by Rutte.
This is what text messages look like on Rutte’s old Nokia (Image: Nokia, montage: Metro)
Or still room for twenty messages?
Still, the story about up to twenty messages is not entirely implausible. Before phones had their own memory, messages and contacts were stored on the phone’s SIM card. That’s the little card with chip that is supplied by providers. There is very limited space on it.
The Nokia 301 used by Rutte stores messages in its own memory by default. The device displays messages in relatively modern form as a kind of e-mail box. This is evident from the technical specifications of the Series 40 software, on which the device runs. It is possible to copy individual messages to the SIM card, but not to store messages exclusively on the SIM card. This is confirmed on the site of Microsoft (then owner of Nokia). Metro was able to confirm this using a Nokia phone that also uses the Series 40 software. It is possible to store contacts on the SIM card, but all text messages are stored on the phone’s memory by default. This cannot be changed permanently.
Mark Rutte nuances story
That there is only room for twenty messages on Rutte’s Nokia does not seem to be true. The Prime Minister has now also qualified his story. During a press conference on Wednesday he said that his phone was becoming slow and that’s why he was deleting messages. Rutte also stressed that he had done nothing wrong. Deleting messages was “in accordance with the agreements” and he sees no violation of the law in it. The prime minister also emphasizes that he has “never consciously” withheld important matters by making his own selection of which text messages should be kept and which should not.