There is a growing movement among Gen Z to do away with smartphones and revert back to “less smart” phones like old-school flip and slide phones.
Flip phones were popular in the mid-1990s and 2000s, but now seem to be making a comeback among younger people.
While this may seem like a counter-intuitive trend in our technology-reliant society, a Reddit forum dedicated to “dumb phones” is steadily gaining in popularity. According to a CNBC new report, flip phones sales are on the rise in the US.
Gen Z’s interest in flip phones is the latest in a series of obsessions young people are having with the aesthetic of the 1990s and 2000s. Y2K fashion has been steadily making a comeback over the past few years and the use of vintage technology, like disposable cameras, is on the rise.
There are a few reasons why, including nostalgia and yearning for an idealized version of the past, doing a “digital detox” and increasing privacy concerns.
The power of nostalgia
Nostalgia may be a driving factor behind people purchasing flip phones because they evoke memories of a previous era in mobile communication. But nostalgia marketing doesn’t just target the younger generation. It’s also a powerful tool for advertising to those who grew up using older mobile devices. Nokia is an example of a company that understands this well.
A YouTube advertisement for Nokia’s 2720 V Flip shows how brands can use nostalgia marketing to appeal to customers and drive product sales. When older generations speak about objects from the past, they usually hearken back to “the golden era” or “golden time.” The comment section of the Nokia video showcases this kind of thinking.
One comment reads: “My first phone was a Nokia 2760! It was also a flip phone. This brings back good memories.” Another says: “I am definitely getting this just for good old memories. When life was easy.”
Another reason why people might be purchasing flip phones is to do a digital detox and cut down on screen time. In 2022, people in the US spent more than 4.5 hours daily on their mobile devices. In Canada, adults self-reported spending about 3.2 hours per day in front of screens in 2022. Children and youth had about three hours of screen time per day in 2016 and 2017.
Excessive smartphone usage can result in a number of harmful side effects, such as sleep disruption. Just over 50 percent of Canadians check their smartphones before they go to sleep. The blue-light emitted from smartphones may suppress melatonin production, making it harder to sleep and causing physiological issues including reduced glucose tolerance, increased blood pressure and increased inflammatory markers.
As people become more aware of the potential side effects of excessive screen time and constant digital connectivity, some are choosing to digitally detox. Flip phones are a way people can limit their exposure to digital noise and build a healthier relationship with technology.
Smartphones have a long list of advanced features such as cameras, GPS and tons of mobile applications—all of which can store and access a significant list of personal data.
In some cases, personal data can be used for targeted advertisements, but in worst cases that information can be leaked as part of a data breach. More and more people are growing concerned with how their data is being collected, shared and used by companies and online platforms.
Old-fashioned flip phones generally have fewer features that collect and store personal data compared to smartphones. That can make them a more attractive option for people concerned with privacy, data breaches or surveillance.
But this trend doesn’t mean smartphones are going out of style. There are still millions of smartphones being shipped worldwide every year. The trend may result in users opting to own both a smartphone and a flip phone, allowing users to digitally detox and reduce screen time without sacrificing the benefits of social media. The Conversation
Image credits: Photodynamx | Dreamstime.com