We explain why “stupid phones” are back in fashion

In Israel at the beginning of 2022, imports dumbassLiterally “stupid phones”, Nokia’s brands recorded a 200 percent increase in sales over the previous year. In France in 2021, 18% of people with mobile phones called them dumb. In the United Kingdom, one in ten phone owners has chosen a “feature phone” – another name for these mobile phones that are used only for calls…

This movement can be explained by several reasons – low cost of purchase, solidity, the desire to move away from the screens after the pandemic, which led to the fact that many people live online … But the market dumbass began to pick up shortly before the Covid-19 health crisis: from 400 million units in 2019, it almost doubled in 2020, with 735 million units sold worldwide. Counterpoint research predicted one billion sales for 2021, which seems to be in line with the numbers available today: Statista estimates the market size in value terms at 9.52 billion euros in 2022.

Nostalgia and the search for separation

Since their replacement by smartphones, the first notable peak in the passion for classic phones comes in 2017. In the same year, Nokia released a new version of their famous 3310, with a T9 keyboard, a slightly larger screen than in the early 2000s, a removable battery… and the Serpent, of course. Nostalgia for the era before the iPhone and Android is in full swing: Google is looking for phones without the Internet. After all, the Finnish manufacturer has already tried to exploit the desire of consumers for a “digital detox” – in 2016, a study showed that 90% of smartphone owners were victims of the phenomenon of phantom vibrations, making them believe that their phone is vibrating. without a reason.

Since then, the problem has only grown, with an average of 4 hours and 48 minutes spent daily on their phones in 2021. Thus, proposals for devices that prevent doomscroller (updating your networks non-stop, even if it makes you feel bad) have multiplied, sometimes at prices quite close to those of smartphones. The minimalist design of Light Phone sells for 300 euros. The Punkt MP02, which doesn’t even offer GPS but has a note-taking app, is available for 329 euros. What is the interest for the 21% of French people who say they can’t do without a phone? I’m not sure, YouTuber Cyrus North illustrates, because switching to an offline tool could create new problems, such as slowing down online purchases as more and more banks use their mobile apps to authenticate an internet user. And then, the time spent on smartphones is connected not so much with the phone, but with what we do there: hang in networks or applications, which, for the most part, are quite accessible from a computer.

Accessibility, monitoring… ecology?

No, the real reason for the increase in sales phone feature lies in something else: in their very low price. We have mentioned more “premium” offerings that are a bit cartoony, but most of them are available at low prices. For example, a model such as the Nokia 150 sells for 25 euros, which is more suitable for the population of developing countries than for smartphones. This explains why the growth of the market is mainly driven by Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Contrary to Western concerns, phone feature In some cases, they even become their users’ first Internet access: in India, Reliance Jiio is building “smart basic phones” that provide access to apps tailored to low-memory phones.

The opposite issue is security. In Israel, purchases of unconnected phones jumped after the Pegasus case, named after spyware found on the phones of ministers, activists and journalists around the world. This jump can be attributed to the absence of networks such as WhatsApp, Facebook or Instagram, which are known to collect user data for advertising purposes, the Times of Israel suggests. But SMS, the only means of written communication from a regular phone, is far from known for its security.

The last argument that can explain the renewed interest in these objects is related to the environment. Not only phone feature stronger than smartphones – didn’t we talk about the “refrigerator” twenty years ago? But their battery life is much longer, which is especially useful in areas with unstable power supplies. In short, while it remains a very small minority in the global mobile phone market, stupid seems like the perfect candidate for those who want an easy-to-use tool that won’t distract from notifications, cost-effective, and durable.