Technology

Gen Z loves the flip phone

Gen Z loves the flip phone

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CNN

First, these were disposable cameras. Back then, it was low-waisted jeans. Now, Gen-Z’s latest “retro” craze is the flip phone — that mid-’90s phone that’s suddenly become so popular among millennials.

Today, these smaller, lighter devices — some of which are available for as little as $20 at major retailers like Walmart and Amazon — are featured in TikTok videos of young people unboxing them, blinding their boxes just as the earlier ones did generations and capture tutorials to achieve a carefree, blurred aesthetic through the low quality camera.

But most importantly, they love being able to disconnect – or as much as possible in 2023

“I’m Team Flip Phone Revolution,” singer Camila Cabello tweeted Thursday, posing with a TCL flip phone, harvest. “Maybe I can write the theme song.”

Actress Dove Cameron, who rose to fame on the Disney Channel show “Liv and Maddie,” said in November an interview that she switched to a flip phone. Spending too much time on the phone and looking at social media “is really bad for me,” she said.

“I found a little flip phone from the ’90s, Matrix-y,” Cameron said. “I’ve got a separate number for it, it’s really cheap and I think it’s probably really nasty.”

Cameron said she switched off and on because she found her social media presence “misleading”. The feeling is overwhelming among Gen Zers – and that the impact is linked to a teenage mental health crisis.

As smartphones and social media became more common around 2012, so did rate of depression among teenagers, psychologists say. Between 2004 and 2019, the rate of depression among teenagers nearly doubled, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Sami Palazzolo, 18, a freshman at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has a new routine with her phone when she goes out with friends.

She and her friends listen to the latest music on their smart phones as they get ready. Then, when it’s time to leave, they leave those smart devices behind.

Instead, they contact each other only through their flip phones throughout the night and take pictures of them despite the already primitive camera. Their devices are great conversation starters.

“At parties, people will be like, ‘oh my god, is that a flip phone?'” Palazzolo said. “We get to talk to some new people, meet some people, and everybody loves it.”

Reagan Boder, 18, said she’s trying to get her sorority sisters on board with the trend.

“I think people are going to go out more and more with flip phones, just because it’s so fun, nostalgic, and frankly, moody,” Boder said.

Before changing her phone, Palazzolo found that her nights out in her college town often ended in tears stemming from an unwanted social media post or text from an ex, “the main reason was from our phones.”

Like vintage technology started to make a comeback, they came up with an unconventional solution.

In December, she and three friends went to the local Walmart. The process was unfamiliar to 18-year-olds, from what model to buy to finding the right phone plan. After four hours, Palazzolo bought an AT&T Flex for $49.99; her friends got cheaper models for $19.99 through Tracphone.

of Palazzolo TikTok encouraging others to buy flip phones has more than 14 million views and over 3 million likes, with hashtags that include #BRINGBACKFLIPPHONES and #y2kaesthetic.

“It takes away all the bad things about college and brings all the good things about the phone,” Palazzolo said. “Which connects to people and takes pictures and videos. The photos and videos for this are fire.

HMD Global, an exclusive licensee of Nokia, said Gen Z is an unusual demographic for the company. Both companies are based in Finland.

“This is a generation that didn’t have Nokia as their first phone and probably discovered our brand through social media,” said Jackie Cates, head of marketing at HMD Global.

Gen Z is used to the many functions that come with smartphones, from their many applications such as Instagram, Find My Friends or GPS. But there are also safety concerns that come with relying on these simple devices. Without the “find me” tracking feature, Palozzolo said she and her friends stick close together and use a buddy system to keep track of who’s where.

Palozzolo wanted to use a flip phone one summer in high school because he thought it would be “cool.” “My parents said absolutely no, we have to be able to trace you,” she said.

Palazzolo is no stranger to “retro” technology—she’s been bringing a digital camera to parties since her sophomore year in high school.

And although Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro has a 48-megapixel camera, it misses out on the delayed gratification of waiting for photos to be developed or downloaded to a computer. Popular apps like Hisptamatic and Dazz Cam recreate digital and film camera photos and have thousands of downloads.

The disposable camera market is expected to grow up $1.23 billion by 2030. Celebrities like TikTokker Charlie D’Amelio and model Emily Ratajkowski bet on the digital camera trend of 2000.

“I love flip phone photos because they’re grainy and blurry,” Palazzolo said. “And I think that perfectly captures the college going out vibe.”

Perhaps one of the reasons Gen Z longs for the era of the 90s and 2000s is the privacy and lack of carefully curated images. It’s social media at its most sloppy – throwing out candid photos and be reala popular app that asks its users once a day to take a real-time selfie and post it within two minutes.

“I never want to be that guy who’s just on his phone all the time,” Boeder said. “Getting a flip phone made that more possible.”

Back then, “people were more engaged with each other than our phones and social media,” Boder said. “It seemed like people were just talking more and everything was more genuine and spontaneous.”

HMD Global said many people like the idea of ​​it being less affordable.

“We attribute this change to many smartphone users who are beginning to realize that they spend too much time glued to their devices and have a strong desire to disconnect and ‘be fully present’ to improve the quality of their social connections,” Cates said.

And yes, new Nokia flip phones are still available – the Nokia 2760 Flip is on sale at Walmart from prepaid brands like Verizon for $19.99. The 2780 can be found at Amazon and Best Buy for $89.99.

In 2022, the International Data Corporation said that the flip phone market expected to reach $29 billion in 2025 – a compound annual growth rate of 70%. Samsung has shipped more than 10 million units since its first-generation model came out, accounting for more than 88% of the global foldable smartphone market by 2022.

These aren’t your run-of-the-mill $30 flip phones at Walmart. An unlocked Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 starts at $1,799.99 and the Galaxy Z Flip4 starts at $999.99.

“Samsung chose to bet on its foldable smartphones; the decision it made is far ahead of its competitors in terms of the number and sales of foldable smartphones,” said Zucker Li, principal analyst at Omdia mobile team.

Omdia attributes the high price of Samsung’s foldable phones to weak sales of its earlier models, but sales “picked up quickly” to 9 million units in 2021, up 309% year-on-year.

Apple needn’t worry though – Omdia expects foldable phones to account for 3.6% of the total smartphone market by 2026. By comparison, Apple’s market share is more than half of the entire smartphone market.




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