Generation Z loves flip phones

New York

First there were disposable cameras. Back then it was low-waisted jeans. Now, Gen-Z’s latest “vintage” obsession is the flip phone—that mid-1990s phone that’s suddenly become so popular among millennials.

Today, these smaller, lightweight devices — some available for as little as $20 at big-box retailers like Walmart and Amazon — appear in TikTok videos of young people unboxing them, blinding their boxes just like earlier generations and recording instructions about achieving a carefree, blurry aesthetic through a low-quality camera.

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

“I’m the flip phone revolution team,” singer Camila Cabello chirped Thursday, posing with a TCL flip phone, harvest. “Maybe I can write a theme song.”

Actress Dove Cameron, who rose to fame on Disney Channel’s “Liv and Maddie,” said in an interview in November that she had 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 phone from the ’90s, a Matrix-y flip phone,” Cameron said. “I have a special number for it, it’s really cheap and I think it’s probably really crap.”

Cameron said she switched off and switched because she found her social media presence “misleading”. The feeling is overwhelming among Generation Z – and hers impact is linked to teenage mental health crisis.

As smartphones and social media became more ubiquitous around 2012, so did rates 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.

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

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

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

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

Reagan Boeder, 18, said she’s trying to get her sorority sisters on board.

“I think more and more people are going to come out with flip phones just because it’s so fun and nostalgic and really has a vibe,” Boeder said.

Before she switched phones, Palazzolo found that her nights out in her college town often ended in tears stemming from not being welcomed. a post on social media or a message from an ex, “the main cause was from our phones.”

As vintage technology began to make a comeback, they came up with an unconventional solution.

In December, she and three friends went to a local Walmart. The process was unfamiliar to 18-year-olds, from the model they should 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.

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

“It takes away all the bad things about college and brings out all the good things about the phone,” Palazzolo said. “Which means connecting with people and taking photos and videos. The photos and videos on this one are fire.”

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

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

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

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

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

And while Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro has a 48-megapixel camera, it lacks the delayed gratification of waiting for images to develop or download 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 predicted to grow by $1.23 billion by 2030. Celebrities like TikToker Charlie D’Amelia and model Emily Ratajkowski have embraced the 2000 digital camera trend.

“I like flip phone photos because they’re grainy and blurry,” Palazzolo said. “And I think it captures the atmosphere of a college date perfectly.”

Perhaps one of the reasons Gen Z longs for the era of the 1990s and 2000s is the privacy and absence of carefully selected images. It’s social media at its most casual—photo dumps with candid images and BeReal, the popular app that asks its users once a day to take a real-time selfie and post it within two minutes.

“I don’t ever want to be that person who’s just on the phone all the time,” Boeder said. “Getting a flip phone kind of made that possible.”

Back then, “people were more involved with each other than our phones and social media,” Boeder said. “It seemed like people were just talking to each other more and everything was more honest and spontaneous.”

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

“We attribute this shift to many smartphone users beginning to recognize 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,” said Kates.

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 on Amazon and Best Buy for $89.99.

In 2022, the International Data Corporation said that the foldable phone market expected to reach $29 billion in 2025 – compound annual growth 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 as of 2022.

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

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

Omdia attributed 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, which is 309% more than the previous year.

However, Apple has no reason to worry – Omdia expects that by 2026, foldable phones will account for 3.6% of the total smartphone market. By comparison, Apple’s market share is more than half of the entire smartphone market.

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