Younger generations are attempting to limit screen time by bringing back older technology with limited capabilities.
- Smartphone shipments fell 17% in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to research firm Canalys.
- “Dumbphone” sales are up by “10s of thousands” monthly, particularly for old flip-phone favorites, according to HMD Global.
- Amongst the dumbphones are feature phones which are traditional phones with more added features, such as GPS or an internet hotspot.
- In 2022, almost 80% of feature phone sales in 2022 came from the Middle East, Africa, and India, according to Counterpoint Research. As the dumbphone trend rises, the American market is expected to increase by 5%.
Why it’s news
Younger generations born into the world of smartphones and social media are now taking a step back from screen time, opting for phones with fewer capabilities.
A new trend is sweeping amongst the younger generations as more people opt for the traditional flip phones and Nokia cell phones that were popular in the early 2000s.
The older cell phones are called dumbphones—as a play off smartphones—since they have little to no internet access and limited capabilities, such as connectivity, video, and the ability to add endless apps.
“I think you can see it with certain Gen Z populations—they’re tired of the screens,” says dumbphone influencer Jose Briones. “They don’t know what is going on with mental health, and they’re trying to make cutbacks.”
Dumbphones provide all of the basic necessities, including calling and texting, but do not have internet or other smart capabilities allowing the younger generation to have a break from screen time which has become highly addictive.
When smartphones emerged in the cell phone market, traditional phone sales dropped dramatically as most of the population converted to smartphones, but dumbphones have always held onto a small piece of the market due to them being cheap and easy to use.
Amongst the dumbphones are feature phones, which are traditional phones with more added features, such as GPS or an internet hotspot. In the U.S., feature flip phone sales were up in 2022 for HMD Global, with 10s of thousands sold each month.
Businesses are working to capitalize on the growing trend, including phone manufacturers Punkt and Light, who create minimalist phones with limited smart capabilities.
“What we’re trying to do with the Light phone isn’t to create a dumbphone, but to create a more intentional phone—a premium, minimal phone—which isn’t inherently anti-technology,” says Light co-founder Joe Hollier. “But it’s about consciously choosing how and when to use which aspects of technology that add to my quality of life.”
Most of the dumbphone sales are from the Middle East, Africa, and India, according to Counterpoint Research, but as the trend continues to rise, the American market is expected to increase by 5% in the coming years.