For the past two years, smartphone sales have declined in Japan, which raised eyebrows there because Japan has long been a global leader in mobile phone trends. Some 5.3 percent fewer smartphones were sold in Japan in 2014 than in 2013.
Meanwhile, shipments of dumb “flip-phones” rose by 5.7 percent in 2014 compared to 2013. Dumb phones—also called “feature phones”—are now eating away at smartphone sales in Japan. Could this be a sign of a future worldwide trend? Here are some potential reasons why.
The first is the same reason that significant minorities of PC users replaced some or all of their PC or laptop use with tablets once that form factor came along—the high cost of mobile data. Next many smartphone users will realize that they’re wasting money on the high cost of mobile data and can do everything they currently do with a dumb phone.
The next reason is that as with tablets in comparison with PCs, dumb phones can be simpler to use. With a flip phone, opening the phone answers the call and closing it hangs up. It’s slightly simpler than phone calls on a smartphone and a little more gratifying—especially the act of hanging up on somebody.
The third reason is that polls asking phone buyers what’s most the important feature usually rank battery life as the number one thing they’re looking for in a phone. In the smartphone world that means lasting more than a day is good, while less than a day is bad. Meanwhile, phones like Microsoft’s recently announced $29 Nokia 215 feature phone boasts 29 days of battery life.
Finally, there’s a growing sense that smartphones enable unknown companies, governments and criminals to invade privacy at will and there’s really nothing anybody can do about it. Except get rid of the smartphone and opt for a dumb phone.
Altogether these factors suggest that feature phones will continue t make a comeback and become one of the many options users have when deciding how their mobile phones fit into their overall lifestyle and gadget lineup.