Gen Z is making feature phones more popular in the US
Many young people want to reduce their screen timeBy Rob Thubron 7 comments
In brief: As basic smartphones become cheaper and once high-end-only features trickle down to entry-level devices, dumb phones (aka feature phones) aren't selling the way they used to in many countries - apart from in the US. According to a new report, dumb phones are becoming increasingly popular among certain Gen Z users looking to limit their screen time.
Early 2000-style dumb phones have long been popular in developing nations, the middle east, India, and Africa for their low prices. These regions made up 80% of feature phone sales in 2022, writes Counterpoint research (via CNBC), but their popularity has flatlined recently. In the US, however, it is on the rise.
HMD Global, the licensee of the Nokia brand, sold tens of thousands of its feature flip phones in the US each month during 2022. Yet this increase was in contrast to its global feature phone sales, which the company says were down.
The reason for this surprising trend is thought to be Gen Z - those born between 1997 and 2012, currently aged 11 to 26 - who are tired of screens and trying to cut down on screen time to protect their mental health, says Jose Briones, dumb phone influencer and moderator of the r/dumbphones subreddit.
The potential negative mental health impact from social media apps on teens is well documented; Facebook (as it still was back then) got into a lot of trouble when it was revealed that the company knew how damaging Instagram is on young people's mental well-being. Utah, meanwhile, is one of several states pushing a social media law that will require parental permission for teens to open accounts.
The boost in feature phone popularity has benefitted companies such as Light, the creator of the Light Phone 2, which is being hailed as a great device for productivity thanks to the lack of distractions found in typical smartphones.
"What we're trying to do with the Light phone isn't to create a dumb phone, but to create a more intentional phone --- a premium, minimal phone --- which isn't inherently anti-technology," said Joe Hollier, co-founder of Light. "But it's about consciously choosing how and when to use which aspects of technology that add to my quality of life."
Would you use a feature phone to avoid the many distracting apps, games, etc., found on modern handsets? Or maybe you just like having a cheap burner phone. Let us know in the comments below.