Story 2015-08-05 GF7K Return of the flip phone

Return of the flip phone

by
in mobile on (#GF7K)
Flip phones were all the rage in the 1990s - they were the ultimate fashion accessory. And despite being overtaken by smartphones the world over, the flip phone paradoxically remains very popular in technology-obsessed Japan. Flip-phone shipments rose 5.7 percent in 2014, while smartphone shipments fell 5.3 percent, down for a second year. The handsets have been dubbed 'Galapagos' phones because they have evolved to meet unique Japanese standards and tastes. This may also be attributable to users in Japan paying some of the highest smartphone fees among developed nations, while flip-phone rates are among the lowest. Many Japanese, accustomed to years of deflation, are content with old-style flip-phones offering voice calling, email and basic Internet services. Also, Japanese electronics companies Panasonic Corp and NEC Corp have pulled out of the consumer smartphone business, unable to compete with Apple and Samsung, but they still make flip-phones, competing in a crowded competitive market.

Though it may be easy to mock such a low-tech choice of phone, a recent trend observed by MailOnline has seen classic 1990s models by Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola commanding four-figure sums on eBay and other resale sites. While they may lack features, these retro phones are simple to use, have batteries that last the week and are practically indestructible compared to their smartphone equivalents. And now, LG has decided to join the party.

LG has launched a new model of flip phone, branded the "LG Gentle". Despite the 90s design, chunky physical buttons and 3MP camera, it comes with numerous modern features and the budget handset can perform many more tricks than flip phones from the 90s. The handset has a 3.2-inch colour touch screen and runs Android Lollipop 5.1, a modern 1.1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 2010 processor and 1GB of RAM, supports 4G LTE, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS... The phone has launched in Korea, but there is no news as to whether it will be rolled out elsewhere.
Reply 16 comments

90's? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-08-05 17:38 (#GH8Z)

I had several flip phones over the years, but those years were all in the 2000's. 1990's seems a bit early.

Re: 90's? (Score: 2, Informative)

by billshooterofbul@pipedot.org on 2015-08-05 20:11 (#GHQM)

LG intentionally missing the target? (Score: 1, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-08-05 23:53 (#GJ8Q)

FTA:

> While they may lack features, these retro phones are simple to use,
> have batteries that last the week and are practically indestructible
> compared to their smartphone equivalents.

> The [LG] handset has a 3.2-inch colour touch screen and runs Android
> Lollipop 5.1, a modern 1.1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 2010 processor and
> 1GB of RAM, supports 4G LTE, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS....

So, let me get this straight: retro, flip-phones are desirable because they are simple, easy to use, and have phenomenal battery life yet LG is intentionally building something complex (Android), slow (Android), and power-hungry (Android, 1.1GHz, quad-core Snapdragon, 1GiB of RAM, 4G LTE, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS)? It will be interesting to see if customers eschew the new LG phone because it doesn't fit their requirements.

Re: LG intentionally missing the target? (Score: 1, Interesting)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-08-06 04:37 (#GJQS)

There's a few problems with this article.

First is the assumption that this is not supposed to be a smartphone, and the underlying concept that the only thing that can be a smartphone is a glass brick. Really, what these are is a smartphone with physical buttons. This is much more desirable in Japan as a number pad is a surprisingly effective way to enter Japanese text. LG is not looking to get the kind of person who would buy the basic call and text only phone with this. LG still makes the old feature phones, as does pretty much every manufacturer. Of course they'd rather you buy the $600 flagship, but they're out in stores if you look.

Second is that old phones are desirable for normal use. The ones paying big money for them are collectors. That one people are paying four figures for? It's gold plated. Really, what most people want is the best of both, functionality of a modern phone with a week long battery life.

Third is the implication that feature phones are making a comeback in Japan. Sure, there was an uptick, but smartphones are still outselling them nearly three to one.

Also, similar phones have been around for a while in Japan. But the interesting part about this new LG one was skipped. This phone is coming to other markets as the Wine Smart, including some in Europe, like the UK.

Re: LG intentionally missing the target? (Score: 1)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2015-08-06 17:30 (#GMVQ)

First is the assumption that this is not supposed to be a smartphone
Nobody said that. The topic is FLIP phones. Can you name any previous SMART phones that flip open?
Really, what these are is a smartphone with physical buttons. This is much more desirable in Japan
Please point me to any Japanese smartphones in production with a full physical keypad, I'd like to have a look. I just checked softbank.jp, and didn't find a single one. What I found there were iPhones, Galaxy S6's, and basically everything a western audience would be familiar with.

The Japanese seem to love their iPhones (HINT: Apple doesn't sell any flip or keypad phones):
"Last October, the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c also accounted for 76% of smartphone sales in Japan, marking a record high. All three major Japanese carriers including DoCoMo, SoftBank, and KDDI have been offering the iPhone 5s free on contract" http://www.macrumors.com/2014/05/14/apple-smartphone-market-share-japan-36/

Re: LG intentionally missing the target? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-08-06 20:21 (#GNBE)

Can you name any previous SMART phones that flip open?
Sure. Those are just ones that run Android, I'm using that as a conservative definition of smartphone.
any Japanese smartphones in production with a full physical keypad
Here's one that's been out for a year. Are you using the English site? That only shows a subset of what they have.

Of course the glass brick style is still more popular. But the point here is that the smart flip phone has been done before.

Re: LG intentionally missing the target? (Score: 1)

by reziac@pipedot.org on 2015-08-06 13:10 (#GM0E)

I had a glassbrick smartphone (Android) and hated it. Now I have a flipphone that cost $12 purchased outright (yes, twelve dollars). It's dumb as a rock (it can't even do call switching, tho it sorta receives texts if they're short enough). Battery life is so-so, about four hours of talk or a couple weeks of disuse. I prefer it because I can carry it in my pocket in the barn and not worry about it getting banged or wet -- won't hurt it a bit, and it was no big investment to start with. And it's FAR easier on both the hand and the ear than the smartphone was.

What I'd really like is a flipphone with a full keyboard, such as used to exist but seem to have vanished in favor of larger screens. Then having the smartphone features would make sense. With the push-3-times keyboard, it's all too much bother to use, at least typing in English. (Since I don't type Japanese I can't speak to that.) And make the whole phone a little larger so it's not so dang hard to hang onto; my pocket isn't so tiny that it has to be the size of a matchbox, and my big paws aren't so fond of tiny objects.

Re: LG intentionally missing the target? (Score: 1)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2015-08-07 12:57 (#GMXE)

I have a flipphone that cost $12 purchased outright
You can get an Android 4.x+ used-but-working smartphone for $20 off of Amazon. Not a big investment there, either.
I prefer it because I can carry it in my pocket in the barn and not worry about it getting banged or wet -- won't hurt it a bit
A number of smartphones are water resistant. And it's cheap to add a case that'll absorb most any shocks without damage.
And it's FAR easier on both the hand and the ear than the smartphone was.
I find dumb phones don't have the nice noise-canceling that smartphones do. And input a few contacts or type a few text messages, and the smartphone is much easier on the hands.
What I'd really like is a flipphone with a full keyboard, such as used to exist but seem to have vanished
I didn't have any problem finding some on Amazon. And they're still making new (dumb) slider phones:
* http://www.boostmobile.com/shop/phones/kyocera-verve/

Re: LG intentionally missing the target? (Score: 1)

by zafiro17@pipedot.org on 2015-08-08 11:44 (#GT49)

I'm sporting a Samsung note 3, but to my surprise I'm really tempted by that Kyocera! I really like that form factor, not sure if it's nostalgia or what.

Re: LG intentionally missing the target? (Score: 1)

by reziac@pipedot.org on 2015-08-08 13:06 (#GT8Q)

Thanks for the link. Last time I looked at the kyocera the price was still higher than it's worth to me. $20 is more like it. As to whether it will work with my cheap Verizon pay-as-you-go...?? looks to me like that one is locked to Sprint. Sprint is completely worthless here. (See map: http://www.boostmobile.com/coverage/ that's about right in my experience. I'm near Billings MT.)

I find the smartphones harder to hear on -- has to be positioned perfectly or I can't hear the durn thing at all. Maybe it's the aging ears; younger mileage may vary.

I don't think you realise how much banging around happens if you do physical work outdoors (or in a barn). Where the pockets are is also a commonly-used point of leverage. The phone occasionally gets subjected to being crushed because it just gets in the way. If it's much more breakable than a pocketknife, it WILL get broken. Either that, or it won't be carried at all, and then why bother with it?

If you don't live on the phone, most of its time is spent held in the hand next to the ear, not typing on it. Contacts can be imported rather than retyped.

Re: LG intentionally missing the target? (Score: 1)

by evilviper@pipedot.org on 2015-08-09 10:44 (#GVV4)

looks to me like that one is locked to Sprint. Sprint is completely worthless here.
The nice thing about Sprint/Ting/Republic (but not Boost/Virgin/most-MVNOs) is ability to roam (for free) onto Verizon wherever Sprint coverage is non-existent. Where Sprint sucks, however, is the areas where their coverage is just poor (1 or 0 bars), but the phone is reluctant to roam and you get stuck with a signal that keeps breaking-up. And they severely limit data while roaming.
The phone occasionally gets subjected to being crushed because it just gets in the way. If it's much more breakable than a pocketknife, it WILL get broken.
Look into heavy-duty smartphone cases before you dismiss them. http://www.otterbox.com/en-us/defender-series is a good place to start.

Four figures? (Score: 0)

by Anonymous Coward on 2015-08-07 12:29 (#GQD7)

In Japanese yen, "four figures" is only around 8 US dollars.

aw man (Score: 1)

by lmariachi@pipedot.org on 2015-08-12 11:15 (#H5GF)

Damn it, I just got a cheap flip phone a couple of months ago! Now in 18 months I’ll just look like I read some stupid trend piece and simply had to get on that bandwagon.

Can you still get pagers?