An Ode to the Flip Phone

In an industry where the new and innovative are constantly dazzling us, it may seem odd that one of the first posts on our iQmetrix Mobile Review blog is about the old and mundane.

In the first half of 2013, feature phones accounted for almost 25% of handsets sold.

However, we were recently struck by how relevant the non-smartphones still are. Between January and July this year, these phones accounted for almost 25% of handsets sold. You can be forgiven for thinking it was nowhere near that (I did). Call them what you want -- feature phone, basic phone, dumb phone… -- the classic cellphone still has a sizeable fanbase so we wanted to devote some time to honor those people.

What is it about these simple, unassuming devices that resonates with so many of us in spite of the siren’s call of the smartphone?

Smartphones’ beautiful, bright screens suck up a lot of battery life.

Battery Life

If there’s one thing that has continually disappointed us in smartphones, it’s battery life (with a few exceptions like the Droid RAZR Maxx). Those beautiful, bright screens suck up a lot of battery life. In day-to-day use, that isn’t a problem. I just plug my phone in every night before bed. However, when traveling, camping, or any other similar activity, I now either need to bring a generator or turn my phone off for the duration. Not so with a basic phone -- they will go for days at a time without need for a charge. That is a pretty strong argument for many people.

Durability

The screens seem to be the double-edged sword of the smartphone because they are also to blame for many smartphones’ lack of durability. Of course, there are some great strides being made in this regard (e.g. Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, Kyocera HYDRO series) but there’s still something reassuring about a basic phone that could reliably go to hell and back and still send a text message.

Ease of Use

As user friendly as the iPhones have become (two-year-olds can often use them!), I still remember vividly the first time I had one in my hands. I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know what the one big button did and, knowing computers, I wanted to make sure it didn’t do anything I couldn’t take back. A few short years later, that seems absurd but there are still lots of people who are just now buying a cellphone for the first time ever. A basic phone has numbers and (perhaps) a physical keyboard -- and a much shorter learning curve.

There’s something reassuring about a phone that could go to hell and back and still send a text message.

We Still Just Don’t Trust Ourselves

I still have two close friends in their twenties who refuse to move to a smartphone simply because there are so many ways in which a phone can be lost, stolen, broken or just worn out. The fact is, we’re accident-prone as a species. Some people factor that into their phone decisions. (I don’t. I love my smartphone, relative fragility and all.)

So next time you’re at a party, looking up Wikipedia articles on your smartphone to settle arguments, take a moment to pour one out for the basic phone and fondly remember its legacy.

Sony’s W810 used to light up my life

Nokia 3310 had a ringtone that cut like a knife

The LG Chocolate was a dependable friend

But now that I have a touchscreen, to them I’ll not look ever again