Could the Flip Phone make a Comeback?

by Matt Klassen on May 17, 2016

flip-phoneAs the size of smartphones continues to increase the mobile market is soon going to run into a serious redundancy dilemma: Is your phone powerful enough to replace your tablet, or conversely, is your tablet functional enough to replace your phone?

My guess, however, is that neither will happen, at least not until the complete abandonment of voice communication, as I simply can’t see anyone holding a 10-inch tablet to their face (although I did say that about phablets early on, and I couldn’t have been more wrong). Instead, as people become more accustomed to the roles their different mobile devices play, we could see a radical about-face in the mobile phone market, moving away from do-everything smartphones to smaller, more efficient devices.

To that end, there are several in the tech market quietly speculating that old might, in fact, become new again, as tech companies may be toying with the idea of bringing back feature flip phones, with several notable upgrades of course, as part of a more comprehensive mobile solution that would naturally involve multiple devices doing very particular tasks with little or no overlap.

Now you might think it’s crazy to consider the potential return of the more antiquated flip phone, as it seems anathema to consider regress as even a remote possibility in today’s technological world. But as tech analyst Rob Enderle notes, consider several trends in the mobile market that may help usher in the return of the flip phone.

First, there is the issue of device redundancy. “We’ve grown phones into phablets, but most of us also have tablets with larger screens. If you had the phone do mostly just the core communications transport but left the Web browsing, app running, video playing stuff to the tablet or laptop, you’d have a solution that would allow you to be more connected, more of the time, with all of your devices.”

Second, there is the fact that smartphone titans like Apple are increasingly becoming business facing, and in that market there is a need for a more robust device that sports better battery life and communication functionality at an affordable price. With that in mind, perhaps the return of the flip phone isn’t that crazy. Not only that, but we’ve already seen a renewed interest in other technological hotbeds like Japan, lending credence to the thought the retro tech may have a place in this world.

But of course there were many things the flip phone was terrible at, including texting (our current default mode of communication), Web browsing, and, well, anything that wasn’t directly related to actually calling someone. That said, for such antiquated technology to become chic again, it would need a radical facelift and considerable upgrades, and even then I would probably consider the entire endeavour to a desperate move from yet another industry (hello, Hollywood) that has clearly run of ideas.

As it stands, there is still a sizeable market for older feature phones in North America, particularly among those who want a phone that, well, phones. For many still uncomfortable with the notion of carrying a computer around in their pocket these older “dumb” devices are exactly what they need. But that said, I would eat my hat if a flip phone refresh (even if marketed as one member of a suite of constantly connected devices, and even if it was created by Apple) was able to make a comeback, particularly as the only thing the flip phone ever did (offer a compact, robust voice platform) is increasingly becoming something no one needs.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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