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By Cheryl Kahla

Content Strategist

‘Dumb phones’ make comeback among tech-weary teens, Gen Z

Teenagers are rediscovering the joy of 'dumb phones' as they seek to reclaim control over their digital lives.

In a fascinating but strange turn of events, ‘dumb phones’ – those humble, feature-limited bricks of the yesteryears – are making a comeback.

But I can almost guarantee the target market is not whom you would assume…. These devices have seen an upswing in popularity among teenagers.

Dumb phone trend

It would appear these youngers, the leaders of the future, might have it all figured as they strive to reclaim control of their digital lives.

Meanwhile, SEMrush reported a surge in searches – Google searches for ‘dumb phones’ rose by 89% between 2018 and 2021.

But what is a ‘dumb phone’

It’s the opposite of a smartphone, I guess. Think Nokia 3310, Nokia 3330 and Nokia 8210. (I’ve owned all of these phones, and I don’t know how I feel about that…)

These phones – devoid of fancy screens, intrusive apps or powerful processing chips – saw a surge in sales when Nokia relaunched its popular 3310 model in 2017.

The big pull of these devices had been the affordable prices, and let’s be honest, the extended battery life didn’t hurt either.

Remember how the Nokia 5110 lasted for seven days on one charge? I even dropped my 5110 from the roof once and it didn’t break…)

Dumb phones with a modern twist

A dumb phone solely focusses on the most basic of telecommunication functions, such as voice calls and text messages (we called these SMSs, kiddos.)

The only ‘modern’ feature added to these relaunched ‘dumb pones’ is improved network coverage, such as 4G, because hey, tech doesn’t remain stagnant.

Some of the new ‘dumb phones’ also feature upgraded cameras and a bigger colour gamut, making it more fitting for a minimalist lifestyle without making you feel like a complete cave dweller.

Nokia sale surge

Back in 2022, Nokia’s manufacturer, HMD Global, witnessed a surge in the sales of basic mobile phones – those outdated devices only capable of making calls and sending SMSs.

Nokia’s Chief Marketing Officer Lars Silberbauer said the market surged by 5%, while the market for flip phones doubled within just a year.

He told EuroNews the trend – which also swept over to Europe – reflected a “concious effort” by teenagers and Gen Z to regain control of the constant online chatter.

“We’ve doubled our market share in the last year of flip phones, which is quite important for us. And we see that is now picking up in Europe,” he said.

READ: Teen Suicide Prevention Week: Raising awareness to save lives

Smartphones here to stay

But fret not, even though the popularity of dumb phones continue to rise, smartphones aren’t going anywhere.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) said smartphones sales will continue to grow, especially since the 5G rollout has a projected revenue of $78 billion.

CTA reported that digital spending exceeded $1 trillion in 2018 – a milestone for the mobile industry.

Of that $1 trillion, smartphones made up 48% in expenditure (follwed by TVs with 12% and tablets with 15%).

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