Did you know – as flagship smartphone sales fall flat, 'dumb' phone sales in America are on the rise


Covering the latest smartphones is almost always about high-resolution screens, intense spec sheets, outrageous benchmark scores and cutting-edge connectivity standards. It's as if everyone looking up a new smartphone wants a Snapdragon 820 / 6GB RAM beast that's able to run 40 applications at once and winces at anything lesser. Handsets have never been so immensely popular, powerful and hotly debated, which is why the stats we're about to discuss caught us completely unsuspected!

Paradoxically, as high-end smartphone sales reach a slump that stretched as far as Apple's seemingly unshakable iPhone sales, people in America are buying more... feature phones! That's right – according to IDC, last year saw a healthy 24.2 million 'dumb' phones shipped in the U.S. alone, a 2 million increase from 2014. Not only do feature phones sell – they are growing! What the heck?

The Wall Street Journal estimates that one in seven people simply doesn't want to deal with smartphones' inherent complexity. Straightforward and user-friendly they might be, but at the same time, they are nothing less than powerful handheld computers designed to do a lot of stuff – more than some people believe they need.

And it's not just that – smartphones are still expensive and battery-hungry. Although cheap Android and Windows handsets have never been nicer, they can't beat a $7 flip phone if all you really need is basic communication. In addition to making calls and storing tons of contacts and messages, the more expensive ones (in the $30-$50 ballpark) still feature 3G connectivity so you can check your e-mail or do some sluggish browsing. They also last as much as two weeks on standby, which is basically 'forever' compared to a smartphone.

Last but not least, only a flip phone lets you hang-up on an annyoing person with a shamelessly demonstrative and utterly satisfying 'thwack'. This is the one thing we miss the most! But for all the advantages feature phones do have, we probably don't need to remind you that their T9 keyboards suck, their cameras are rubbish, and they fail at everything that isn't completely basic. But even in 2016, they seem to be alright for millions of Americans.

via WSJ

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30 Comments

1. torr310

Posts: 1659; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

I would like a good feature phone. I dont mind to pay $50 for it.

18. OdysseasP

Posts: 67; Member since: Aug 08, 2014

CAT B100: 140 euro

32. cheetah2k

Posts: 2256; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

All them terrorists buy em as they are harder to track, cheaper to throw away :D lol

2. HugoBarraCyanogenmod

Posts: 1412; Member since: Jul 06, 2014

USA economy is obviously shrinking, more and more American able to afford smartphone

7. TerryTerius unregistered

You want to talk about China's recent economic downturn, which is threatening to bring the entire planet into another recession? That sounds like a fun topic. No? Alright then, let's just leave nationalism at the doorstep so we can stop with the stupid trolling of total strangers from the safety of our keyboards... and talk about mobile devices instead. What this website is all about. Alright? Cool. Glad we agree buddy. I'll start. What advantages with you personally see in using a dumb phone over a smart phone? Can see yourself having one as a second device? The more I think about it. It is a good idea to at least have one as an emergency phone.

8. kiko007

Posts: 7493; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Damn kid get rekt!!!! (Great questions at the end BTW)

10. zunaidahmed

Posts: 1183; Member since: Dec 24, 2011

just plain simple to use, no hassle, no lag, no bothersome updates, holds charge way better than most smartphone, small, normally more durable. CHEAP AS HELL. I mean, yeah, it may be a dumb phone, but it still is a phone. Trust me, dumb phone can actually still me lot's of people's need, but they buy smartphone just because it's kind of a trend right now. BUT, I do have to clarify myself, I do not recommend or feel dumb phones are better, so don't bash me with that, just pointing out some advantages and features of a dumb phone, that's all

11. TerryTerius unregistered

I would agree with you on all of that really. I'm not sure I could use one as a personal device because I'm used to so much of the functionality on offer from a modern smart phone. But for the reasons you listed, I do think it makes a lot of sense as an emergency device. Something you can charge once a week and throw in your glove compartment to use just in case you get stranded somewhere. Or another line to be used in the case of a family emergency, or an important issue with your closest friends. Honestly, everything you said was right.

14. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

I'd like to add a few things as well. First, there's not as much worry about getting hacked or virus issues on a dumbphone. Second, dumbphones generally get better reception. I live in a rural area, and we're right on the fringe area of the Verizon towers. When we go out into our land, we stray even further away from the towers. Our renters use dumbphones, and they get signal in those areas where we don't. I don't know how scientific that is, but it is a repeatable occurrence. And third, dumbphones are usually more durable and are cheaper to replace in the event something happens, so they are better in an outdoor setting, IMHO. I'm actually thinking of reactivating my old flip phone for the summer when I'll be in those remote, rugged areas. Just my 2¢.

16. TerryTerius unregistered

Good points, the first and third. You're right, I'm not sure how scientific the second one is but I agree with everything else. I know I'll be doing some traveling this summer to Bali and Curaçao. It may be a good idea to have that cheap flip phone on me instead of something a lot more expensive like my S7 Edge or 6S plus. I would at least feel a bit less nervous. Not that I think those are dangerous areas, I just don't like traveling abroad with expensive things on me.

20. VZWuser76

Posts: 4974; Member since: Mar 04, 2010

I don't think dangerous areas would be the biggest worry, but maybe being distracted and dropping your phone. Like I said, while it may not be scientific (since flip phones don't have a dBm meter to measure signal) but the fact that I can repeatedly make calls with a flip phone in that area where various smartphones cannot makes it seem like less of a fluke. And a few of those phones were Motorola smartphones which are known for good signal reception. Granted the flip phone is also a Motorola. Another point I hadn't thought of until now is also much better battery life on dumbphones. My old Moto flip and my dad's Samsung Convoy get around 4-5 days of battery life vs the 1-2 I get with smartphones. So depending on your needs, there are definitely benefits in the old dumbphones favor.

25. willard12 unregistered

You have to excuse his posts. Since the party blocks his access to Facebook, he has to come to PA make his political comments. Phonearena....for him, the land of the free.

12. AlikR

Posts: 45; Member since: Sep 05, 2013

this statement makes zero sense

19. OdysseasP

Posts: 67; Member since: Aug 08, 2014

Battery life is one of the most important things in mobile phones / smartphones.

28. bm985

Posts: 33; Member since: Apr 21, 2016

Wrong. Folks have been savers, these new phone are hitting of $1000, basically cheap car money (first car lol). BUT,on the flipside Americans spend big on everything,hell way so many Iphones ($$$$). Anyways Value for money is where the real money will be made with the snartphones. Non of the manufactures have truly hit it big yet, but folks like motorola are producing promising items. As for the older phones, have my motorola Razr, sexy phone.

4. eN16HTMAR3

Posts: 253; Member since: Oct 08, 2013

This will be the new trend. Trading in these huge smartphones for more reliable, easier to carry and affordable basic phones. Tablets I think will replace a lot of media consumption that otherwise would have been done on a smp. This is also partly due to the huge/ outrageous mobile phone bills consumers are receiving. A family of 4 will spend $250- $300 a month for mobile service on either AT&T or VZW. Most mobile phone payments are more than the lease on a car.

6. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3137; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Give me a BlackBerry Style with a modern OS and I'll be a happy man. My iPhone SE exists only because it's pocketable and less likely to fall overboard than a large phablet. I believe the Style was the only clamshell with a full QWERTY keyboard.

9. kiko007

Posts: 7493; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Where I live they call these phones "Plug" phones. I'm assuming a rapper came up with the term and I have no clue what it means, but it sounds dope as s**t!!!!!

13. Doakie

Posts: 2478; Member since: May 06, 2009

My first thought was that maybe companies realized providing iPhones leads to too much wasted time with employees playing with apps all day. I'm actually surprised more companies haven't turned to Microsoft Lumia phones as work phones; they're cheaper to purchase, the UI is relatively simple compared to the others, and the app gap will limit wasted time. You're still able to respond to email, and make phone calls. I upgraded my father from a flip phone to an Android handset, then he kept accidentally dragging the icons off his desktop to other pages. So I moved him to Windows Phone and he's happy.

27. TrackPhoneUser

Posts: 256; Member since: Oct 21, 2015

My dad has like 4 pages with 1 app on each lol

15. ryq24

Posts: 875; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

I miss flip phone!

17. JunitoNH

Posts: 1946; Member since: Feb 15, 2012

There are several reasons people are doing it, all the points are highlighted above. For me, it is just a convenience. Phone are small and the battery life is amazing. I just have my smartphones forwarded to my flip, and all is good. Admittedly, I could not live without a smartphone for a long period of time. I would miss most Google Now, Waze, Maps, and Yelp. Google Now, is my encyclopedia, conversion chart, phone book, secretary, and translator.

21. hortizano

Posts: 294; Member since: May 22, 2013

We are a nation of old people seems to be the most valid argument... The other one would be that we are getting REALLY paranoid about security and NSA conspiracies on most smatphones...

24. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3137; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

So old people are the only ones who might appreciate ease of use and convenience? Perhaps more people have tablets with LTE capability that they would rather use than a smartphone and would prefer something smaller. Unless you like the iPhone SE, you're outta gas if you want small.

22. OdysseasP

Posts: 67; Member since: Aug 08, 2014

Compact size. Battery life!!!

26. catze86

Posts: 731; Member since: Dec 07, 2015

Another Sony W series with MegaBass,please!

29. KetchupsMustard

Posts: 28; Member since: Dec 18, 2014

Oh I do miss that satisfying 'thwack' when hanging up on someone!

30. snowgator

Posts: 3621; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

Can we have the return of the full keyboard dumb phone sliders? Oh, the satisfying "swish-click" of a slider was as nice as that "thwack", and there was a KEYBOARD dang it!!

31. tacarat

Posts: 854; Member since: Apr 22, 2013

I'd like to see some reviews of basic out feature phones that use micro and nano Sims. These would be best for backup phones and useful for PAs readership.

33. patfactorx

Posts: 6; Member since: Aug 11, 2011

A lot of people also don't price compare, buy land lines and pay for AOL.

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