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Dumb Phones Are Back: How To Capitalize on Their Resurgence

A person holding a dumb phone with a green display

In a world inundated with smartphones, ”dumb phones” are gradually making a comeback. Unlike their sophisticated counterparts, dumb phones, also known as feature phones, possess limited features. Typically, they prioritize core phone functions like making calls and sending text messages and may have some basic features like a camera, a music player, and a calculator.

So why are some consumers ditching their smartphones for barebones dumb phones? In this article, we’ll explore why some consumers are switching from digital to analog devices and how sellers can capitalize on the resurgence of dumb phones.

Table of Contents
Feature phone market forecast
Why feature phones are making a comeback
Types of feature phones
Unlock new opportunities: Expand your inventory with feature phones

Feature phone market forecast

When affordable smartphones hit the market, many consumers ditched feature phones in favor of their more sophisticated counterparts. However, feature phones are gradually making a comeback.

In the last quarter of 2022, feature phones received an average of 4,200 monthly searches online. In the first quarter of 2023, the average monthly searches for feature phones online spiked to roughly 4,870 searches. Subsequently, in the second quarter of 2023, the average monthly searches for feature phones online rose to approximately 5,470 searches. These statistics show the growing interest in feature phones.

That said, in 2023, the feature phone market is expected to generate US $11 billion in revenue worldwide. Most of this revenue is expected to come from Asia and Africa, with India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria accounting for the highest feature phone revenue.

Feature phone sales are also expected to rise in the US as more American consumers look to regain independence from smart devices. In the US, feature phone sales are expected to reach 2.8 million units in 2023, with sales remaining relatively stable in the near term.

Why feature phones are making a comeback

Feature phones are undergoing a sort of renaissance. So why are some consumers doing away with their smartphones and replacing them with basic phones? Here are some reasons why dumb phones are making a comeback:

Digital detox

Woman using a cellphone during bedtime

Excessive smartphone usage can cause sleep issues and pain. Exposure to the blue light emitted by smartphones before sleep can suppress the production of melatonin — a hormone that regulates sleep. Extended smartphone usage can also cause neck, shoulder, and back pain.

Motivated by a desire to enhance their digital well-being, many millennials and Gen Zs are choosing to digitally detox. Dumb phones offer a way to disconnect from the constant stimulation of smartphones by providing a simpler, analog experience.

Enhanced battery life

While smartphones excel at many things, they have a relatively short battery life. Dumb phones, with their basic features, can last days, weeks, or even an entire month on a single charge, depending on the frequency of use. Their long battery life can appeal to people who travel often and enjoy outdoor activities like camping, hiking, or backpacking.

Nostalgia

Some consumers purchase feature phones to reminisce about the good old days before smartphones. Feature phones, with their basic designs, evoke a sense of nostalgia. Their simplicity makes them appealing to nonconformist consumers who want to distance themselves from the trend-driven world of smartphones.

Durability

Person holding black Android smartphone

Modern smartphones are incredibly fragile. While they have curved displays, aluminum frames, and glass backs that enhance their style, these features make them more susceptible to damage. 

Feature phones, such as rugged phones, are often more durable than smartphones. Their toughness makes them suitable for people who frequently engage in outdoor activities and people who work in harsh environments, such as construction workers, tour guides, and emergency service professionals.

Affordability

In many parts of the world, smartphones are prohibitively expensive for many people. For instance, in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, more people own feature phones than smartphones because of the high cost of smartphones. In these countries, cheap feature phones provide an affordable means of communication, enabling more people to stay connected. 

In addition, the low cost of feature phones might also make them appealing to individuals who want to save money or don’t need all the advanced features of smartphones.

Enhanced productivity

Smartphones have numerous apps that can affect productivity, such as streaming, social media, and gaming apps. With their limited apps, feature phones allow people to focus on important tasks. This quality makes them ideal for professionals and students who want to boost their productivity without the constant distractions of smartphone apps and notifications.

Privacy and security

Many smartphones have numerous apps that collect a significant amount of personal data. Generally, these apps collect data to send targeted advertisements to individuals. However, since they collect vast amounts of personal data, smartphones are vulnerable to hacking and data breaches. 

As more and more people become concerned about how companies and online platforms handle their personal data, many are looking for ways to safeguard their information. Feature phones, with their basic features, collect less data than smartphones. This quality can make them an attractive option for people concerned about privacy and security.

Types of feature phones

Dumb phones come in various shapes, sizes, and styles, each offering something unique. Here are some common types of dumb phones for every kind of user:

Flip phones

Man holding flip phone in hand

Flip phones are the quintessential dumb phone. Also known as clamshell phones, they have a clamshell design that reveals a keypad and screen when opened. This design makes flip phones incredibly compact, making them ideal for people looking for a phone with a small form factor that’s easy to carry around. 

Their clamshell design is also somewhat of a novelty nowadays, which makes them appealing to people who want to stand out from the crowd and make a fashion statement.

Candybar phones

Black Samsung candybar phone against gray background

Private equity firm Veritas Capital recently announced plans to take over BlackBerry, causing a spike in the search for BlackBerry devices online and rekindling interest in candybar phones. Founded in 1984, BlackBerry became popular for its candybar devices, which appealed to C-suite executives, A-list celebrities, and hordes of fans in the early 2000s.

Black BlackBerry phone displaying the time

Candybar phones, as the name suggests, are rectangular devices that resemble a candy bar. They don’t have a hinge and have large physical buttons for dialing and texting.

The large and tactile buttons on these devices make them particularly appealing to seniors who might not be as familiar with touchscreens or complicated smartphone menus. It also makes them ideal for seniors with limited mobility or dexterity issues.

Rugged phones

Pouring water on rugged phone

Rugged phones are devices built to withstand extreme conditions. Many rugged devices are water-resistant, dust-resistant, and shockproof, making them ideal for people who work in harsh environments or individuals looking for a durable device.

Slider phones

Slider phone with slider open revealing physical keyboard

Slider phones have a body that slides out of the phone’s body. The sliding mechanism allows users to have a physical keyboard for typing, making slider phones more convenient for typing than using a touchscreen keyboard.

Slider phones typically have larger screens compared to candybar and flip phones. Their larger screens make reading text and seeing icons easier, making them suitable for people with visual challenges.

Senior phones

An elderly man wearing eyeglasses while using his mobile phone

Many seniors have physical conditions or health complications that make it challenging to use smartphones. Senior phones are designed to help seniors overcome many of these challenges. They typically have larger buttons, easy-to-read screens, and simpler user interfaces than standard smartphones, making them ideal for seniors with vision or dexterity problems.

Additionally, some senior phones support hearing aids, meaning seniors can use them without interfering with their hearing aids. Some senior phones also have dedicated SOS buttons that seniors can use to call for help in the event of emergencies.  

Minimalist phones

Minimalist phones have fewer features and functions than conventional smartphones. They also tend to have no-frills designs, and many don’t provide access to the internet or other online services. Their barebones nature makes them especially appealing to people who want to reduce their screen time and focus on essential communication.

Children’s phones

Child taking with flip phone in hand

Nearly 9 out of 10 parents worldwide are concerned about their children’s online safety. Parents are particularly concerned about issues such as children accessing harmful content, experiencing internet addiction, and receiving anonymous messages. 

Children’s phones are attractive for parents who want to safeguard their children’s safety online. Many often have parental controls and fewer features than standard smartphones, making them ideal for parents who want to protect their children from online risks.

Unlock new opportunities: Expand your inventory with feature phones

Feature phones aren’t just a fad. They’re here to stay. As more and more consumers become concerned about their digital wellness, the demand for simple mobile phones is certain to surge. 

Want to capitalize on the resurgence of dumb phones? Visit Alibaba.com to find a wide range of dumb phones for every kind of consumer.

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