Are the Return of Flip-Phones Our Attempt to Appeal to ‘Dialing Down’ Screen-time?

Published on February 20, 2020

As more and more studies show how our smartphones are causing negative impacts to our mental health and the way we go about our days, consumers are becoming aware of how these devices are heightening anxieties, diminishing social connection, and distracting us from the now. And now, flip phones are making their return.

But with what feels to be a constant out-pour of new smartphones and specs, is just an entirely new progression, which can be overwhelming to keep up with and comprehend. Consequently, familiarity and simplicity are proving to be a more comforting move for some, but for others, the motive is to unplug from these addictive habits. 

A study done by Counterpoint Research shows that the smartphone market only grew by 2% in 2017 while “dumb phones” rose by 5%. This statistic clearly shows a movement towards simplicity, as we become more conscious of reducing screen time and seriously pursue our efforts to unplug.

In response to this movement, smartphone brands like Samsung, Motorola, and others are returning to the nostalgic flip-phone design to appeal to those who want more simple and less technical. 

Take Motorola’s new smartphone Razr for example, while the flip-phone design keeps to the old phone look, the software still operates on a Snapdragon 710 processor with 6GB of Ram and 128GB of internal storage; destroying the idea of a simple-feature phone.

It’s clear that this is a small step towards getting us to unplug, as our highly saturated, push notification filled screen is no longer our initial impression; but it’s still a step worth noting.

Recent leaks of the Samsung Galaxy Z flip suggest that this flip-phone may not even include an outer screen; which will hopefully propel our efforts in being more present within our lives and less with our phones. This change in functionality may be a move towards consumers who want a balance between smartphone features and a less screen-addicted life.

It comes as no shock to hear engineers confirm that aspects of smartphones are intended to keep users addicted; take the infinite scroll feature for example, which has been known to lead users to develop impulse-control problems, keep time-management at bay, and lead us to shorter attention spans than that of a goldfish (and yes, that ranks us in at a record low 8 seconds).

Consider the color of our beautifully saturated screens, also known to draw us in.

Maybe the idea here is that, without that initial 6.4” colorful screen greeting us with an array of push notifications, we’ll be less likely to mindlessly engage and more likely to control ourselves. Maybe this shift in design will help us take reign of our impulse-control, maybe it won’t. We’ll just have to wait and see if this trend stands the test of time. 

Kristen Sallaberry is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in New York, she covers the realm of consumer tech and how these ever-progressing gadgets affect our lives. A creative writer and music-head, she also writes for online music publication, Sound of Boston, where she reviews and premieres new music, and co-writes a hip-hop focused column.

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