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Flip Phones: Why do people still love the clamshell?

The flip phone rose to greatness in the late 90s and early 2000s, but miraculously it appears to be undergoing something of a renaissance as we step into 2016.

Before the term ‘smartphone’ even existed, before apps (at least as we know them today) and originally, before colour screens, phones diversified through their physical designs more than anything else.

Motorola popularised the clamshell, but every major phone brand has since tried its hand at the form factor at one time or another. The move to smartphones with larger screens and greater functionality pushed flip phones aside as the blower of choice for many, but in certain circles they never really went away.

Hollywood’s love of flip phones has endured and they continue to crop up in even some of the latest blockbusters. It’s perhaps down to the very nature of the hinged design that makes them so appealing to filmmakers; you can clearly signpost the start and end of a call to the viewer or give an actor a more deliberate action to pull off. Like slamming a door, you can close a flip phone aggressively, but it’s a lot harder to give tapping the ‘end call’ button on a touchscreen the level of same gravitas.

Japan and other Asian markets have shown an unrelenting love of the flip phone too; a love so strong in fact that it’s spurred a whole subset of what are known as Galapagos phones.

Samsung W2016
Samsung and LG are two of the biggest brands still producing flip phones on the regular.

Such devices hold on to characteristics or traits that have died off elsewhere in the world, (such as the clamshell form factor) continuing to develop and evolve independently of the wider world of mobile phones. In fact Samsung recently launched the W2016 – a dual-screened Android-powered flip phone for the Chinese market, packing performance not that far from the company’s 2015 flagship, the Galaxy S6.

Aside from these specific areas however, the flip phone hasn’t really been seen in the mainstream for a long time, but that is slowly changing. Recently, an increasing number of celebrities and influencers have been seen sporting flip phones, from American Vogue’s editor, Anna Wintour to Rihanna and most recently and notably, British singer, Adele.

You may have heard the first major release from the singer’s newest album, titled ‘Hello’. In it we see the singer herself and her on-screen lost love bookend the music video with expertly brandished flip phones.

As to why flip phones are reemerging in mainstream culture once again isn’t completely clear, but it could well be a by-product of the social media-centric age we live in. In an effort to remove oneself from the battery of emails, Facebook posts, Snapchat snaps and tweets we constantly receive, switching from a conventional smartphone to a more traditional flip phone makes a lot of sense.

By greatly reducing the amount of digital noise you’re faced with each day there’s less of a need to constantly check your phone and by proxy, you’re left free to exist in the moment.

Whilst the smartphone has irrevocably altered the way consumers see mobile telephony nowadays, there’s also an increasingly strong drive to hold onto a certain level of personal privacy that social media constantly encroaches upon. Not to mention simplifying things every now and then is no bad thing.

So, is your next handset going to be the 2016 iPhone, or perhaps something a little more classic, perhaps with a hinge in the middle?


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