Are feature phones making a comeback?

Modern smartphones offer the kind of functionality that was once the stuff of science fiction.

Loaded with invaluable apps, user-friendly interfaces and impressive memory capacity and processing power, the smartphone has become an essential item for consumers in this digital age.

But it seems that many people are starting to turn their back on them, as new figures have revealed that old-fashioned feature phones are growing in popularity.

In fact, data from market research group GfK shows these handsets now account for six per cent of all mobile purchases in Australia.

Of course, this is some way down on the 23 per cent market share that feature phones enjoyed in 2012.

Nevertheless, it's a clear sign that even in an era when people are used to all-singing and all-dancing smartphones, there's still a clear place in the market for feature phones, such as Nokia flip phones and the Telstra Easycall 4.

And let's not forget that Nokia is gearing up to launch a revamped version of its legendary 3310, which we wouldn't bet against pushing up the market share for feature phones a little bit more over the coming months.

So why is this happening? Why are people actively going for devices that offer less functionality? Is retro simply cool again, or are there more practical forces at work here?

Brendan Dowd, senior accounts director at GfK, believes it's because feature phones are easy to use and not confusing, as well as very cheap.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, he said this makes them perfect for the likes of travellers and senior citizens.

“I think there will always be some old-school phones out there, like the big button ones for elderly people or travellers,” Mr Dowd commented.

As a result, he believes more brands will start following Nokia's lead in re-issuing new versions of older handsets.

“Cost is a factor in any purchase decision and if you get something cheaper and it does what you need it to do, then of course it would be good,” Mr Dowd said.

“We could see entry level phones pick up in sales or even cheaper mid-range smartphones selling as well.”

The apparent resurgence of feature phones is by no means a warning sign that the smartphone sector is under threat.

The likes of the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy are dominant in the mobile industry and we see no reason why that will change in the near future.

But the figures are a reminder that smartphones don't represent the entire sector and there is still a place for other types of mobile phone.

Basic models that work simply as a phone rather than a computer are all that some people want, so we're looking forward to seeing how actively the world's major mobile manufacturers will cater to this growing demand.

Written by Mazuma

Mazuma Mobile is Australia's most trusted mobile phone recycling service.

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