To read many of the news that have come out in recent months, it seems that old cell phones are about to make their big comeback. Not only that: to fuel this alleged wave it would be Generation Z, motivated by the desire to combat addiction from smartphones and the harmful effects on mental health generated by social networks.
Before looking at the data, it can be helpful to remember what it is i cosiddetti dumb phone: these are simply old-fashioned cell phones, the ones used 10-15 years ago. They are cell phones without an Internet connection and any advanced apps or features. And which we can therefore use practically only for calling and texting (but not for WhatsApp, for example). Usually there is a flashlight supplied and sometimes a camera with very limited capabilities.
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Starting since 2007, when the first iPhone was introducedthe vast majority of the population (especially in economically advanced countries) has rapidly moved on to smartphones: real pocket personal computers, which we insist on calling telephones even if the phone calls they are just one of many activities for which we use them (and certainly not the most widespread).
Within a few years the smartphone has changed our livesallowing us to have constant access to the Web, social media, messaging platforms and a host of other features, with the As a result (according to some estimates) we check our phones on average every 10 minutesor 144 times a day.
All this, inevitably, has a price: reduced ability to concentrate, constant availability, notifications that besiege us from morning to night and in short everything that means that smartphone abuse has now become a social problem. Tools like il Do not disturb of iPhone and other devices (which allows you to deactivate notifications, or part of them, in moments when we need to concentrate or disconnect) represent a simple palliative, too easy to circumvent and therefore not very effective for those who find it difficult to resist the attraction that the simple presence of the smartphone exerts about us.
In short, we need don’t even have the chance to access social media and all other apps. And it is precisely to satisfy this need that people are increasingly returning to old mobile phones. A revolution (or rather, a restoration) led as said by very young people of Generation Zwho are developing a growing awareness of the harmful effects of smartphones.
Ma how much truth there is in all this? The data that appeared in the many newspapers that reported on this alleged return are ambiguous. For example, an analyst interviewed by CNBC he explained that “in North America the market for old cell phones is essentially flat. But I expect it to rise by as much as 5% over the next few years, based on mental health concerns.” Very similar speeches are also found in a study by the research company Counterpoint.
In summary: old cell phones are not selling more at all but they could do it. However, it is thought that sales could increase slightly in the next 5 years thanks to the growing attention towards the problem of smartphone addiction. This is the prediction of a phenomenon that hasn’t even started yet.
As true as it is that attention regarding the problems generated by smartphones is on the increase (and also that Gen Z is showing intolerance towards social media, taking refuge in the so-called digital bonfires), it’s a long way from here to claiming that old cell phones are coming back into fashion.
In the United States, the dumb phone market represents approximately 2% of the global mobile phone market. Not only that: sales have been in an unstoppable decline for years. Also in the United States, in 2018, 4.3 million old cell phones were sold per year, falling to 3.1 in 2020 and 2.8 in 2023. Estimates from the Statista company they predict the number will drop to 2.1 in 2028.
I numbers are slightly different in Europe, where a greater number of dumb phones are sold and where the decline is more limited. The trend, however, is the same: from 23 million sold in 2018, it drops to 15 in 2023, which should reach 12.5 by 2028. More generally, it is estimated that 80% of sales of traditional cell phonesfrom companies such as HMD/Nokia, TCL, Punkt and others, take place in African, Asian and Middle Eastern markets.
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But then because we are talking about the return of old cell phones, when the data says otherwise? The feeling, judging by the many videos of influencers who, paradoxically, publish their praise of dumb phones on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, is that a marketing campaign is underway, probably powered by the manufacturers of these phones and focused on the importance of mental well-being threatened by smartphones.
A theme, that of mental well-being, of crucial importance for a society that in many cases (and not only as regards the very young) feels besieged by smartphones and their notifications. And it certainly cannot be ruled out that, for this very reason, phones with more limited capabilities will actually appear in the future chosen by a growing part of the population. The problem is that, despite the news circulating from various quarters, there is still not even a trace of all this.