Forget apps, old-school mobiles ring in a comeback

May 25, 2014 by Katia Dolmadjian
A photo of an Ericsson mobile telephone sporting the slogan of Japan's Sony Corporation, 19 April 2001 in Stockholm. Japan's Sony Corp

They fit in a pocket, have batteries that last all week and are almost indestructible: old-school Nokias, Ericssons and Motorolas are making a comeback as consumers tired of fragile and overly-wired smartphones go retro.

Forget apps, video calls and smiley faces, handsets like the Nokia 3310 or the Motorola StarTec 130 allows just basic text messaging and calls.

But demand for them is growing and some of these second-hand models are fetching prices as high as 1,000 euros a piece.

"Some people don't blink at the prices, we have models at more than 1,000 euros. The high prices are due to the difficulty in finding those models, which were limited editions in their time," said Djassem Haddad, who started the site vintagemobile.fr in 2009.

Haddad had been eyeing a niche market, but since last year, sales have taken off, he said.

Over the past two to three years, he has sold some 10,000 handsets, "with a real acceleration from the beginning of 2013".

"The ageing population is looking for simpler phones, while other consumers want a second cheap phone," he said.

Among the top-sellers on the website is the Nokia 8210, with a tiny monochrome screen and plastic buttons, at 59.99 euros.

Ironically, the trend is just starting as the telecommunications industry consigns such handsets to the recycling bins, hailing smartphones as the way ahead.

A photo dated 17 February 2000 of a Nokia moble phone which is able to access Internet.

Finnish giant Nokia, which was undisputedly the biggest before the advent of Apple's iPhone or Samsung's Galaxy, offloaded its handset division to Microsoft this year after failing to catch the wave.

But it was probably also the supposedly irreversible switch towards smartphone that has given the old school phone an unexpected boost.

'Back to basics'

For Damien Douani, an expert on new technologies at FaDa agency, it is simply trendy now to be using the retro phone.

There is "a great sensation of finding an object that we knew during another era—a little like paying for vintage sneakers that we couldn't afford when we were teenagers," Douani told AFP.

There is also "a logic of counter-culture in reaction to the over-connectedness of today's society, with disconnection being the current trend."

"That includes the need to return to what is essential and a basic telephone that is used only for making and sending SMSes," he added.

An Ericsson promoter shows the mobile phone R290 Satellite which requires one subscription for both cellular and satellite usage at the CommunicAsia exhibition in Singapore 22 June 1999

It is also about "being different. Today, everyone has a smartphone that looks just like another, while ten years ago, brands were much more creative".

It is a mostly high-end clientele that is shopping at French online shop Lekki, which sells "a range of vintage, revamped mobile phones".

"Too many and an excess of email and applications, have made us slaves to technology in our everyday life. But Lekki provides a solution, allowing a return to basic features and entertainments," it said on its website.

A Motorola StarTac 130—a model launched in 1998—and repainted bright orange was recently offered for 180 euros, while an Ericsson A2628 with gold coloured keys for 80 euros.

"We have two types of profiles: the 25 to 35 year-olds attracted by the retro and offbeat side of a telephone that is a little different, and those who are nostalgic for the phone that they used when they were younger," said Maxime Chanson, who founded Lekki in 2010.

"Some use it to complement their smartphone, but others are going for the vintage, tired of the technology race between the phone makers."

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Lex Talonis
not rated yet May 25, 2014
Smart phones offer many great things...

I KIND of really like some things about them - because they can do almost everything - within the limits of processing power, time and battery life.

While the wonderful world of interconnectivity expands for ever, peoples time and patience doesn't.

alfie_null
5 / 5 (1) May 26, 2014
Smart phones offer many great things...

I KIND of really like some things about them - because they can do almost everything - within the limits of processing power, time and battery life.

Can you stick it in your back pocket? Use it in the shower? How well does it work for reading a novel? Or watching a movie? 3D movie? Nothing need be said about battery life.

Smart phones are ephemeral. In the not too distant future, the things they accomplish poorly today will be done in ways we're barely conceiving.
Osiris1
not rated yet May 26, 2014
I never went for those idiotic 'smartfone's that often do not have the ready ability to make simple fone calls. And I absolutely despise those 'spell checkers' with low vocabulary. One of those bastargs just told me that 'fone' was 'spelled wrong'. Well there are a couple of other mis...spellings here that say what computerized word censors would rather clip. T'will be a supremely evil day when the computerized blue noses can sniff out all the literary imaginability of man. Now see 'imaginability' is a prime example of a low intelligence spell checker..never catchit.
rockwolf1000
not rated yet May 27, 2014
I never went for those idiotic 'smartfone's that often do not have the ready ability to make simple fone calls. And I absolutely despise those 'spell checkers' with low vocabulary. One of those bastargs just told me that 'fone' was 'spelled wrong'. Well there are a couple of other mis...spellings here that say what computerized word censors would rather clip. T'will be a supremely evil day when the computerized blue noses can sniff out all the literary imaginability of man. Now see 'imaginability' is a prime example of a low intelligence spell checker..never catchit.


Exactly. Why have a smart"fone" when you could get an old Nokia and carry around an Oxford Concise Dictionary in your back pocket and never have an excuse for misspelled words again. Ever!
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) May 27, 2014
Why not just learn how to spell? You know....in school? It's not that hard. (And the occasional misspelled word isn't going to cause chaos.)

There are a limited number of things a smartphone would be useful for. I could IMAGINE the GPS ability as helpful in some situations. But honestly: I have never had a situation when I longed for a smartphone over the simple cellphone I've been using.
It phones. It texts. It tells the time. It works as an alarm clock in a pinch. It can take pictures in an emergency. It's tiny.

There's nothing else I really want (or need) while I'm on the go. Email/news/social media can wait till I get home. Anyone desperate to contact me immediately can ring or text.

rockwolf1000
not rated yet May 27, 2014
@AP

Agreed. Though the Maps/GPS functionality is quite good when it works properly. Very handy. As are some other apps such as converting units, avalanche/weather reports and calender which I use frequently. Other times I'd like to throw the damn thing in the lake.

I like the spell check function as I have fairly big fingers and typically make a lot of spelling mistakes for that reason alone as the buttons are quite small. The system generates a few possible correct words which I can easily select instead of re-typing and often re-re-typing words.

I will add that my old iphone3 fell out of my pocket over a hundred feet down while I was rappelling down a frozen waterfall and although the screen was totally shattered it still worked. And that's after it fell in the lake! Good work Apple!