With their innovative touchscreens and streamlined ergonomic design, smartphones have been at the forefront of mobile technology for the better part of a decade. Each year bears witness to an even greater prevalence on the market. However, it seems that not all minds think alike. Figures released from 2014 have shown that sales of traditional flip phones have increased for the first time in seven years across Japan. What is perhaps even more interesting is that this country is at the leading edge of many technological triumphs. So, why have we seen what apparently can only be called a paradigm shift?
As with most countries, cost is still king. It is clear that flip phones have always been cheaper than even some of the most basic smartphones. So, the Japanese seem to be swayed by the overall price tags involved. In this case, statistics do not lie. A report released from MM Research Ltd. highlighted the fact that sales of smartphones fell 5.3 per cent in 2014. This was the second year in a row that such a drop had been witnessed. Also, it should be kept in mind that Japanese consumers currently pay some of the highest smartphone tariffs in the world. When we combine these two factors, it is easy to see why some would prefer their older counterparts.
Another variable to consider is that the capabilities of flip phones have advanced massively in recent times. Email, text messaging, voice calling and basic Internet access are now standard features which are offered by nearly every phone on the market. So, many consumers will actually prefer to enjoy these rudimentary services as opposed to the robust gigabytes of data that often accompany smartphones. Of course, this is not to say that flip phones have no drawbacks. Data usage is limited, many are not equipped to handle 4G transfer rates and the video capabilities are notably lacking. Although such amenities are attractive to many individuals, it is apparent that a segment of the Japanese population enjoys a more pronounced sense of frugality.
Another perceived reason for the increase in flip phone sales revolves around competition within this sector. Giants including NEC and Panasonic have all but pulled out of the smartphone market. They are simply unable to keep up with multinational corporations such as Apple and Samsung. As the top smartphones can often be prohibitively expensive within the Japanese retail market, it is no surprise that consumers are now opting for functionality over design.
However, many analysts have pointed to a “peak” in both sectors. The smartphone and flip phone markets have grown significantly during the past decade. The fact still remains that many phones last a great deal longer and can be upgraded from within the cloud. Thus, fewer one-off purchases are likely to be made. While there is no doubt that the appeal of these modern phones is impressive, one must wonder whether such expensive rates may actually harm overall profits and growth.