Old flip-phones are the iPhone’s newest rival in Japan

By

15033180686_0ffbbb65a2_k
Are flip-phones making a comeback? Photo: Oscar Avellaneda-Cruz/Flickr CC

The iPhone has been killing it in Japan lately. Apple’s smartphone marketshare in the tech-obsessed country is continuing to dominate year-over-year, even though the company had a hard time giving out iPhones just five years ago.

With the iPhone 6’s bigger screen, the company is making more of an inroads than ever, but according to a report from Reuters, smartphones in Japan are facing stiff from competition from an unlikely suspect: flip-phones.

Shipments of traditional flip-phones in Japan rose for the first time in seven year in 2014 while smartphone shipments fell. Total shipments of flip-phones hit 10.58 million in 2014, according to data from market researcher MM Research Institute. Smartphone shipments still far exceed flip-phones with 27.70 million units, but that figure is 5.3% lower than 2013, and is the second consecutive year-over-year drop.

Japanese companies Panasonic and NEC have pulled out of the smartphone wars, but they’re still making flip-phones that are back in high demand. The retro flip-phones still lack apps and advanced features, but do offer voice calling, email, and basic Internet services.

Flip-phones are supposedly coming back into fashion in the U.S. this year too. Fashion icon Anna Wintour was spotted using one at the U.S. Open. Rihanna, Kate Beckinsale, and Scarlett Johansson have also been photographed using flip-phones, and even New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio is getting in on the dumb phone action too.

Handset makers will still have a tough time squeezing out iPhone sized profits from the flip-phone market though. Mobile penetration is saturated at 98.5 percent in Japan with 125 million subscriptions.

Source: Reuters