Forget apps, old-school mobiles ring in a comeback

Forget apps, old-school mobiles ring in a comeback

Sunday, May 25, 2014 – 12:34

AFP

PARIS – 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 phone 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 sitevintagemobile.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.

Finnish giant Nokia, which was undisputedly the biggest mobile phone company before the advent of Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s Galaxy, offloaded its handset division to Microsoft this year after failing to catch the smartphone 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 phone calls and sending SMSes,” he added.

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 online social networks 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.”

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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