AH Tech Talk: Japan Is Still A Huge Market For Flip Phones

Flip phones may be a thing of the past for most of us here in the U.S. and many other regions around the globe, but they are still very popular and very much in production in some Asian parts of the world. Japan is one of those countries where you'll typically still find flip phones as a common occurrence and they continue to come out as new devices, albeit with newer and smarter features than the days we remember them here in the states.

While the days of flip phones are long gone in the US, according to Business Insider, Japanese shipments of traditional flip phones rose in 2014 for the first time in seven years, while shipments of the traditional smartphone fell.  This is not to say that they sold more flip phones in Japan during 2014 - only that sales of flip phones models, dubbed "Galapagos," because they are designed to meet the unique Japanese standards and tastes - have risen this year.  Researcher MM Research Institute Ltd shows that in 2014, flip phone sales of 10.58 million rose 5.7-percent, while smartphone sales of 27.70 million fell 5.3-percent.

Japan already enjoys a 98.5-percent saturation rate with 125 million subscribers so hopes of growing the market are almost no existent.  Users in Japan are also the victims of some of the highest smartphone fees of the developed nations and flip phones offer some of the lowest rates.  They have become accustomed to using their mobile phone for talking and texting.  They do not need the larger displays for web surfing, watching videos or reading books.  Japanese companies such as Panasonic and NEC, no longer able to compete with Apple, Samsung and some of the Chinese companies, have stopped making smartphones - they still compete with Fujitsu and Sharp making flip phones, however. Flip phones also tend to have a longer service life, so the Japanese users get more bang for their Yen.  MM Research Executive Analyst Hideaki Yokot said, "Smartphones are also peaking in terms of functionality and they [smartphones] tend to last a long time as well, so there are fewer renewals."  Because of this longevity, 2014's strong year may not be repeated for a while, if ever, as younger people convert to the larger screened smartphones.

One has to wonder if Japan's love of flip phones will spill over to the US and other parts of the world or has the world forever switched to candy bar smartphones?  Who ever said that a smartphone and flip phone could not be one in the same?  Samsung has come out with some high-end flip phones with 4-inch displays - however, they will never leave the Asian market even though there seems to be a small renaissance of sorts among some people, including some celebrities that are tired of being hacked.  Without data capabilities, when you take a day off, you can really have a day off. New York Times columnist Michael Musto said, "People are going back to the flip phone because it works, it is functional, you just flip it open.  Also, you don't have to get internet on it.  You can actually go out and enjoy whatever you're experiencing instead of taking pictures for Instagram and looking at it later."

While the flip phone is definitely considered obsolete, there is a certain comfort in them - they are very functional, more secure, and unpretentious.  I have talked to many older people that would love to get a new flip phone, but chances of the newer models coming into the US are slim - carriers are making their most profits on data usage and they want to sell those data sucking smartphones.  But we want to ask you - If you had access to a modernized flip/smartphone, would you or anybody you know be interested in actually purchasing one?  Please hit us up on our Google+ Page and let us know if you have any fond memories or nightmares of an old flip phone...or if you ever owned a flip phone...as always, we would love to hear from you.

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Cory McNutt

Senior Staff Writer
Cory has written for Androidheadlines since 2013 and is a Senior Writer for the site. Cory has a background in Accounting and Finance and worked for the FBI in the past. From there he pursued his Masters in English Literature. Cory loves Android and Google related technology and specializes in Smartphone Comparisons on our site. Contact him at [email protected]
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