Initially, there were disposable cameras. Then came the low-rise jeans era. Now, Gen-next Z’s “vintage” infatuation is the flip phone – a device from the mid-1990s that has exploded in popularity among millennials.

Today, these smaller, lighter devices – some of which are available for as little as $20 at big box retailers like Walmart and Amazon – are appearing in TikTok videos of young people unboxing them, bedazzling their cases as previous generations did, and filming tutorials on how to achieve a carefree, blurry aesthetic through the low quality camera.

But most essential, they appreciate the opportunity to unplug — or as much as feasible in 2023.

The singer Camila Cabello tweeted on Thursday, posing with a classic TCL flip phone, “I’m team flip phone revolution.” “Perhaps I can compose the theme tune.”

Dove Cameron, who rose to stardom on “Liv and Maddie” on the Disney Channel, stated in a November interview that she had converted to a flip phone. She stated that spending too much time on her phone and social media was detrimental to her health.

Cameron stated, “I discovered a Matrix-like flip phone from the 1990s.” “I have a different number for it, it’s incredibly inexpensive, and I believe it’s probably awful.”

Cameron stated that she unplugged and made a move since her social media presence was “misleading.” The sensation is widespread among Generation Z, and its effects have been connected to a mental health crisis among adolescents.

As smartphones and social media grew more pervasive about 2012, the rate of sadness among adolescents increased, according to psychologists. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, teen depression rates nearly doubled between 2004 and 2019.

A New Trend

Sammy Palazzolo, a freshman at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who is 18 years old, has a new phone routine when she goes out with pals at night.

As they prepare, she and her companions listen to the most recent music on their smartphones. Then, when it is time to depart, they abandon their smart devices.

Throughout the night, they communicate solely through their flip phones and capture images with their now-rudimentary cameras. Their products are excellent conversation starters.

“Partygoers will exclaim, ‘Oh my goodness, is that a flip phone?'” said Palazzolo. Everyone enjoys the opportunity to communicate with and meet new individuals.

Reagan Boeder, age 18, stated that she is attempting to gain the support of her sorority sisters.

Boeder stated, “I believe more and more people will use flip phones since they are so fun, nostalgic, and have a certain vibe.”

Prior to switching phones, Palazzolo’s nights out in her college town frequently ended in tears due to an unwanted social media post or a text from an ex; “the main cause was our phones.”

As retro technology began to make a comeback, they devised an unorthodox solution.

In December, she and three pals went to the Walmart in their neighbourhood. The 18-year-olds were inexperienced with the process, from determining which phone model to purchase to locating the best phone plan. After four hours, Palazzolo purchased the AT&T Flex for $49.99; her pals purchased Tracfone variants for $19.99.

With hashtags such as #BRINGBACKFLIPPHONES and #y2kaesthetic, Palazzolo’s TikTok urging others to purchase flip phones has received over 14 million views and over 3 million likes.

“It eliminates all the negative aspects of college and adds all the positive aspects of a phone,” remarked Palazzolo. Which involves interacting with others and taking photographs and videos. The photographs and movies on this are fire.”

HMD Global, the exclusive licensee of Nokia, has stated that Generation Z is an uncommon demographic for the corporation. Both businesses are headquartered in Finland.

Jackie Kates, HMD Global’s head of marketing, stated, “It’s a generation that didn’t have a Nokia as their first phone and likely discovered our brand through social networks.”

Geneation Z is accustomed to the multiple capabilities of smart phones, such as the numerous apps Instagram, Find My Friends, and GPS. However, there are safety risks associated with using these simple devices. Without the “find me” tracking feature, Palozzolo and her companions maintain track of who is where through a buddy system.

During one summer of high school, Palozzolo desired a flip phone because she felt it would be “cool.” “My parents said no way, we must be able to track you,” she said.

Back to Vintage

Since her second year of high school, Palazzolo has always brought a digital camera to parties.

Even though the Apple iPhone 14 Pro boasts a 48-megapixel camera, it lacks the delayed pleasure of having to wait for photographs to be developed or downloaded to a computer. Popular applications such as “Hisptamatic” and “Dazz Cam” reproduce digital and film camera images and have been downloaded by the hundreds.

The market for disposable cameras is expected to increase by $1.23 billion by 2030. Celebrities such as TikTokker Charlie D’Amelio and model Emily Ratajkowski have adopted the digital camera craze of the 2000s.

“I adore the grainy and hazy photos on flip phones,” said Palazzolo. And I believe that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of college nightlife.

Perhaps privacy and the absence of properly controlled photos are a factor in Gen Z’s nostalgia for the 1990s and 2000s. It’s social media at its most informal, with photo dumps containing candid images and BeReal, a popular app that requires users to take a selfie in real time and share it within two minutes once every day.

Boeder stated, “I never want to be that person that is constantly on their phone.” The acquisition of a flip phone made this somewhat more feasible.

Back then, “people were more engaged with one another than with their phones and social media,” said Boeder. It appeared that individuals were conversing with one another more and that everything was more natural and spontaneous.

According to HMD Global, many people enjoy the thought of being less accessible.

Kates stated, “We ascribe this shift to the realisation by many smartphone users that they are spending too much time attached to their gadgets and a strong desire to disengage and ‘be completely present’ in order to improve the quality of their social contacts.”

Yes, new Nokia flip phones are still available; prepaid brands such as Verizon sell the Nokia 2760 Flip at Walmart for $19.99. The 2780 is available for $89.99 at Amazon and Best Buy.

Back to vintage

International Data Corporation projected in 2022 that the market for foldable smartphones will reach $29 billion by 2025, a compound annual growth rate of 70%. Since the release of its first-generation model, Samsung has supplied over 10 million units, accounting for more than 88% of the global foldable smartphone market as of 2022.

These are not the $30 Walmart-available flip phones. The Galaxy Z Fold4 is priced at $1,799.99 while the Galaxy Z Flip4 is priced at $999.99.

“Samsung chose to bet on its foldable smartphones, a move that has put it far ahead of its competitors in the number and sales of foldable smartphones,” said Zaker Li, the team’s chief analyst for mobile devices.

Omdia ascribed the expensive price of Samsung’s foldable phones to its previous models’ dismal sales, but sales “rapidly soared” to 9 million devices in 2021, up 309% year-over-year.

Apple need not be concerned, though, as foldable phones are expected to account for 3.6% of the global smartphone market by 2026. Apple’s market share is greater than fifty percent of the global smartphone market.

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