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MWC 2024: You can be anything – even a Flip Phone

The Barbie phone is on its way, and it’s a retro feature phone designed to help users switch off.

Make way for the Barbie Flip Phone! The maker of Nokia handsets, Human Mobile Devices (HMD), has partnered with Mattel to turn the toy company’s most successful franchise into a foldable phone. And it’s not a smartphone.

It’s finally given HMD an excuse to put its hype machine into overdrive, as it declared during Mobile World Congress 2024 in Barcelona this week: “Barbie is an icon of design, from the chevron stripes of No. 1 Barbie released in 1959 to the bold styling of Totally Hair Barbie which hit the market in 1992. This device promises to embody the vintage chic of the original girl empowerment brand with a dash of pink and of course, sparkle.”

HMD chief marketing officer Lars Silberbauer says: “Is it time to swap reel life for real life and take a breather from all the interruptions of notifications?” 

According to HMD, flip phones are “beloved for offering a solution for a digital detox in a world where almost four in ten (38%) of 16–24-year-olds worry they spend too much time on their smartphone”.

This is claimed to be the only age group whose daily time on social media has fallen since Q1 2021 for the better. Since 2021, talking to friends online dropped 13%, while seeing friends in-person increased to 28%.

Self-named “screenagers” took to TikTok with #bringbackflipphones garnering 60.2-million views. 

As a result, feature phones are making a comeback, with HMD reporting Flip Phone sales alone more than doubled in Europe from 2022 to 2023, and expecting further growth in 2024. 

Arne Mathiasen, advocate of the feature phone movement, works with young people in Denmark to help them switch off and enjoy the present.  So far, he has converted over 1,500 university students from a smartphone to a feature phone. 

He said: “My students take part in experiments where they switch to a feature phone for ten days. The students noticeably chatted more with each other, reported better sleep and also said their anxiety levels dropped. It’s all about the balance; I like to say to my students, use your smartphone like a tablet, use it for what you need, then put it away, don’t get lost in it.” 

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