Someone casually pulls out his phone from his pocket during a coffee break in between a series of morning meetings, peers at it for a while before flipping open the lid to start talking into the mouthpiece.
At the gesture, several of his colleagues look on in surprise ? shock even ? and they venture to ask him, “how in the world can you still be holding onto such a phone?”
Flip phones are usually feature phones, also called second-generation or 2G phones running on the previous second-generation communication networks, and it seemed like their days had been numbered when smartphones hit the Korean landscape several years ago.
Currently, up to three-fifths of the Korean population uses smartphones, with computer-like operating systems that run high-tech applications for playing games, finding directions, juggling schedules and anything else designed to make life that much more convenient and entertaining.
Yet up to 20 million people in the country still use a feature phone, and are refusing to switch. In fact, many are demanding new designs for their “outdated” phones.
“We don’t want to switch to smartphones, but we do want our feature phones to look hipper,” said one blogger who is a member of the blog, “For a united “010.” The mobile prefix “010” is the first used for smartphones, and began use with 2G feature phones in 2004.
The Korea Internet Security Agency said that according to a survey, the number of those who are signing up for smartphones for the first time has actually dropped to 19.3 percent of new users this year, down from 36.7 percent and 47.4 percent from previous surveys.
Students also have been cutting back on smartphones, as more youngsters are becoming wary of the side effects of owning a smartphone such as a lack of conversation with friends and family and a distraction from studying or socializing.
“When I’m with my friends, we’re all usually staring into our phones,” lamented Kim So-hee, a high school sophomore in Seoul.
Recently, high school students have started campaigns to voluntarily change back to feature phones.
Market research institute IHS estimates show that the global market for feature phones and low-end smartphones will reach 653 million handsets this year.
Phone makers now seem to be taking note of the growing disenchantment with smartphones, not to mention the lingering nostalgia for the previous generation of cell phones.
Samsung, the world’s top smartphone maker, has released such 2G phones at both home and abroad.
Samsung’s REX series unveiled in India last week is a feature phone aimed for mostly the overseas low-end markets.
However, one difference is that even feature phones these days offer some degree of “smartness,” so that the user doesn’t feel too left out.
It was the same for REX.
“The REX series is for consumers who want the mobile experience, but at a lower cost,” said one Samsung Electronics official.
Samsung said it will continue to roll out mobile phones that can cater to the changing lifestyle needs of the consumers.
In January this year, Samsung unveiled its first second-generation-exclusive phone in nearly two years, the Wise II 2G.