What happened around us comes to us.
Popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, clamshell “folding phones” were fashionable for their compact design – a fraction of the size of bulky “brick” phones a few years earlier – and for offering a satisfying closure when you hung up.
But foldable phones weren’t ideal for texting since you had to press a key up to three times to land on the letter you wanted, not to mention the ultra-small screens. And if you’re lucky enough to own a flip phone with a camera, the pictures were grainy or pixelated.
Feature-rich smartphones — such as the iPhone in 2007 and Android devices starting in 2008 — quickly stole market share from foldable phones and other mobile phones (including “candy bar”-shaped devices).
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Fast-forward to 2023, and despite its limitations, this ancient technology seems to have been a charm among Gen Z.
Why did we go back to flip phones?
Thanks to several high-profile TikTok personalities talking about foldable phones, the hashtag #bringbackflipphones has over 25 million views on the social media platform, along with other related and popular hashtags, such as #y2kaesthetic.
The craze can initially be linked to Sammy Palazzolo (@skzzolno), who says that foldable phones aren’t just about older sets, but the 18-year-old college student believes our reliance on smartphones can have a negative impact on young users and trading for them. Having a simpler phone when out with friends leads to a better and less stressful night out.
While sales data isn’t available yet, Google says searches for “foldable phone” have increased more than 140 percent over the past five years.
Even young artists, like 25-year-old Cuban-born Camila Cabello, Post this To her 13 million followers on Twitter: “I’m Team Phone Revolution. Maybe I can write the theme song guys 💪💪💪💪”
“It started with Samsung’s foldable phone, and it was a huge hit in South Korea,” Tim Bajarin, a veteran technology analyst and chairman of market research firm Creative Strategies based in San Jose, California, tells USA TODAY in an interview. “Then it started appearing in TikTok videos, which caught the attention of Generation Z, a demographic unfamiliar with foldable phones in the 1990s, and they started looking at these models.”
Bajarin says that foldable phones seem to be “a fad for this generation at this moment,” but that social media interest in foldable phones may eventually have an impact on new smartphone designs “if it shows a real demand for them.”
Gen Z TikTokers have also posted about other vintage technologies, including film cameras (and instant print cameras), turntables, cassette players, and arcade machines.
How much is a foldable phone?
There are two options for purchasing a flip phone.
Resist buying an old flip phone—say, on eBay—because that old technology may not work now that most major carriers shut down 3G service last year.
Like Sammy K, you can spend anywhere from $20 to $50 to get a new flip phone, with some higher-end models featuring “modern” amenities like Bluetooth connectivity and a better camera with flash.
Or you can opt for a modern twist on the classic foldable phone design, which will cost as much as a smartphone.
Starting at $889, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 has an innovative OLED display that folds in half.
When closed, this 5G-enabled foldable phone is small enough to slip into jeans or a handbag, and with a 1.9-inch cover display for viewing notifications and messages from the outside, and built-in Samsung Pay to buy something in retail by waving the device up. contactless station.
When you want more real estate, maybe you’re watching a TikTok video, playing a game, reading an e-book, or browsing the web – the Z Flip4 opens up to reveal a 6.7-inch Full HD+ Dynamic AMOLED display, with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate.
Or fold it halfway for hands-free video calling, propped up in an “L” shape, to place on a table or desk.
The waterproof Android phone also features dual 12MP cameras (plus a 10MP selfie camera), fast wireless charging, and several colors.
Follow Marc on Twitter for his “Tech Tip of the Day” posts: @marc_saltzman. Send him an email or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of USA TODAY.