Home > Latest News > Barbie Gets A Flip Phone In What Is A Feature Phone Resurgence

Barbie Gets A Flip Phone In What Is A Feature Phone Resurgence

Barbie gets an HMD feature phone.

Finnish phone maker Human Mobile Devices aka HMD is surfing the Barbie craze. It has announced a collaboration with Barbie manufacturer Mattel to release a special Barbie Flip feature phone by mid year.

The announcement was made jointly by HMD Global and Mattel at the Mobile World Congress telecommunications conference in Barcelona attended by ChannelNews Australia.

But why a flip phone, and not a shiny new smartphone with all the modern features including AI? Isn’t Barbie a clever little thing? Or is she some kind of luddite?

HMD Global argues there is cultural sense in Barbie taking up a flip phone rather than a modern-era smartphone. And while it’s partly about Gen Z, it’s not just a generational shift, it’s a cultural movement, says the company.

It says the simplicity of flip phones offers a digital detox solution in a world where almost four in ten (38%) of 16-24 year-olds worry they spend too much time on their smartphone.  In the US, a third of Gen Z are actively trying to limit time on social media, and their fear of missing out (FOMO) is creeping down.

“The great switch-off trend, initiated in 2021, is gaining momentum as people of all ages seek balance in an increasingly digital world. Feature phones are making a comeback with HMD reporting Flip Phone sales alone more than doubled in Europe (2022 vs 2023) and expects further growth in 2024,” the company says.

Barbie gets an HMD feature phone.

Barbie gets an HMD feature phone.

“Feature phones are on the rise as Gen Z and millennials are choosing to limit their screen time for their own mental health. Self-named ‘screenagers’ took to TikTok with #bringbackflipphones garnering 60.2 million views.

“Gen Z are the only generation 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%.

“Even celebrities are jumping on board, with Michael Cera, opting for a flip phone lifestyle.”

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

“We’re thrilled to partner with Mattel, a company that shares our commitment to meaningful innovation and societal change.” 

Mattel Head of Consumer Products, Publishing, and LBE, Ruth Henriquez said the Barbie/HMD launch promised to be an exciting moment for Barbie fans of all ages. “We’re excited to flip the switch and unveil it to the world at Mobile World Congress.”

The statement also revealed a feature phone movement in Denmark converting back even university students.

It says Arne Mathiasen, advocate of the feature phone movement, had converted more than 1500 university students from a smartphone to a feature phone.

“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.” 

Whether a feature phone rollback gains momentum remains to be seen. It is a great marketing ploy whatever the case.

More coverage: HMD Global goes multi brand, with more self repairable phones to come.

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