THEY fit in a pocket, have batteries that last all week and are almost indestructible: old-school Nokias, Ericssons and Motorolas are making a comeback as consumers tired of fragile and overly-wired smartphones.
With no apps, video calls or smiley faces, handsets like the Nokia 3310 or the Motorola StarTec 130 allow just basic text messaging and phone calls.
But demand for them is growing, according to reports out of Europe, where some of these second-hand models are fetching prices as high as 1000 euros ($1500) a piece.
“Some people don’t blink at the prices, we have models at more than 1000 euros. The high prices are due to the difficulty in finding those models, which were limited editions in their time,” said Djassem Haddad, who started the site vintagemobile.fr in 2009.
Haddad had been eyeing a niche market, but since last year, sales have taken off, he said.
Over the past two to three years, he has sold some 10,000 handsets, “with a real acceleration from the beginning of 2013”.
“The ageing population is looking for simpler phones, while other consumers want a second cheap phone,” he said
Among the top-sellers on the website is the Nokia 8210, with a tiny monochrome screen and plastic buttons, at $90.
Ironically, the trend is just starting as the telecommunications industry consigns such handsets to the recycling bins, hailing smartphones as the way ahead.
Finnish giant Nokia, which was undisputedly the biggest mobile phone company before the advent of Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy, offloaded its handset division to Microsoft this year after failing to catch the smartphone wave.
But it was probably also the supposedly irreversible switch towards the smartphone that has given the old school phone an unexpected boost.