Why Old-School Cell Phones Are Making a Comeback

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
CC BY-NC 2.0. the_ml

Most of the time, technology just keeps moving forward and we as consumers keep moving along with it, but there are exceptions. Many of us have record players and listen to music on vinyl along with our MP3s or we still shoot photos on film, even though digital images are far easier to process and share. There are many reasons for this, from nostalgia to a genuine preference for the performance of the older technology.

It looks like cell phones from the past decade to 15 years or so, are starting to find that place in people's lives as well.

Smartphones are amazing. They connect us with our world in ways we probably couldn't even imagine our phone doing just a few years ago, but they also have their downsides like fast-draining batteries, large size and addictive qualities.

A recent news story that has made the rounds in several publications is about how a wave of people -- young and old alike -- are returning to old school, simple cell phones instead of smartphones. The smartphone market isn't slowing down, but many people are choosing the older models for a wide range of reasons.

The Daily Mail reports that cell phone resellers have seen a surge in purchases since last year. Vintage models like old Nokias, Ericssons and Motorolas are not only selling quickly, but at large sums.

"Some people don't blink at the prices, we have models at more than €1,000 (£810 or $1,360)," Djassem Haddad, who started the site vintagemobile.fr in 2009, told AFP.

"The high prices are due to the difficulty in finding those models, which were limited editions in their time."

A Nokia 8800 Arte Gold is currently listed on the site for €1,000 (£810 or $1,360), while a Nokia 8800 could be purchased for €250 (£200 or $337).

cell phone stack

Scallop Holden/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Why are people returning to the old phones? The smaller, more pocket-friendly size, the battery that lasts one to two weeks, and, if you're not picky, options that can still be bought for a small price.

Also, remember how rugged those older phones were? How many times did you drop yours and have it survive with barely a scratch? Smartphones are notoriously fragile and many people are tired of worrying over cracked screens.

But maybe most of all, people are switching as a direct response to the totally connected lives we now lead. If you already have a tablet or laptop or both, why have a smartphone too? A basic phone that lets you make calls and send texts may be preferable at that point.

And just like people's fondness for music on vinyl, an old cell phone has a vintage feel and people feel trendy and different from the masses by using one instead of a smartphone that looks everyone else's smartphone.

"We have two types of profiles: the 25 to 35 year-olds attracted by the retro and offbeat side of a telephone that is a little different, and those who are nostalgic for the phone that they used when they were younger," said Maxime Chanson, who founded Lekki, a cell phone reseller, in 2010.

"Some use it to complement their smartphone, but others are going for the vintage, tired of the technology race between the phone makers."

The best part of this new trend is all of the older cell phones that are getting new lives instead of becoming e-waste. Many of you may still have one or two of these older phones kicking around in a drawer somewhere. Now might be the time to sell it or perhaps even start using it again.