Retro phones: the new vinyl or film photography?

The South China Morning Post wrote an article about what it perceived as a rise in retro or feature phone usage. The article cited Lëkki as an example of such handsets becoming trendy, rather like retro re-issues of Nike Air Jordans or the adidas Originals range.
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In reality:

  • This isn’t a new trend, UK site, Retro Fones have been going since the mid-noughties, vintagemobile.fr and Lëkki has been around since 2009 and 2010 respectively. There are have been eBay stores going even longer specialising in supporting Nokia’s 6310i for well over a decade – since it worked so well for business travellers
  • It isn’t as big as the article would make one believe, this is a small craft business at best, it would make vinyl records and print photography look like major corporate concerns in comparison
  • It does highlight a number of weak points in smartphones. The designs don’t cater for self-expression, they don’t provide a ‘switch-off’ button from their electronic lives, they aren’t perceived as being robust, their battery lives are poor, they aren’t a convenient size for everyone and their call quality leaves much to be desired
  • Network technology is changing which will ‘brick’ these old cellphones once and for all. A move away from 2G networks to give spectrum to 3 and 4G technologies in developed markets effectively kills off these phones

Probably one of the best options to get the benefits of a feature phone is Nokia’s 515, which looks like a traditional candy bar phone and supports 3.5G networks. Supplies are apparently thinning out, but you can still get one new for around 100-115GBP on eBay.

More information
Dig out that Nokia 3310: What’s old is new again as vintage mobile phones take off | South China Morning Post (paywall)
vintagemobile.fr
Lëkki
Retro Fones