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Dumbphones: Retailers report boom in flip-phone sales in Switzerland

Dumbphones: Retailers report boom in flip-phone sales in Switzerland

Ever wanted to leave the endless sea of notifications on your mobile phone behind? You are not alone: according to data from Digitec Galaxus and Brack, sales of so-called dumbphones have skyrocketed in Switzerland in recent months.

Young people increasingly want less internet access

From the work emails after hours and social media notifications to the endless short self-improvement videos on Instagram and YouTube telling you to stop watching them, the “always on” culture of the 21st century is starting to catch up with many, especially young people. According to a study from American research firm Mintel, three out of five members of Generation Z - born approximately between 1997 and the early 2010s - want to be less connected to the internet.

This mentality has manifested itself in a new trend, ironically created on TikTok, that sees people ditch smartphones for so-called “dumbphones” like old-fashioned buttoned flip phones. These phones only provide support for phone calls and texts, and offer either clunky or non-existent access to social media and other apps.

Flip phone sales in Switzerland skyrocket

According to the New Yorker, sales of flip phones and other types of dumbphones  doubled in the United States between 2022 and 2023. Now, there is evidence to suggest that the trend is making its way to Swiss cities and cantons.

Speaking to 20 Minuten, a spokesperson for Digitec Galaxus confirmed that they “have already made the same amount of sales of such cell phones this year as we did in the whole of 2023”, adding that they are popular with both young and old. Online retailer Brack has also seen sales of dumbphones increase by 88 percent in 2024 so far, compared to the same period last year. 

In explaining the phenomenon, Swiss sociologist Katja Rost told the newspaper that young people no longer feel the pressure to be “always online”. “Constant accessibility will be disrupted. People realise that it isn’t good for them.” 

The right to be offline in Switzerland

The move towards remote working, and new proposals designed to guarantee the right to be left alone, are all signs that attitudes toward social media are changing. However, the change is not universal, with Rost noting that older generations often struggle more with being “always on”, mainly because they have not grown up with social media in the same way as Gen Z and Generation Alpha.

By contrast, Comparis expert Jean-Claude Frick argued that smartphone makers need not be concerned, noting that the “hype” at the moment does not mean that young people are doing away with technology entirely. For her part, Rost said that the move towards dumbphones and abstinence from social media is part of a long-term process: “First come the extremes, then there is a counter-trend and finally the level settles in the middle.”

Jan de Boer

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Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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