People in Japan are raging over flip phones, ushering in for 2014 an increase in shipments for the first time in seven years. In contrast, the demand for smartphones fell on its second year in a row.
According to Japan's telecommunications ministry, shipment of flip phones increased by as much as 5.7 percent, reaching a whopping number of 10.58 million in the previous year. Smartphone shipments dropped to 5.3 percent, numbering 27.70 million.
NEC Corp and Panasonic Corp, Japanese electronics making companies, have stopped their consumer smartphone business operations as they were unable to compete with huge names such as Apple and Samsung. However, they still manufacture flip phones and continue to compete in a crowded market with companies such as Sharp and Fujitsu.
MM Research said that Japan's mobile market covers a small scope for a significant overall growth, which is shown by a mobile penetration rate percentage of 98.5 or subscriptions numbering to 125 million.
Executive analyst Hideaki Yokota of MM Research said that smartphones are peaking because of their increasing functionality.
"They tend to last a long time as well, so there are fewer renewals," said Yokota. He added that the year 2014 was a strong year for flip phones in terms of renewals in their subscription cycle. However, he doesn't believe that last year's growth will be duplicated this year.
Compared to smartphones, flip phones have a more manageable battery life. This can be attributed to their lack of touchscreen and their relatively smaller displays. They also have notably cheaper contracts as opposed to the contracts that go with the world's most expensive phones. The reason is that using flip phones doesn't require that much data.
In Japan, users pay some of the most expensive smartphone fees among the world's developed nations. Flip phone rates are just some of the country's lowest. Some Japanese who are accustomed to several years of deflation find themselves content with old-style flip phones, which they can use for voice calling, email messaging and basic Internet access.
For these reasons, flip phones have also been known as "Galapagos" phones since they have evolved in such a way that meets the unique standards and tastes of the Japanese.