From Smart to Simple

Social intelligence reveals moms’ growing interest in flip phones

Henry Chapman, Research and Insights Analyst


Sophisticated technology drives a return to simplicity

In this insight brief, we explore the resurgence of flip phones (also known as low-tech phones or dumbphones) in the current digital landscape. As society becomes increasingly connected, smartphones have gotten more sophisticated. Yet, surprisingly, social intelligence reveals a notable shift in sentiment towards simpler and less technologically advanced devices. We’ll examine how and why that shift is taking place, while drawing emphasis on the post volume growth of flip phones post-pandemic in 2023. Finally, we show how social media data highlights the increased participation of women, specifically mothers, in the conversation as they attempt to chart a path for their children regarding a digital future.

What is a flip phone?

A flip phone, also known as a feature phone or a flip phone, is a mobile phone that offers limited functionality compared to smartphones. These were widespread before the 2007 invention of smartphones. Flip phones prioritize essential communication features such as voice calls and text messaging while typically lack advanced capabilities like internet access, touchscreen interfaces, and app ecosystems. Flip phones are designed to be simple, reliable, and focused primarily on communication. Infegy Atlas topic data shows that Motorolas and Nokias are amongst the most popular flip phones that people on the internet discuss.

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Figure 1: Topics relating to flip phones from January 1, 2020 through April 30, 2023; Infegy Atlas data.

Growth post-pandemic post volume

The usage and discussion around flip phones experienced a fluctuating trend leading up to the pandemic. Initially, there was a growth in post volume, indicating a growing interest in these devices. However, as people began to stay indoors and relied heavily on digital platforms like Zoom and FaceTime for social connection, the conversation around flip phones declined. Throughout the pandemic, the post volume related to flip phones remained stagnant, neither growing nor shrinking significantly. However, starting in the latter half of 2021 and continuing into the present, there has been a notable 40% surge in flip phone post volume. Because of the sudden increase in interest in flip phones, we dove in to examine how sentiment surrounding these devices has changed.

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Figure 2: Post volume relating to flip phones from January 1, 2020, through April 30, 2023, with November 2021 through April 2023 highlighted; Infegy Atlas data.

Large positive sentiment increase

Throughout the pandemic, the view surrounding flip phones was predominantly negative. Analysis of the underlying text revealed that much of the negative sentiment stemmed from the limited features that flip phones possess. This negative sentiment aligns logically with the nature of these devices, as designers build them with fewer features than smartphones on purpose.

However, starting in November 2021, there has been a noticeable shift in sentiment toward flip phones. Sentiment around these devices gradually improves, and this positive trend continues. Flip phone sentiment has surged by an impressive 57% since November 2022. This significant increase suggests a notable improvement in the tone of conversations surrounding flip phones. In the following section, we will delve into the specific factors that have contributed to this shift in sentiment.

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Figure 3: Sentiment documents distribution relating to flip phones from January 1, 2020, through April 30, 2023, with November 2021 through April 2023 highlighted; Infegy Atlas data.

Increased female participation in the conversation

We looked into what’s driving the positive sentiment change and surge in post volume. The first clue lies within the gender demographics of the conversation. From November 2021 to the present, the female share of the conversation regarding flip phones increased by an impressive 35%, while the male share declined by 26%, indicating that women are engaging in discussions about flip phones more actively than men.

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Figure 4: Gender universe distribution relating to flip phones from January 1, 2020, through April 30, 2023, with November 2021 through April 2023 highlighted; Infegy Atlas data.

Examining the Source Bios, or self-inputted descriptions on social media accounts, we saw that "Mom" and "wife" emerged as prominent descriptors. This finding suggests that individuals identifying as parents, particularly mothers, frequently talk online about flip phones. The rise of these descriptors indicates that mothers are increasingly participating in these discussions, potentially shaping the sentiment and driving the surge in post volume surrounding these devices.

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Figure 5: Source bio topic cluster relating to flip phones from January 1, 2020 through April 30, 2023; Infegy Atlas data.

Flip phone conversations tilt toward parenting age groups

We discovered that 63% of posts related to flip phones were made by individuals aged 19 to 44, which aligns with the parenting age range. Conversely, older individuals, who are often associated with using flip phones, accounted for only 11.8% of the posts. Older individuals using flip phones may be less likely to be actively posting online. Nonetheless, the age data strongly suggests that individuals in the parenting age group engage in discussions about flip phones with higher frequency, proportionally speaking.

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Figure 6: Age distributions for flip phone-related conversations from January 1, 2020, through April 30, 2023; Infegy Atlas data.

“Mom” audience segment is driving demand

Let’s look at the possible reasons why mothers are driving this surge in conversation. Looking at negative topics in the conversation, we found that the top-performing topics relate to internet safety. Topics such as "internet access," "kids," and "no social media" stand out as negative aspects of the conversation. We also saw negative references to YouTube, Twitter, and iPhones. This aligns with extensive research regarding the harmful impact of social content on children and teens. The prevalence of this topic cluster suggests that some parents are aware of these issues and are turning to flip phones as a safer alternative for their children's digital experiences.

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Figure 7: Negative topics related to flip phone-related conversation from January 1, 2020 through April 30, 2023; Infegy Atlas data.

Growth in Customer Intent to Purchase

One of the notable advantages of social listening is the ability to gauge customer intents based on aggregated social data. Intent to Purchase is one of the many Intent metrics Infegy Atlas provides. We discovered that mothers have been discussing flip phones with greater Intent and Intent to Purchase over the last few months. This indicates that these mothers are not only expressing concerns about topics like internet safety, but are also motivated to take action to protect their children. Therefore, it's important to keep an eye on sales data in the phone market to see if people's growing interest in buying actually matches up with their actual purchases. This will help confirm the trends we've identified through listening to social conversations.

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Figure 8: Themes documents distribution showing an increasing Intent to Purchase from January 2020 through April 2023; Infegy Atlas data.

Takeaways for identifying a growing market

The social listening data is in: there is a resurgence of interest in flip phones, and mothers are driving that conversation. As society becomes more digitally connected, the resurgence of flip phones and the evolving conversation around them signify a growing recognition of the need for balance and a focus on essential communication in an increasingly complex technological landscape. Social listening insights like these are critical to understanding audience interests and what’s driving them. They also provide planning and benchmarking data for campaigns and the sales cycle for a product.

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