Flip phones had a glow-up, but Gen Zers say they're not catching the vibe

Flip phones had a glow-up, but Gen Zers say they're not catching the vibe
Costfoto/Future Publishing via Getty Images
  • Tech-savvy Gen Zers don't seem too hyped about the latest foldable phones.
  • One Gen Zer said flip phones cost too much. Another, who owned one, said it was "just a smartphone."

Gen Zers are considered to be tech-loving, phone-addicted. But this age group, born between 1997 and 2015, appears unfazed by the latest foldable phones.

Over the past few years, flip phones have had a glow-up. What used to be a '90s-style cellphone with a small screen and keypad is now a sleek device with glass that bends in half. And the refresh seems to be taking the smartphone world by storm.

Flip phones had a glow-up, but Gen Zers say they're not catching the vibe
SSPL/Getty Images/Kate Duffy/Insider

The foldable-phone category is the fastest-growing on the market, according to data Counterpoint published in August.

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Samsung is leading the trend, accounting in June for 62% of the global foldable-smartphone market, followed by Huawei and Oppo, according to the data. Counterpoint estimated in December that foldable-phone shipments would hit more than 22 million units this year — a 52% increase year on year.

Advertisements of the latest flip phones regularly flash up on television, flood the billboards in public places, and appear in pop-up stores in malls for passersby to play with. But what do Gen Zers think about the devices?


Flip phones aren't cheap

Flip phones had a glow-up, but Gen Zers say they're not catching the vibe
Kate Duffy/Insider/CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Kelly McKeon, a 24-year-old from New York, told Insider she had an old-style flip phone when she was in middle school but now used an iPhone. When the latest foldable phones launched, McKeon said she thought the screen folding in half seemed like a "supercool tech" feature. But she's not interested in buying one, and the high prices have put her off, she said.

Foldable phones are some of the most expensive smartphones on the market, Ranjit Atwal, an analyst at the management consultancy Gartner, said.

For example, Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold4 with 1 terabyte of storage is $1,815, while Oppo's Find N2 Flip costs $1,024 and Huawei's Mate X, launched in 2019, has a whopping $2,600 price tag.

"People aren't thinking about spending at this moment in time," Atwal told Insider, especially not those on a budget, such as frugal Gen Zers.

Foldable-phone makers need sales volume before they start to try and bring down prices, Atwal said. That's why there's a big drive for advertising them, he added.


Counterpoint's research predicted foldable-phone prices would drop this year because of increasing competition in the market.

A spokesperson for Huawei said it didn't have access to market research around Gen Z's uptake of the company's foldable phones. They referred Insider to a GizChina report that cited data from iResearch Consulting, which said Huawei was the biggest foldable-phone seller in China.

Samsung and Oppo didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

'Just a smartphone'

Flip phones had a glow-up, but Gen Zers say they're not catching the vibe

Stephanie Elliot, 23, told Insider she switched from a Samsung Galaxy S8+ to a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 about four years ago. The foldable phone fits nicely in her pocket, and she likes that the screen is protected.

"The flip was the only appeal of this phone," Elliot said, adding: "It's just a smartphone."


Elliot said "flex mode" — the ability to split apps on two different screens — was "far less useful" than expected.

According to screenshots she sent to Insider, WhatsApp video calls and YouTube videos take up only the top screen, which she called an "inefficient use of space." Elliot said flex mode worked well while using the camera but was "not suitable for most apps" because her phone's "tall and skinny."

Foldable phones are late to the party

They've been around for nearly 30 years, but flip phones have "missed the boat" in the mass market, Atwal said.

Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, young people changed the way they bought phones, he said. Instead of reaching the end of a phone contract and ordering another one, they kept hold of their phones because they'd realized they had all the software they needed.

This, and the fact that foldable phones are pricey, has presented an issue for their manufacturers, Atwal said. The companies are trying to "push something new in a market in which people are reluctant to hold on," he added.


McKeon, the Gen Zer from New York, said despite her disinterest in foldable phones, "it is fun to think about ending a tense phone call by slamming the phone closed."