It began innocuously enough. Lily Rose-Depp and Bella Hadid were seen wearing old-school wired headphones around Los Angeles, before Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were photographed on the streets of New York, cigarettes in their hands, aviators on their faces, and iPhone cords wrapped around their waists. It wasn't long before the Instagram account @wireditgirls confirmed that every Y2K-leaning It girl, from Zoë Kravitz to Devon Lee Carlson, was going back to basics: it wasn't just the low-rise skirts of the early aughts that one should wish they'd kept in their wardrobe, it was the analogue accessories, too.
It was only going to be a matter of time before Gen Z’s obsession with the retro electronics millennials grew up alongside would hit fever pitch with the likes of Emma Chamberlain adopting a digital camcorder in her right hand and Sony digital cameras increasingly replacing film. The Digital Fairy, a creative agency known for its trend predictions by internet and youth culture specialists, coined the term "vintage tech nostalgia" on TikTok, examining the "fall of the Apple aesthetic" and the "boredom" surrounding 2010s-era minimalism.
Enter: the flip phone.
Over on TikTok today, smartphones are increasingly being replaced by the #dumbphone as millions switch out the latest iPhone for every millennial's entry phone, the Nokia. On the app, the term "flip phone" has been searched for over 890 million times and, according to Nokia, daily search demand for ‘Nokia flip phones’ was up by 243 per cent in May alone.
Surprisingly, not only are people getting their hands on old-school versions via eBay, but Nokia has continued releasing new versions of its flip phones throughout the tech boom, impressively riding out the wave until today where their payoff comes in the form of thousands of TikTok videos and a re-release of their 2007 Nokia 2660 immediately selling out in both colourways.
Though no doubt an aesthetically pleasing accessory to whet Gen Z's appetite — colours available include a Barbiecore-appropriate hot pink, ‘lush green’ and red, as well as the bejewelled versions seen in viral videos — not to mention, the phone's default camera takes the vintage-look photos Instagram filters attempt to recreate, the flip phone serves a purpose beyond that of a cute conversation starter: it’s an antidote to our ever-increasing screen time.
As millennials who spent their formative years only looking at their phone to play Snake, beyond sending strategically-worded messages to avoid hitting their monthly limit, the idea of reverting back to a phone without internet access is a revolutionary one — although not one without its own struggles: after years of relying solely on Google Maps, many of us can’t navigate ourselves on a walk to the local supermarket without the app, let alone drive through the city to work meetings. We default to Ubers instead of taxis and are used to accessing emails everywhere from our beds the moment we wake, to the reformer machine and supermarket aisle.
Documenting her week with a flip phone, one TikToker said she found it logistically challenging ("I don't care what anyone says, full keyboards are useful"), but surprisingly easy to live without social media. "I reached for a book anytime I felt like scrolling. I was more aware of my surroundings and I honestly felt like I was sleeping better."
"Could I go longer than a week with this phone? I don't think so," she mused. "But a social media purge? Hell yeah."
To combat the extra admin that comes with living an internet-free life, an increasing amount of people are living with dual phones: an iPhone during the week for work purposes, and a burner flip phone for weekends where they're free to smell the roses without the anxiety that comes with being completely uncontactable and off the grid.
In a piece for The New York Times, writer Liana Satenstein, who now uses an Alcatel when she's off the clock, notes at first the switch helped her to see the simplicity in the world. "Hell, I was having a spiritual moment." She finished a book in a week and looked like a "confused French tourist from the ’90s" while holding a map of Manhattan (chic). But she soon felt frustrated with how slow and archaic the technology was.
She flirted with rebooting her shiny iPhone, "but then I remember how much I hated my dependence on the smartphone," she writes. "Not to mention my tech-neck hump."