In the article just before this one I talked about the LG500G from Tracfone; a smartphone that can be bought new for 30 dollars.
At present, a feature phone’s rock-bottom price is 10 bucks, but if QWERTY smartphones continue to drop in price, will this mean the end of the feature phone?
To put this in perspective, a QWERTY phone was $100 just six months ago. Now it’s $30. Will it drop to $15 in another six months? It just might. If that does happen, who would bother buying a 10-dollar feature phone when for 5 bucks more you get a smartphone?
My prediction is that soon enough there will either be no more new feature phones, or the selection will drop down drastically. Even now, phones like the Pantech Jest are considered "basic" according to Verizon Wireless, and they literally give you the phone for free with any new wireless service signup. Heck, VZW will even give you a recertified LG enV Touch for free these days, which is also considered a "basic" phone now.
Granted, there are some flip-style phones that are still very good handsets, such as the Samsung Convoy (another one in recertified flavor offered for free by VZW) – but phones like these are starting to become scarce.
If price point isn’t an issue anymore, are there any advantages of having a feature phone?
It is not uncommon for new feature phones to have 300 hours or more of standby time no matter what the brand or carrier is. For some people that’s a big selling point.
If you are the type of person who uses a cell phone "for emergencies only", the feature phone is the better choice. You’re obviously not going to use it often, and if the majority of the time it’s only in standby mode, it’s only required to charge the phone once every two weeks.
Another advantage of a feature phone is that they are more kid-friendly. Even the cheapest feature phone is built fairly rugged and can take the abuse of being dropped, knocked off tables and so on without busting most of the time.
The only other advantage I can think of is that feature phones are good for people who are just plain confused by smartphones. There’s the old idiom that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Certain people are like this when it comes to smartphones and absolutely positively will not be able to comprehend any phone that doesn’t have an E.161 layout. For those of that ilk, the feature phone is good for them.
What about other countries?
In developing countries, yes you will still see the feature phone in abundance, because they’re super-cheap to make and easy to deploy. However in other established nations, don’t be surprised if you find it difficult to acquire a new feature phone in the near future.
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