Dumb phones start to get real dumb

Stop me if you've heard this one: A beer company and a clothing brand are teaming up with a smartphone company to make a dumb phone.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

April 19, 2024

3 Min Read
Heineken and Bodega teamed up to develop The Boring Phone.
Heineken and Bodega teamed up to develop The Boring Phone.(Source: Heineken)

Beer company Heineken said it's going to make a dumb phone.

I know, there's a lot to unpack in that sentence, so let's start with the basics: HMD is a phone maker that rose to prominence by licensing the Nokia brand to make Nokia-branded phones. Now it's getting into the white labeling business, and its first customer is Heineken.

Heineken said it has teamed with a company called Bodega to design its new phone. As far as I can tell, Bodega is a company that puts its logo onto clothing like shirts and socks.

Anyway, Heineken and Bodega are releasing their new phone this week at Milan Design Week. Because of course that's a great venue to launch a new phone.

They're calling their new phone "The Boring Phone" because it's just a normal flip phone circa 2000. But that's an innovation, according to Heineken's marketing chief, Nabil Nasser.

"In creating The Boring Phone we have gone back to basics, we have dialed down the tech to help people truly connect over a beer, without any distraction from the constant buzzing and dings," Nasser said in a release.

In that regard, the companies are tapping into a trend I wrote about last year: "The quiet comeback of the dumbphone." According to the analysts at Counterpoint Research, the market for "feature phones" has bottomed out at around 2% of the US phone market. And now they're making a bit of a resurgence.

It all makes sense, according to the beer maker: "Heineken and Bodega have embarked on this partnership to show people that there is more to their social life when there is less on their phone."

Holes in the story

Of course, there are plenty of holes in all this – the first being that Heineken is literally the world's worst-tasting beer. That's just a fact.

But aside from that, there are also some problems with The Boring Phone itself. For example, if you've ever tried to send a text with a T9 keypad, you know that it takes literally forever.

You'll basically never be able to text that perpetually tardy friend about which bar you're headed to next. And forget trying to Uber home. The Boring Phone doesn't have Uber... or even Google Maps. Or even a flashlight so you can find your jacket and keys.

My point is that modern phones can be extremely useful in social situations, including bar crawls.

But Heineken cites a survey it conducted of 4,000 Gen Z and Millennial smartphone users, which found that 30% admitted to playing phone games "instead of engaging with their family and friends in the moment."

"As an artist, you want to connect with the audience to know they're having a good time, but it's hard to do this when you look up from the decks and see a sea of smartphones flashing in your face," said TSHA (who is a musician I guess – I had to look it up).

This is certainly true. I often fantasize about slapping the phones out of my kids' hands at dinner.

But let me offer an alternative solution to this problem: Leave your phone in your pocket. That way you're not looking at it. You can also turn it off.

Or, if you really want a flip phone, just buy an actual boring one. For example, AT&T sells one for $50. Verizon sells one for just $30.

No, these boring flip phones aren't designed by a clothing brand. And no, they're not sold by a beer company. They probably won't be anywhere near Milan Design Week.

And yes, they'll make sending a text virtually impossible. Enjoy.

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like