Millions of first-time internet consumers from the Ivory Coast to India and Indonesia are connecting to the web on smart feature phones that cost only about $25. “[T]hese hybrid phones, fueled by inexpensive mobile data, provide some basic apps and internet access in addition to calling and texting,” the Wall Street Journal reports. From the report: While global smartphone sales began sliding last year as markets became saturated, smart feature phone shipments tripled to around 75 million from 2017, according to research firm Counterpoint. Some 84 million are likely to be shipped this year. Even as rich nations start to roll out 5G technologies, some 3.4 billion people around the world remain cut off from the internet, according to We Are Social, another research firm. Most of them already use traditional, unconnected mobile phones, meaning they can easily make the transition to similarly shaped devices capable of high-speed web connections.
Smart feature phones aren’t only inexpensive, but they also have physical keypads that are less intimidating than touch screens for those new to the technology. Meanwhile, their batteries last for days, a bonus in places where electricity is unreliable. There is a trade-off for the low price. The devices typically have slower and less powerful components, only basic cameras and their screens are usually just a few inches in size, factors that contribute to their longer battery life. There also are fewer apps available for smart feature phones.