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Hold the Phone! Retro Mobiles Are Back in Vogue

First we had the candy bar and the clamshell, then antennas faded away. Before long, the flip fell out of fashion and screens got larger, and larger still, then 'phablet' sized. What am I on about? Mobile phones of course.

First we had the candy bar and the clamshell, then antennas faded away. Before long, the flip fell out of fashion and screens got larger, and larger still, then 'phablet' sized. What am I on about? Mobile phones of course.

It appears the same is true of technology as fashion - what goes around comes around. And if the power of celebrity is to be believed, the flip phone is back.

The celeb beat has been awash with images of singer Rihanna, a retro-chic flip phone glued to her ear. And, suddenly, everyone was reminded that Vogue's Anna Wintour was squinting over her shades at a similar device at the US Open in September.

What's a flip phone got that a smartphone hasn't, aside from now, apparently, street cred?

1. You'll give all your mates a good laugh when they tell you the Nineties just called and ask for its phone back

2. In turn, you get to laugh at all the iPhone lemmings for blindly following the crowd

3. If you want to hang up on someone in a huff, you don't need to stab a touchscreen and get angry at your fat fingers - you defiantly smack it shut (yes!)

4. The keypad isn't affected by the elements. You can still dial a number in the pouring rain, nor do you have to invest in special touch-screen gloves if you want to use your phone when it's freezing cold

5. If you're lucky, the keys may even play different musical notes when you press them, so you can sit there and work out which keys you have to press for the EastEnders theme

6. You don't need to worry about the screen being scratched by your keys while it's in your pocket or bag

7. Two magic little words: battery life

After a quick scan of the market, I've noticed it's very, very difficult to find what I think is the only acceptable retro flip phone - one with a pull out, albeit fragile, antenna.

I'm talking about something like the Motorola StarTAC, the very first clamshell phone Motorola ever made circa 1996. It cameo-ed in several Hollywood films, including 8mm with Nicholas Cage and was the phone of choice for the spoilt girls in Clueless.

Sure, you can still buy it, but it carries an antique price tag. On eBay, as I write, an unlocked black StarTAC is listed for an eye-watering £399.

Antiques aside, what can you get today that looks retro but isn't actually a decade old, and is still being manufactured for the UK market? Not an awful lot, actually. You'd think mobile makers might have pre-empted this fad but, the highest spec flip phones, like the Samsung Galaxy Golden or LG Wine Smart are all being made for the Eastern market. Here are some ideas...


If there's proof of a retro resurgence it's that one company, Binatone, has brought the The Brick back from the dead. It costs £49.99 - which is a very impressive price tag for all that plastic, especially when compared to the £399 of the StarTAC. You can use it as a standalone mobile phone or even as a bluetooth accessory for a less retro device if you fancy it. Although, using it as a mere accessory seems a bit odd when you've gone to all the painstaking trouble of trying to stand out from the crowd in the first place.

What's it got, other than being just as much fun for onlookers as users? One month of standby battery life and it doubles up as a flashlight. But the best thing of all? It has snake. Sold.

The designers are currently working on a 'power edition' with extra long battery life (because when is a month of standby enough - seriously?) for double the price, and a home phone edition with a stand, too.


Samsung's cute E1270 seems to be one of only two clamshell phone on the Carphone Warehouse website, and has four glowing reviews from users aged 50+. Its most high tech feature could well be lights that signal new notifications. There's not even a camera. Completely back to basics.


Can you tell I'm struggling here? Bring back the Motorola RAZR and all will be forgiven! Fortunately, a French online store called Lekki offers revamped mobiles from the 90s including the Nokia N210, refurbished as new, for 80 euros. An original StarTAC will set you back 450 euros or you can buy an Ericsson T28 from 140 euros.

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