Sales of feature phones grew in Russia in the first half of this year, according to data from the retail chain M.Video-Eldorado. The annual growth was the first in the country for 10 years.
Sales of the devices t otaled 1.6 million units in the second quarter of this year, up by 26 percent, and revenues jumped by 35 percent to more than RUB 2.3 billion (US $31.2 million). The increase totaled 55 percent in units and 60 percent by revenues in the period January through June.
The average retail rate of a feature phone was around RUB 1,500.00 (US $20.33). Among the brands, the leaders were Nokia, Philips, teXet, Itel and BQ.
As the mobile world talks excitedly of 5G rollouts and operators offer more and more data, reports such as this one from Russia give a bit of pause to consider the other side of the story.
A significant jump—55 percent by units and 60 percent in revenue in the first half—in feature-phone sales certainly seems to buck the trend. A major increase in demand for phones that either do not access the internet or do so only through workarounds indicates that many users are buying handsets only to engage in voice calls and texting.
The reasons behind this phenomenon are not immediately clear, but for mobile operators in Russia and perhaps elsewhere, one takeaway should be that the most traditional mobile services are by no means to be despised and neglected. In fact, in a period of economic uncertainty, various different kinds of users may be falling back on the simplest and least expensive of options.
Alternately, these feature phones may be in demand by customers who previously had no phones at all, such as children or seniors, or they may be second devices for customers who access mobile data on different devices. Whatever the case may be, a sudden upsurge in feature-phone purchases is of interest to whoever watches the ever-evolving mobile marketplace.