Flip phones are hip again

Story highlights

Among the young and hip, flip phones are making a comeback

Motorola popularized flip phones in 1996 with the StarTAC

Vogue editor, NFL quarterback among those seen with flip phones

Some say it's about simplifying their lives

CNN  — 

Hipsters, rejoice. Next time you ride your fixed-gear bicycle to the the thrift store, where you find a vintage, grease-stained mechanic’s shirt that matches your Rollie Fingers mustache and Grizzly Adams beard, there’s an edgy, if technologically sub-optimal, way to tell your friends about it.

Use a flip phone.

In an age of the iPhone 6 Plus and massive Android phablets, flip phones are inexplicably making a comeback.

No less an arbiter of cool than Vogue magazine editor Anna Wintour has apparently dumped her iPhone in favor of a flipper. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, actress Kate Beckinsale and even Rihanna are just a few of the celebrities spotted proudly brandishing the famous piece of paleo-technology.

And, believe it or not, “dumb phones” aren’t exactly the elusive unicorn that some of us think they are.

As of January, 56% of American adults owned smartphones, compared to a total of 90% who had a cellphone of some kind, according to the Pew Research Internet Project. Among millennials age 18-29, an overwhelming 83% of those who owned cellphones had a smartphone, but that leaves the other 17% who keep their mobile life more basic.

The hinged, snap-shut “flipper” form factor was originally introduced to the public in 1982 by laptop manufacturer GriD with its Compass computer.

Motorola, perhaps the king of flip phones with its Razr line, introduced the clamshell style in 1996 with its StarTAC phone (which, appropriately enough, was re-released for nostalgic techies in 2010).

Is this really all about going for retro, hipster street cred? There is, at times, a mystifying aspect of “cool” that centers around eschewing modern convenience for vintage … well … inconvenience.

Writing on typewriters? Check. Racing high-wheel bicycles from the 1880s? Yes. Playing baseball with the rules and equipment of the 1860s? Absolutely.

But there are obviously some more practical reasons some people, including millennials, go flip.

For some, it’s about simplifying and uncluttering in a 24/7 plugged-in society.

“It just seemed like it would be better for my addled brain than a smartphone,” 26-year-old Angelica Baker, a tutor and writer, told TIME. “Personally I’m too scattered and unfocused to handle email and Facebook on my phone.”

Baker swapped out her Droid for her mom’s retired flip phone, a pink Motorola Razr.

No one has to worry about the iCloud being hacked when they use a flip phone. There’s little to no eye and neck strain. No fear of Flappy Bird addiction.

And, let’s be honest … there’s something satisfying about a switchblade-like phone flip after an annoying phone conversation that even the most emphatic tap of a touchscreen will never approach.

Maybe the hipsters are onto something after all. Though we’ll still pass on the bushy beards.