There was life before the smart phone, remember? Hard to believe it today, but once upon a time, we all flipped for the flip phone, which turns 20 this week. The Motorola StarTAC attracted consumers with its lightweight clamshell design—perfect for slipping into pockets and closing with dramatic flair.
The StarTAC weighed in at a mere 3.1 ounces, a vast improvement over bulky predecessors such as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, which weighed 1.75 pounds and was affectionately known as “The Brick.” (You’ll recognize the DynaTAC 8000X as the model favored by Gordon Gekko and Zack Morris.) The StarTAC allowed mobile phone users to choose between ringtones and vibrating alerts, as well as enjoy the convenience of a display screen—all for a $1,000 price tag. Consumers enjoyed more than 60 million StarTACs during the model’s lifetime.
Will the flip phone make a comeback?
The flip phone hasn’t completely disappeared. Celebrities spooked by iCloud photo hacks love the flip phones’ relative security and anonymity. Rihanna, Scarlett Johansson, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones have all been spotted with flip phones.
And Time magazine even reported as recently as 2014 that some millennials are eschewing smartphones in favor of the flip, citing simplicity, affordability, and a desire to limit screen time as their reasons why.
So, if you’ve got a StarTAC or a Razr collecting dust in a drawer, don’t pitch it just yet.
Tech Time Warp is a weekly feature that looks back at interesting moments and milestones in tech history.