IT IS a handset that would have made Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko proud. The new iPhone may be the must-have gadget of the season, but for a growing number of people weary of being constantly connected to the internet, a 1980s throwback handset called “The Brick” is top of the Christmas wishlist.
The phone, created by British technology firm Binatone, allows users to make and receive calls and text messages – and not much else.
Unlike the vast majority of its rivals, the phone does not have touchscreen technology, access to Facebook or Twitter, or a web browser.
As its name suggests, it is also the size of a brick and also boasts the 1990s game Snake, which originally featured on all Nokia handsets, as well as an LED torch and an FM radio.
Launched at tech show IFA in Berlin in the autumn, The Brick – which can be used as a standalone basic phone or linked to an existing smartphone as an alternative handset – has being flying off the shelves at Carphone Warehouse, where it has been on sale since October.
Experts said the phone appealed to people looking to simplify their lives, and also those with a penchant for retro styling.
“The Brick is every bit as much a style statement as a sleek smartphone, but its big and bulky Eighties design means you’re going against the grain, rather than following the crowd,” said Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com.
“With an amazing battery life, simple gaming and even a torch, it’s sure to remind the older mobile user of a time when phones were that bit more simple, as well as acting as a fully functional throwback for cool kids who want to stand out.”
Many high-profile business people and politicians have admitted to shunning smartphones in favour of simpler models. Last week, it emerged that Topshop billionaire Sir Philip Green still uses a near-obsolete Nokia 6310 which was launched by the Finnish phone company in 2002, while the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, used the same model until he dropped it into a sink earlier this year.
Technology experts believe it is people like Green and Kenny who might turn to The Brick.
“There’s surely a market – albeit a fairly small one – for this phone,” added Doku. “It’s probably that person you know who still uses an old-school Nokia and carries a telephone book full of contacts.”
Unlike many touchscreen models which run out of battery power in just a couple of days or less, The Brick offers up to three months standby power and even gives the user the chance to charge their existing smartphone from it.
Using Bluetooth, The Brick can be connected to any smartphone – or be used as a call and text only device by inserting a Sim card.
“The battery lasts one to three months,” said Luana Mooibroek, marketing manager at Binatone. “You can have a Sim card in the phone and call them with that phone. But you can also use it as a second device. Via Bluetooth you can connect this device to your phone and use it as a handset.”
Binatone added: “The Brick isn’t trying to be everything to everyone. It’s a sturdy handset with an iconic style, harkening warm memories of the early Nineties – when ‘updating your status’ meant buying a new pair of hi-tops or sporting a fade.”
Critics have argued that the bulky size of The Brick may prove both its unique selling point and its downfall.
“The problem is, it’s very, very bulky. So bulky, in fact, that it even dwarfs our modern range of phablets,” said Leon Andrews, spokesman for Geek Squad, the technology advice arm of Carphone Warehouse, which sells the phone in its stores.
“This trend for all things ‘old school’ in mobile phones – turning what were dinosaurs of a bygone age into something cool and desirable – is, after all, part of a larger trend for retro taste, which in itself appears to be a backlash to our over-saturated market of short-lived smartphone technology.
“Just a few minutes of browsing the web reveals that – however odd it may seem – there is a big interest in retro phones. From videos showing the apparently indestructible powers of the old-school Sony Ericsson, to the big second-hand market for ‘vintage’ handsets, there’s a big dose of misty-eyed mobile phone nostalgia available for anyone who wants it.”
Binatone is soon to bring out a companion model to The Brick – a chunky cordless home phone called The Brick Home – created, the company says, to combat that problem of trying to talk on a slimline smartphone “balanced between your chin and your shoulder” while doing the washing-up.
The Brick is available in stores and online for £29.99.