Feature phones and SMS marketing – back at the peak of popularity?

Publication date: 08 Aug 2021

Mobile operators in Russia have assessed the number of subscribers who still use feature phones. According to a study conducted by RBC, on average, the share of feature phone owners is 21%:

  • Beeline – 23%;
  • Megafon and Tele2 – 20% each.

There is no data on MTS users, the operator’s representatives specified only that for 5 years the number of such users has reduced by half, and in large cities they are not more than 10%.

According to “VimpelCom” data, most frequently, subscribers older than 65 years old (37% of the total number) use feature phones, and the number of people younger than 25 years old among owners of such devices is less than 15%. The share of 20% is also typical for Moscow, in regions it is higher – in Vladivostok, Krasnodar, Murmansk and St. Petersburg, for example, it reaches 25%. The most popular models of feature phones are now iTel and Nokia.

Tele2 clarified that “the share of such devices is decreasing, but more slowly than it could be expected against the background of large-scale digitization. There is still a strong demand for these devices: they are bought for children, and there is a category of subscribers (and these are not always elderly people) who need the phone only for calls and for whom a long battery life is critically important.

Why are feature phones popular again?

Although the number of feature phone owners has steadily decreased in recent years, demand for these devices increased by 7% in the first half of this year. According to M.Video-Eldorado analysts, Russians have purchased more than 3 million devices since January 2021. The top five most popular manufacturers were Nokia, Philips, teXet, Itel and BQ-mobile.

The growing popularity can be explained by the fact that senior citizens are switching over from landlines to mobile phones and choosing feature phones. Their demand has also grown in a pandemic when remote workers use outdated mobile phones as a low-cost additional means of communication.

Another reason for choosing a feature phone is the higher level of privacy compared to modern gadgets. People have a new fear: the money can be withdrawn from the card linked to the phone. That’s why many people choose a feature phone without wi-fi, as well as a communication tariff without an internet connection. Thus, to communicate with the outside world – banks, the site of government services – remains only SMS. Perhaps, with the growing popularity of feature phones, SMS marketing will get a second chance! And considering that Internet advertising in Russia may become tougher, be the first to occupy the niche!

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