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Here's why LG is still making flip phones

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Like AOL subscriptions, the flip phone seems to be an anachronism, a leftover fragment from another age. And yet, just like AOL subscriptions, the flip phone persists, with LG this week introducing its Wine Smart handset. It runs Android on a 3.2-inch screen, comes in a choice of burgundy or navy, and it even has an LTE connection. Plus it has a physical number pad and a bunch of shortcut buttons that old Nokia might have been proud of.

It would be easy to poke fun at something we don't understand, but it's far more interesting to find out why this LG Wine Smart handset (and a number of similar ones from Samsung) still exists. So I asked. Here's what LG told me: flip phones remain popular with four, somewhat related classes of users. These are people who:

1) Use their phone primarily for talking, not gaming or browsing.

2) Want their young children to be connected but not distracted by games.

3) Are generally older and are not comfortable pressing buttons on a screen or have trouble seeing the small keys on a glass display.

4) Need smart functions occasionally for looking things up and messaging.

All of this makes a surprising amount of sense. While it's true that smartphone use is generally homogenizing, and most people have very similar requirements for their phones, there are still groups of users who simply want something different. Those are the customers that LG is catering to. The Wine Smart is LG's way of showing that it "has always been about offering options and choice." Plus, the company tells me, the Wine Smart is a device inspired more by its findings about local use in Korea rather than wider smartphone demand. And yet, LG is releasing the Wine Smart globally, so there must be more of these unconventional types amongst the world's 6 billion cellphone users than we might think.

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