"Smartphones were once scarce and accessible only to the elite," Gardner added. "Now, they're mainstream and have become, not a signal of power, but instead a sign that you're a corporate drone who's tethered to their job and email 24x7. Reverting to a flip phone—or NO phone at all—subtly tells the world that you report to nobody. You are the boss."
Craig Buzz Conroy, an aviation/business researcher, insisted that many celebrities use flip phones "for their closest private contacts." He added that "flip phones are not as hackable as a smartphone. Therefore, the data breach and the privacy breach is minimized."
Multiple experts said that security advantage may be real, especially with older flip phones that were designed just to talk and text. They have fewer access points and, therefore, probably are harder to hack.
But security is not the top reason cited by flip phone users. Real users have their personal explanations for why they use flip phones.
Vipul Sharma, a 35 year-old digital video professional based in Manhattan, said he has used a Motorola StarTAC, a phone that was wildly popular after its 1996 release. Some 60 million StarTACs are said to have been sold but it fell out of popularity a dozen years ago. Sharma, however, tracked one down on eBay, paid $45 and, he said, he has talk, text, he has sent tweets and even received money via Square Cash. Why does he use it? "It's about drawing boundaries, about not being a slave to a device," he said.
He said his employer supplies him with an iPhone but he does not often carry it and his personal number is the StarTAC phone. "I want to keep things simple," he said. "This phone lets me."
In Cambridge, Mass. 50 year-old marketer Paige Arnof-Fenn said that her only cell phone is an LG flip phone that she's had for "more than two years."
"I think I got it free," she added. "It has a camera. It texts. The voice calling is very good."
As for smartphones, Arnof-Fenn said, "they seem compulsive to me." That is the thing. With a smartphone one always is within reach of email, Facebook posts, Snapchat, and all the tools that have become central to life in 2016.
Except flip phone users are saying, count them out. And that just may be the quintessence of 2016 cool.
Oh, the thing about flip phones. Pull it out, and two things will happen. First, people will say, what is that? And when they get that you plan to use it as a phone, "they laugh," said Arnoff-Fenn.
Sharma agreed: "There's a lot of laughter."
But the right flip phone gets the job done, at a lot less cost. So who's the joke on? Retro is in.