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Japan: the country where flip-phones refuse to die

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The buttons are easier to type on, the battery lasts longer, it's familiar. No, we're not talking about BlackBerry this time, but the Japanese feature phone. Glorious, folding forefather to the smartphone, and the form-factor that gave birth to gara-kei, a shorthand phrase for "Galapagos phones". It's a negative term pointing to devices that simply wouldn't survive outside of Japan. However, it's not stopped the country's biggest carrier, NTT Docomo, from revealing two new feature phone models (and a refreshed paint job for an older phone) just last week. Our Engadget Japanese colleagues were told by Docomo's spokesman that these phones are still so popular with some customers that they practically sell themselves -- many still enter their stores looking for a new flip-phone, not a smartphone.

While developing countries continue to buy up feature phones, where prices continue to plummet, Japan's feature phones remain resistant to the smartphone substitution seen in western countries. Docomo has also started offering an unlimited voice call service -- a feature that's arguably more comfortable on longer-shaped feature phones and another reason for the carrier to continually refresh its gara-kei lineup.

Fujitsu's latest model, the F-07F, has a 13-megapixel camera, 1,000mAh battery and a 3.3-inch color display: specs that make it a high-end feature phone, but (camera aside) pale in comparison to cheap, entry-level smartphones like the Moto E. Here's one more surprising point: feature phones might cost less to make, but due to carriers subsidies for smartphones (in a bid to keep its customers upgrading), feature phones often cost more per month than mainstay Android devices from the likes of Samsung and Sony. There may have been a few smartphones in flip-phone clothing, but Japan's gara-kei aren't going anywhere soon.

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