Unlike in the West, feature phones still have a loyal following in Japan, accounting for around 30-40 percent of mobile phones sold, according to Frost and Sullivan.
Elderly consumers are drawn to the no-frills phones for their simpler features, while younger and middle aged consumers prefer them for their longer battery life and cheaper price. There's also a segment of hardcore gamers who use flip phones because they offer games that are not available on other mobile devices.
Two is better than one
While contract renewals may have made up the bulk of the increased demand for flip phones, there's also a segment of Japanese consumers buying flip phones as a second mobile device.
Take 41-year-old professor Antonio Formacion, for example, who recently purchased a Sharp flip phone to supplement his Samsung Galaxy 5 device.
Having two phones – one for voice and the other for data – works out much cheaper, Formacion said.
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"I'm now using two phones. One flip phone from Softbank that has a monthly bill of 2,000 yen which includes unlimited calls to any phone in Japan. And the second phone a Galaxy S5 for data only for 980 yen a month. Previously I was averaging around 9,000 yen a month on my iPhone 5," he said.
Formacion says having two phones makes him feel more secure: "I know that important calls will reach me even though my smart phone is already dead."
While Japanese mobile manufacturers have made little progress in cracking the smartphone market, they continue to develop new features phones.
Electronics maker Sharp, for instance, will be pushing out a new flip phone in the next few months that will operate on a 4G LTE network, enabling users to access the internet.
Elsewhere in Asia
Rising demand for the flip phone is not limited to Japan.
Seoul-based Tom Kang, research director at Counterpoint Research, says he's seen a modest increase in demand in South Korea – the home of Samsung Electronics and one of the most connected countries in the world.
"We thought flip phones would disappear, but some parents are opting to buy them for their teenage kids instead of smartphones because they are less of a distraction," Kang said.
Like Japan, "there's steady demand from elderly consumers who find it more convenient and cost efficient," he said.
-- Chehui Peh contributed to this article.