Why Carly Fiorina wants you to ditch your flip phone

The Republican presidential candidate told supporters they should dump their flip phones so that she, as president, would engage citizens with a voting app.

Mic Smith/AP
Republican presidential candidate and businesswoman Carly Fiorina poses for a photo with a supporter after a town hall meeting concerning foreign affairs, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, at Johnson Hagood Stadium on the campus of The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Mic Smith)

Do you remember when your phone wasn’t “smart”? If that memory was from earlier today, then you and Carly Fiorina might have a problem.

According to ABC news, the Republican presidential candidate told supporters at a town hall in South Carolina that their technology may soon be politically obsolete.

“How many of you have a flip phone?” Fiorina asked the audience. A few raised their hands.

“It’s okay, but you’re going to have to upgrade soon,” she continued. “You have 18 months to do this.”

But why? Fiorina, the former CEO of tech giant Hewlett Packard, says that, once in office, she will utilize smartphones in a new way.

“I will go into the Oval Office on a regular basis, I will ask you to take out your smartphones, and I will engage in a conversation with the citizens of this nation,” Fiorina told the audience.

Citizens would then vote in real-time polls on issues by using an app on their smartphones.

“I will ask you, in the weekly radio address for example, do you think you should know where your money is being spent and go to zero based budgeting? Press 1 for yes, press 2 for no.”

The idea has become part of her stump speech, evoking laughter while demonstrating how she would tap into her private-sector expertise to utilize technology in the White House – and perhaps attract young voters, too. 

But in doing so, she may lose whatever lock she had on the hipster constituency. Last year, flip phones experienced a kind of rebirth in popular culture by millennials who wanted to escape social media. In 2014, Time’s Laura Stampler reported on how a sizable number of Americans still use the archaic devices: “ … according to Forrester Research, 29% of internet-using American adults don’t use smartphones as their main phones. That figure includes 15% of 18-24 year olds and 13% of 25-34 year olds.”

And then there were the involuntary celebrity endorsements. Vogue editor-in-chief and fashion icon Anna Wintour was seen using one at the US open. Billionaire Warren Buffett revealed that he still uses one. Add singer Rihanna, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, singer Hozier, and New York Senator Chuck Schumer (who says he stockpiles them) to the list and you’ve got an eclectic group of flip-phone enthusiasts.

But as Digital Trends’ William Pellegrin reported, the real, profitable market for flip phones is in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world:

In Japan, flip phone shipments rose in 2014 for the first time in seven years, while smartphone shipments in 2014 saw a 5.3 percent decrease from 2013 to 27.7 million units. There are several reasons for this surging popularity, some of which include flip phones’ ability to hold a charge longer than smartphones and being more durable than their smarter brethren. In addition, Japan’s low birth rate, combined with the rapidly increasing aging population, means there are more elderly consumers who don’t need everything a smartphone offers.

And The Daily Mail noticed in 2014 that flip phone sales on eBay surged, with some items fetching more than a thousand dollars.

Some would say Fiorina’s idea gives hope that the GOP will finally modernize itself and reap the advantages of new technology. As The New York Times noted in June, President Obama cleanly won reelection in 2012 thanks, in part, to a brilliant digital operation that synthesized big data about voters. Now it seems that the Republicans could be catching up.

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