The super-stylish Razr made sleekness one of the most important qualities for a phone, with its “clamshell” style flip and the thinnest profile of any phone at the time. / Reuters

Years of deflation have left expensive smartphones out of the reach of many Japanese people — and they'd rather stick with what they know

People are in Japan are buying familiar and old flip-phones rather than new smartphones, according to new data.

Shipments of the traditional phones in Japan rose for the first time in seven years, in 2014. At the same time, smartphone shipments fell, according to a report by Reuters.

Flip-phones shipments were up 5.7 per cent in 2014. Smartphones fell by roughly the same amount, dropping 5.3 per cent, according to data from MM Research Institute.

Smartphones are especially expensive in Japan, where customers pay among the highest prices in the developed world, but flip-phones are cheap in comparison with many other places.

But the Japanese are also said to be used to phones with fewer exciting features — after years of deflation that left the newest smartphones out of reach — and happy with the more familiar, old phones.

The Japanese liking for flip-phones has led to big Japanese electronics firms, like Panasonic and NEC, pulling out of the smartphone business. But they have continued to make the cheaper dumbphones.