The Boring Phone from Heineken x Bodega taps into Y2K trends and the ‘dumb phone’ market

The product hopes to be an “antidote to the barriers smart tech pose to nights out”, based on some depressing but perhaps unsurprising research.

24 April 2024


How can you enjoy the club if your eyes are glued to your smartphone all night? (Yes, Gen Z we’re talking to you.) Heineken has a possible answer. The beer company has launched its limited edition device The Boring Phone (resembling the Nokia 2660) in collaboration with Bodega. It boasts transparent casing and holographic stickers that reference the Zillenial (those somewhere in between millennial and Gen Z) obsession with all things Y2K. Designed by European mobile innovator Human Mobile Devices (HMD), and conceptualised in collaboration with youth culture-focused apparel brand, Bodega, the project aims to “encourage young people to enjoy better real-life connections”.

The Boring Phone debuted at Milan Design Week, and is inspired by independently commissioned research into the impact of smartphones on Zillenials of legal drinking age in the US and UK. “Two thirds (62 per cent) admit to checking social media when hanging out with others, while over a third (36 per cent) confess to checking work emails,” it says in a press release, which also states that three in ten respondents revealed that they play games instead of engaging with those around them in the moment. The rest of the report focuses on how often they check their phones (37 per cent say they do this too much while socialising) and more positively, 32 per cent would like to be able to turn them off on a night out.


Heineken® x Bodega: The Boring Phone (Copyright © Heineken® x Bodega, 2024)

Type ‘dumb phones’ into Google and it’s a concept that is well and truly backed up – Gen Z are returning back to early noughties phones, maybe for simplicity but more likely also because of the aesthetic. The New Yorker says “The dumbphone boom is real”, The Standard dig into the rise of the “bougie burner” possibly inspired by Paris Hilton aesthetics and Carrie Bradshaw’s constant use of outdated tech (despite her financial and social status) and CNBC look at the motivations behind the boom, one being a desire to limit screen time.

There is also a marked rise in popular apps and brands in the tech sphere somewhat wanting to distance themselves from the negative impacts of increased screen time, with one example being Hinge’s phone-shaped book released earlier this year. But while it’s obvious why an endeavour like this would appeal to those brands, you could argue that Heineken had no need to get involved. Which is why The Boring Phone is genius, because it elevates the trend beyond brands in the tech space trying to ‘save itself’ to a part of a wider experience, while still offering all the necessary strappings for communication. The phone is also seeing impact from the musician or DJ’s perspective, with electronic artist TSHA being excited about the initiative. “As an artist, you want to connect to the audience to know they’re having a good time,” she says, “but it’s hard to do this when you look up from the decks and see a sea of smartphones flashing in your face. I would love to see a world where we enter the venue and just live in the moment [...] The Boring Phone is the perfect antidote to the barriers smart tech pose to nights out”.

As a part of the rollout of The Boring Phone, Heineken also has plans in the works to develop an app – don’t throw your smartphone away or else you won't be able to get this – that will “turn smartphones boring”, in June. It aims to offer an alternative option for those who aren’t able to get their hands on the physical Boring Phone or those who just need an intermediate option for their nights out. All in all, the device looks great, while still subtly on brand for Heineken, aesthetically and in its cultural alignment.

GalleryHeineken® x Bodega: The Boring Phone (Copyright © Heineken® x Bodega, 2024)

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Heineken® x Bodega: The Boring Phone (Copyright © Heineken® x Bodega, 2024)

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About the Author

Yaya Azariah Clarke

Yaya (they/them) joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in June 2023 and became a staff writer in November of the same year. With a particular interest in Black visual culture, they have previously written for publications such as WePresent, alongside work as a researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

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