While much of the world has moved on from the reliable "brick'" mobile phones of the 1990s, such out-of-date technology is experiencing a mini-revival in the unlikely place among young Turkish army recruits. The Turkish military has recently allowed its thousands of annual new recruits to use mobile phones on military bases.
"Soldiers can talk with family members within limited hours by using phones approved and specified by the military," the military said on April 13.
The army says it wants to increase soldiers' morale and let them connect their family and loved ones. Around 500,000 young men in Turkey begin mandatory military service each year.The army's unexpected announcement has created a surge in demand for non-smart phones. One of Turkey's largest online shopping platforms, sahibinden.com, has said that at least 639 non-smart phones that offer only calls and text messages without internet access were sold on its site by the beginning of June. "The average price is TL 69 ($26) for those phones. The most popular brand is Nokia. Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Panasonic have followed Nokia," the website said on Tuesday.
Mobile phone shop owners in Istanbul's Sirinevler district confirmed the spike in demand. "Yes, soldiers on weekends usually inquire about such mobile phones," Ozgur Boyan, 35, said speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), adding that they are asking for the basic models offered by Nokia and Samsung.
The move has affected close to half a million conscripted soldiers in the army, creating a potential $12 million market for second-hand mobile phones, although officers have been allowed to have smartphones on bases for some time.
Turkey requires all male citizens to complete mandatory military service at some point between the ages of 20 and 41. The duration of service varies according to a person's level of education. Those who hold a four-year university degree can complete their military service in six months while those without such a degree have to serve for 12 months.
Following the military's decision, mobile phone operators have begun to provide a specific service, Askercell, to meet the requirements set by the Turkish military.
This service let users dial up to seven pre-determined numbers and is operational between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.