Shiny new old-school tech isn’t aimed only at people not ready to let go of what’s always worked for them.

Despite Japan being home to some of the world’s most high-profile electronics companies, the country can be surprisingly attached to old technology. It’s only been two years since pager service officially ended in Japan, after all, and in another example of that if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it philosophy, KDDI, one of Japan’s largest telecommunications providers, is proudly rolling out a new flip phone model this month.

Pictured above and called the G’zOne Type-XX, it’s the latest in a line that started back in 2000 with the G’zOne C303CA, which wasn’t a flip phone, but still doesn’t look modern by today’s standards.

▼ G’zOne C303CA

With most of Japan having switched to smartphones, there’s not much demand anymore for feature phones, as phones with more functions than just voice calling but fewer capabilities than a fully Internet-connected device are technically called. Even in Japan, flip/feature phones are now commonly called “garakei,” a contraction of the words Galapagos and keitai denwa (“mobile phone”), likening the lingering technology to the animals that survive in the remote islands’ ecosystem, but don’t exist in any other part of the world, and it’s been nine whole years since the last new model for the G’zOne line.

So why go to the trouble of bringing a new garakei to market? Durability and ease of use, KDDI says. As its rugged looks suggest, the G’zOne Type-XX is built to be able to absorb a lot of punishment. Designed by Casio and manufactured by Kyocera, its casing will shield its internals from the impact of a 1.8-meter (5.9-foot) drop, and its other protective features include being water resistant (including against saltwater) and dustproof.

▼ The G’zOne Type-XX comes in two colors, Liquid Green or Solid Black, and is priced at 52,800 yen (US$459).

Because of that, KDDI, which administers Japan’s au mobile network, says the G’zOne Type-XX is ideal for the communication needs of outdoor sports and hiking enthusiasts, and also a good fit for professional fishermen, contractors, farmers, and others who work in an environment where their phone might regularly be exposed to harsh environmental conditions that would scratch up a smartphone screen. A lot of those people also spend a good portion of their day wearing heavy-duty work gloves that can make trying to use a touchscreen an extreme exercise in frustrations, so the G’zOne Type-XX sticks with good old buttons for all of its operation.

Still, it’s a surprise to see a company announcing a new garakei, especially with KDDI getting set to discontinue its 3G phone network in April, a move which will render many of the flip phones still in use no longer usable. However, the G’zOne Type-XX will work with the company’s 4G network so buyers will still be able to use the new old-school phone for some time to come, especially since they’re not likely to break it.

Source: TV Asahi via Livedoor News via Jin, NHK, KDDI
Top image: KDDI
Insert images: KDDI (1, 2)
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he always imagines giant turtles with cell phones when he hears the word “garakei.”