By Tuncay Kayaoglu
While much of the world has moved on from the reliable, ‘brick’-type mobile phones of the 1990s, such out-of-date technology is having a mini-revival in an unlikely place: among young Turkish army recruits.
The Turkish military has recently allowed its thousands of annual new recruits to use mobile phones within 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 with family and loved ones.
Around 500,000 young men in Turkey are called on to 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 – which offer only calls and text messages, without internet access – were sold on its platform by the beginning of June.
“The average price is 69 Turkish liras ($25) for those phones. The most popular brand is Nokia. Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Panasonic have followed Nokia,” the website said on Tuesday this week.
Mobile-phone shop owners in Istanbul’s Sirinevler town confirmed the spike in demand.
“Yes, soldiers on weekends usually inquire for such mobile phones,” says Ozgur Boyan, 35, speaking to Anadolu Agency, adding that they ask for basic models offered by Nokia and Samsung.
Another shop owner, Ali Cekic, also confirmed that interest has increased for non-smart phones. Neither vendor, however, disclosed how many handsets they sold after the military’s announcement.
The move has affected close to half a million conscripted soldiers in the army creating a potential $12 million market – particularly for second-hand mobile phones, although officers have been allowed to have smartphones on-base for some time.
Turkey requires all male citizens to perform mandatory military service sometime between 20-to-41 years of age. The duration of service varies according to a person’s education level. Those who hold a four-year university degree can complete their military service within six months while those without such a degree have to attend for 12 months.
After the military’s decision, mobile phone operators have begun to provide a specific service – Askercell – to meet requirements set by the Turkish military.
This service let users dial up to seven pre-determined numbers and is operational between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Turkcell, a leading mobile phone operator said there had been “intensive usage” since May.
“Soldiers have started talking to their loved ones through Askercell,” Turkcell told Anadolu Agency, but the company said it could not disclose how many soldiers were using the service.
Vodafone and Avea, other major mobile phone operators in Turkey, have said they are going to provide the service soon.
Some soldiers may still opt to use smartphones off-base to be able to post on social media websites or send their photos to their loved ones. But the military’s decision – at one stroke of a pen – has simultaneously lifted some of the burden on soldiers’ shoulders and created lucrative market for mobile phone vendors.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.