The Barbie mobile is coming this summer, but it’s not what you might expect

Mattel and HMD Global

The most unexpected brand partnership has given us a surprising phone that grabbed attention at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2024. HMD Global, the company that makes phones under the name Nokia, has partnered with toy maker Mattel on the Barbie Flip Phone. Yes, That Barbie. But don’t worry because this is just a pink version of the old Nokia phone.

“Let me put it this way,” Adam Ferguson, HMD Global’s head of product marketing, said with a smile when I chatted with him over Zoom during the event. “Mattel, and Barbie in particular, is not a brand you can pitch.”

Interestingly, these two companies have much higher ambitions than just releasing related products.

Isn’t this a bit late?

Promotional image of HMD Global and Mattel brand partnership.
HMD Global

The Barbie Flip Phone was announced at MWC 2024, but it was a huge hit, an Oscar nominee Barbie the film comes out in mid-2023, so the company isn’t missing out on anything Barbie Barbenheimer fever and chaos that seemed like the perfect opportunity to launch such a device? While that’s a fair point, Barbie isn’t just about the movies; — far from it. In a recent interview with DrumMattel president and CEO Richard Dickson said, “Barbie manifests herself through product interpretations, but her ideas are bigger than any one product.”

Ferguson agreed, and said that calling the call ‘too late’ “misses the point of the Barbie brand, where it’s going and what it stands for.”

What will this phone be about, if this is going to be more than just a collaboration? Ferguson continued: “It’s been an absolute joy and pleasure to work with the team at Mattel, and see the journey that Barbie has been on over the last few years, and we get to talk about things like digital detox and women in tech.”

HMD Global 2024 branding promotional image.
HMD Global

The Barbie Flip Phone will not be a full-fledged smartphone, but a feature phone, which leverages HMD Global’s strengths as a manufacturer and is where the digital detox link takes place. According to research cited by the company, this is a concern for many people. to age 24, and many of them try to limit their time on social media.

“This particular device will have a classic form factor, and that’s the part that appeals to a certain audience,” Ferguson said. “They are very digitally savvy and live their lives online, but they are also very anxious about spending too much time on social media and using their phones. They admit this. We try to help address real-world challenges and problems that many people face.”

What makes this phone special?

Promotional image of HMD Global and Mattel brand partnership.
HMD Global

If the Barbie Flip Phone was created to promote things like digital detox, what would it look like? Ferguson didn’t mean to give away the full extent of the surprise, but said:

“There will be new things in the software, as well as an exciting new look and feel. There will be new items in the box and packaging. We did everything to order with Mattel in this partnership. Of course, there are certain elements of historical tools, because there are reasons why they want to work with us. They want to capitalize on the incredible heritage we have as the sole maker of Nokia devices.”

The journey to the Barbie Flip Phone was a highly collaborative process, as Ferguson explains:

“One of the great things about this partnership is that there is a great two-way dialogue. We’ve gone through dozens of design iterations, because Barbie is more than just a color palette, and the entire brand represents much more than that. As for the final version, we haven’t revealed the final design, but there has been a lot of progress, and it’s been a very collaborative design process.”

Pixelated final design?

Promotional image of HMD Global and Mattel brand partnership.
HMD Global

But don’t expect too much from what Barbie is known for in the phone’s design, as HMD Global states that the phone will “embody the vintage style of the original female empowerment brand with a hint of pink and sparkle.”

To ramp up our anticipation for the Barbie Flip Phone, HMD Global released the unusual pixelated teaser image seen above at MWC 2024, and it doesn’t give away anything other than the phone’s expected color. There is a reason for such temptation, as Ferguson explains:

“We can show what the phone looks like, and we can show its features and specifications. But if you do that, most of the focus will be on the phone itself and the inside of the device. But there is a story to be told here, and we will do so leading up to launch.”

The Barbie Flip Phone will be released in the summer, and in case you weren’t sure how much effort both brands put into making the phone a movie-sized success, Ferguson concluded our conversation about the device with these words: “ This is something we’re working towards fully.”

Now, we just need the announcement of the Oppenheimer Flip Phone (perhaps with one big red button on it) to prepare us for an unexpected, mobile-focused 2023 iteration.

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