Looking for the best dumb phone or the best feature phone can be hard in this day and age. This is especially true since people only want the latest models from the best phone brands and most manufacturers have stopped selling phones comparable to those of the late 2000s.
That said, feature phones have a different kind of appeal from modern smartphones, too. These phones let you unplug and offer some much-needed relief from the tiring interconnected world of 24/7 social media apps, Netflix, and other distractions. They are a return to a simpler and more basic mobile phone experience where the focus is on texting and calling.
If you want a dumb phone for yourself or looking for a feature phone for someone who never really got “technology” in the first place, you’ve found the right place. To help you choose, here is our list of the best dumb phones for 2022!
Inside This Article
- What Is a Dumb Phone
- Features Dumb Phones Must Have
- The Best Dumb Phone To Get In 2022
- Why Get a Dumb Phone?
- Dumb Phone FAQs
What Is a Dumb Phone?
We brushed over it earlier, but what exactly is a dumb phone, and why are they called that? To simply answer the first question, dumb phones are cell phones mainly used for calls and texts. While they also have additional features like multimedia playback and internet capability, they are not as “smart” or app laden as your average Android or iOS phone. Now, here is a more in-depth explanation.
Also called feature phones or brick phones, dumb phones are the smartphone’s simpler cousin. First coined in the late 1990s, the term “feature phone” was made to differentiate them from earlier call and text-only phones due to their additional features. These dumb phone features include simple graphical user interfaces (GUI), FM radio, built-in cameras, 3.5mm audio jacks, and video playback.
Feature phones have also evolved and are not exactly the chunky bricks your grandparents used to operate. Over time, their features included WiFi compatibility, mobile data, and other internet-centric features. A few examples of dumb phones include the venerable Nokia 3310, the music-equipped Sony Ericsson W580i “Walkman phone”, and the stylish Motorola RAZR — not to be confused with the RAZR 5G
Since feature phones have a lot of, well, features, what makes them different from smartphones? Compared to Android or iOS-powered smartphones, dumb phones still have very limited features. Coming from the “dumb” in their name, dumb phones can’t do a lot of things with their weaker processing power and memory. Not only do these phones have an inability to use most apps, virtual assistants, and other advanced features like GPS, these phones lack basic things like a touchscreen. Feature phones use a physical touchpad, as well as smaller and more rudimentary screens.
Features Dumb Phones Must Have
Now, we want to talk about what features these non-smartphones have or must have that would make people want one. There are five main features when buying dumb phones. These five perks are having an “unplugged” experience, a cheaper phone and phone costs, being simple and easy to use, increased user safety and privacy, and having a robust phone with good battery life.
The best dumb phone lets you have an unplugged and distraction-free cell phone experience. While it may not let you go completely off-grid, dumb phones let you disconnect from most of the instant distractions of modern life. Due to not using either Android or iOS operating systems, most dumb phones don’t have app support.
From viewing the latest gossip on social media apps to annoying after-work WeChat messages or badly timed Zoom and Google Meet video calls, a dumb phone frees you from these problems and distractions. This means that a dumb phone would not tempt you to spend hours of screen time with your phone. It encourages you to step away from technology and, as they say, touch grass.
Another big factor why some people want a dumb phone is its cheap cost. Modern flagship smartphones are prohibitively expensive; as an example, the basic iPhone 13 128GB costs around $700 brand new. Even when compared to a low-cost budget smartphone, feature phones have bottom-rung pricing. Meanwhile, a good 4G dumb phone, like the Nokia 6300, costs around $70 or below.
Aside from the cost of the unit itself, using a feature phone as a primary phone is cheap on your phone plan too! Compared to a mobile data-centric phone plan that a smartphone would use, feature phones will work to their fullest with just a basic talk and text plan. Since they have limited apps and features, data and WiFi is not that important to a feature phone user.
Due to their evolution from basic cell phones, the best dumb phones are easy to use. As we said earlier, feature phones have a quick-to-understand GUI and a physical keypad instead of a touch screen. Due to these limitations, feature phone controls are straightforward. Whether your dumb phone’s operating system uses the old Symbian OS, a heavily modified Android firmware, or the newer KaiOS, this simplicity does not change.
A dumb phone’s simplicity does not stop at the OS, since its lack of advanced features makes them great phones for the technically illiterate. Without confusing apps, bloatware, and other complicated add-ons, dumb phones are great user-friendly cell phones for seniors and phones for kids.
Another good thing about the best dumb phones is their increased user safety and privacy. There is a lot of news about big tech companies collecting their user’s data. Have you ever wondered why you had to log into your Google account or create an Apple ID during a smartphone’s first startup? This problem of user data collection is a big part of a smartphone’s operating system using Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS. Since your phone is linked to your account, this potentially gives these companies access to your current location or visited locations, your contacts list, or your AI assistant secretly recording you. Due to its limited features and available apps, these are just not big concerns with a dumb phone.
Most dumb phones have limited apps due to using the Linux-based KaiOS. This limitation also increases your security since you cannot do things like download a banking or mobile payment app. You also get the added security of being unable to download and install potential or intentional spyware onto your phone.
Finally, the best dumb phones will offer better battery time compared to their smartphone counterparts. This is mostly due to their lower power needs compared to smartphones. Since dumb phones have limited apps and fewer features, there is just not a lot to power up. It is normal to have a dumb phone that has a battery that can last several days without needing a charge.
Aside from that, feature phones are also more durable than their smartphone counterparts. Compared to smartphones with gigantic glass screens, dumb phones have smaller ones protected by a hard plastic casing. This lets it survive a lot of falls and impacts that smartphones would not be able to.
The Best Dumb Phone to Get In 2022
For this list of the best dumb phones to get, we will give you a quick rundown of our phone suggestions. We will include a summary of why we like that phone model and include its phone type (bar, flip, or slide).
Before we begin, we have to give you a short warning about 3G phones. While they are still functional and will work well, the big three mobile carriers will start phasing out the technology by the end of 2022. This means that dumb phones and smartphones limited to 3G will be unable to connect to mobile data after the phase-out. Because of this, we will only include 4G or newer phones in this list.
Caterpillar’s CAT B35 is a monster of durability. It’s IP68 water and dust-resistant, rugged with MIL-STD-810G compliant construction, and drop-resistant to up to 1.8 meters — everything you would expect from a company popular for making heavy construction equipment.
The B35 isn’t just about the hardware as it also has almost everything a basic smartphone has, including GPS (A-GPS and GLONASS) and most apps like Facebook, Gmail, and WhatsApp due to the equipped KaiOS. It does have its downsides, though, since it is a bit expensive and uses a micro-USB 2.0 port to charge. Regardless, if you want a long-lasting dumb phone without much of the hassles, the Caterpillar B35 should be one of your first choices!
One of the most popular feature phone makers in the world, Nokia continues this trend with their Nokia 6300 4G. Our best choice pick, the 6300 4G also uses KaiOS and was released in 2021. Like most of Nokia’s latest designs, the 6300 4G is actually a refit of an older original with a few added buttons. For this model’s base, it was the Nokia 6300, which was first released in 2007.
Aside from the 4G capability, the 6300 4G has upgraded everything about the phone. It is a dumb phone with GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, and charges using a microUSB 2.0 port. The 6300 is quite standard for a modern dumb phone and fits a nice niche between features and cost.
Related: Nokia Phone Review
Because of their history, it would not be surprising that Nokia also took our best value pick for this best dumb phone list. A truly basic feature phone, the 225 4G lacks a lot of things you’d expect in a modern phone. Among these, GPS and apps are the biggest missing features due to the phone using a basic OS and not the app-capable KaiOS. With that, those who want to fully unplug from cluttered notification-ridden smartphones will find some solace with the 225 4G.
One of the rarer phone types you could see in this day and age, the Nokia 8110 4G is a slide-type phone. Small and compact, the phone hides its keyboard behind a slide-able cover when not in use. Statistics-wise, the 8110 4G is similar to the Nokia 6300 4G. Despite their similarity, the 8110 4G has a place in this list. There really is just something totally cool about a sliding phone!
The first flip phone on this list, Kyocera’s DuraXV Extreme has similar ideas to our premium pick. It is built to last day-to-day use and then some with its IP68 dust and water resistance and the MIL-STD-810G standard construction. The phone has a simple TFT screen and a secondary outer LCD screen for notifications and messages.
Aside from its 4G capabilities and 16 GB of internal memory, the DuraXV Extreme also has a decent 1770 mAh battery that can power 9.5 hours of continuous call time with the 4G on. It also has a programmable SOS key, loud 100-decibel front-facing speakers, and is HAC-rated M4/T4.
One of the best dumb phones for heavy-duty use and abuse, the Sonim XP5s takes cues from the company’s other phones. This dumb phone is meant to be a companion for people with dangerous jobs. It is rated IP68 dust and water-resistant and conforms to MIL-STD-810G military equipment standards. Aside from that, its screen is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 1 to prevent most scratches and dents.
Compared to other phones on this list, the XP5s uses the Sonim OS, an Android 8.1 derivative, as its operating system. This means that the XP5s is basically a dumbed-down smartphone with most of the bells and whistles that come with that.
The final “tough” phone on this list of the best dumb phones, the Nokia 800 Tough was made to be small and lightweight while still having some ruggedness. Similar to the past three Nokie phones on this list, the 800 Tough is also IP68 resistant and is MIL-STD-819G standards compliant. It also uses KaiOS as its operating system, pre-loaded with Facebook and WhatsApp so you’re not completely disconnected from the world. Functionally, this model is quite similar to 6300 4G. We did say it was standard, after all.
It really is not fair to call the Punkt MP02 a “bar” dumb phone considering its extremely thin size. That said, its thin frame does not mean it is weak since it is IP52 resistant and glass-fiber reinforced. Designed by English product designer Jasper Morrison, the phone is pretty simple and looks a lot like an air conditioner remote. While simple, it does feature the usual talk and text messaging alongside 4G LTE connectivity and hotspot connections. Since we said earlier that the Nokia 225 4G was a great choice to disconnect and unplug, the MP02 is the closest to unplugged you can get without living in the woods.
Coming from a classic dumb phone maker, Alcatel’s Go Flip V is the fifth generation of their flippable dumb phone line. It is running on KaiOS 2.5 with 1GB RAM that can handle the necessary you need on a day-to-day basis.
Although it’s a basic phone, the Go Flip V can also cater to modern-day needs — thanks to its reliable network technology. Alcatel equips it with 4G LTE so you can enjoy excellent call quality over the internet.
Specs-wise, though, the Go Flip V lacks GPS capabilities and can only support one nano-SIM card. That said, the Go Flip V is pretty standard as flip phones go and can be a great choice for a cool phone.
The last model in our list of the best dumb phones is the Nokia 2760 Flip. It’s another reworked version of an old original with the same ideas as the 6300 4G. While its statistics are similar to the other Nokia phones on this list, the 2760 Flip does have two main differences. It does not have an FM radio and it uses a USB Type-C connection.
Okay, if you still are not convinced to get a dumb phone at this point, why else should you get one? Simple — your mental health. As smartphone addiction becomes more and more accepted as a disease in the modern world, they are looking for ways to prevent it. Similar to cigarettes or other drugs, one of the best ways to kick the habit is to go “cold turkey”. Dumb phones limit people from getting the instant gratification that smartphones give them. Because of that, they are perfect for people who want to kick that addiction while still having a functioning phone for work or family.
There you have it, our list of the best dumb phones. We hope you found at least one of these feature phones to your liking. But before we leave, we want to bring up and answer a few frequently asked questions about dumb phones.
Do dumb phones have apps?
Yes, they do! Depending on your dumb phone’s exact OS, you could have apps like Facebook, Spotify, and WhatsApp available to download. These apps may be a bit different than what you are used to on smartphones, however.
Do any dumb phones have WhatsApp?
As we said earlier, the WhatsApp app may be available on your dumb phone. For phones using KaiOS, you can check if an app is available by looking at their official online app store (https://www.kaiostech.com/store/).
What is the best dumb phone for texting?
Well, all of them. Basic SMS, MMS, and calls are what dumb phones were made for and you cannot go wrong picking any of the phones on this list.
How long do dumb phone batteries last?
As with smartphone batteries, how long a dumb phone’s battery lasts depends on how heavy or light your usage of it is. Generally, though, you can work a few days with one full charge of a dumb phone battery.
Is there a dumb phone with Spotify?
Unfortunately, Spotify has yet to make an app for phones running on KaiOS. Your best bet to get a dumb phone with Spotify is to use a dumb phone running a modified OS like the Sonim XP5s.