The Best Dumb Phones – Could a Feature Phone Be a Smart Move?

by Brandon Ackroyd - , Last Updated on September 6, 2018, Buying Guides

If you’re shopping for a mobile phone, you know just how overwhelming all those choices can be. But there is one decision that’s going to help narrow down all those options: do you want a smart phone or a dumb phone? A dumb phone can be a great choice for some kinds of customers, but what exactly should you be looking for? What features are necessary and which can you do without? We’re here with everything you need to know about buying a dumb phone, and we’ve even got some great recommendations for models!

Why You Need a Dumb Phone

A smartphone is an incredible thing. However, for some customers, a smartphone simply isn’t the right choice. A dumb phone, on the other hand, may perfectly fit the bill. A dumb phone lacks the features of a smartphone, there will be either no internet connection or a limited connection, few if any apps, and the cost will be a lot lower than for a pricey smartphone.

If you’re looking to cut down on your phone use, if you’re shopping for a child or elderly relative who may be baffled by all the features on a smartphone, or if you want to limit your or your kid’s internet use, a dumb phone can be a great idea. Plus, they’re generally pretty rugged, so they make great secondary phones that can be taken on camping trips or out into the woods without you worrying about breaking them. And there are some great dumb phone choices on today’s market.

What Are My Options?

If you’re in the market for a dumb phone you don’t have quite the same huge selection of choice as you would if you were getting a smartphone. But there are still some decisions that you’ll need to make. There are various kinds of dumb phone: available to you, which are:

Candy Bar Phones

The most basic form of a mobile phone is the candy bar phone. This is a simple rectangle with a small screen and a number keypad below. A candy bar phone is small, easy to carry around, easy to access, and generally easy to work with. Whilst a few candy phones have limited internet access, in general, most don’t, and given the small screen size (and lack of touchscreen) really aren’t suitable for internet use at all.

Pros: Easy to use (though using a number pad to type letters with can be inconvenient), easy to carry around, generally very affordable.

Cons: Small screens may be difficult to see. The general lack of internet connection could be a deal breaker. The display isn’t as fragile as a touch screen, but is not protected in any way and still may break or scratch.

Best For: Those looking for something easy to use and easy to carry, and who don’t have a problem with small displays. Those who really don’t want any kind of internet access.

Flip Phones

A flip phone is a model that sort of folds in half. You flip open the phone and the top half is a screen and the bottom half is a number pad. Again, you’ll find that few of these models have internet access, and if they do it’s a very limited connection. These models are sometimes known as clamshell phones.

Pros: The real pro here is the display. The display on a flip phone is usually bigger than that of a candy bar phone, and it’s nicely protected since the phone folds over the screen when not in use.

Cons: The display still isn’t huge though, so it could be difficult to read, and again the general lack of internet connection could be a deal breaker.

Best For: Those looking for a model a little more rugged than a typical candy bar phone, those that really don’t want an internet connection.

Keyboard Phones

Finally, there are also dumb phones that come with a full QWERTY keyboard. These phones generally come in two types: a candy bar or slide. A candy bar keyboard phone has a display with a full keyboard under it, whilst a slide phone has a keyboard that slides out from under a display. Both offer the convenience of a full typing experience, and both are more likely to offer at least a limited internet connection for things like instant messaging and email. A candy bar keyboard phone is slightly more rugged, whilst a slide keyboard phone offers a larger display but is generally more fragile due to a large, unprotected display. Full disclosure here: slide out keyboard phones are tough to find nowadays and none made our list of recommended models. If this is what you’re after, you’re best off finding a second-hand model.

Pros: Gives a better typing experience with a full keyboard, usually offers a larger display (especially if you choose a slide phone). The ability of most of these phone to at least receive email could be a good selling point.

Cons: Maybe too complicated for some users (especially children), and isn’t suitable for those looking for a zero internet phone. Maybe less rugged than some customers are looking for.

Best For: Those looking for more of a compromise option between a smartphone and a dumb phone, and for those that text or email a lot from their mobile.

Nokia 3310

Our Top Pick

Nokia 3310

The Nokia 3310 is the gold standard when it comes to dumb phones. This is an updated version of the classic Nokia phone, and it’s a great buy. You get a torch and a camera, as well as a full colour 2.4 inch display, and nice big number pad buttons. You can buy it outright below or compare Nokia 3310 contract deals here.

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What Do I Need to Think About Before Buying?

Once you’ve decided on what kind of dumb phone you’re looking for, there are a few other things that you’ll want to think about before making your choice:

  • Internet Connectivity: Is this a maybe or a hard no? If you’re shopping for a child, for example, you might want to avoid an internet connection altogether. There’s a real mix of limited connection and zero connection dumb phones out there, so this is a function that you’ll want to be careful about when choosing.
  • Ruggedness: Who’s going to be using this phone? Where is the phone going to go? Is this phone likely to be dropped frequently? One of the big advantages of most dumb phones is that they tend to be more rugged than smart phones, but still, not all dumb phones are equally sturdy.
  • Simplicity: How easy does the phone need to be to use? Who will be using this phone? A full keyboard slide phone might be a good choice for older kids, but a candy bar phone is an easier to use option and better suited to young children, for example.

What Features Should I Be Looking For?

Finally, you’ll want to think about which features you’ll need. Though dumb phones aren’t as feature heavy as smartphones, there are still a fair few options out there that you’ll need to consider. So what should you be looking for?

  • Screen Size: Small displays can be tough to read, so you’ll need to keep that in mind when making your decision. However, a larger screen tends to be more fragile.
  • Button Size and Style: Whilst some users will prefer a full QWERTY keyboard, those buttons may be too small for young kids or for arthritic fingers. Number pad phones tend to have larger buttons and are therefore easier to use.
  • Battery Life: There’s nothing worse than running out of power when you really need it. In general, dumb phones tend to have pretty good battery life, but the larger the display, the poorer the battery life is likely to be.
  • Ruggedness: Some dumb phones are designed to be rugged and sturdy, but others may be more fragile than you’d really like.
  • Storage: Dumb phones generally need less storage than smartphones. But even a dumb phone will need some space to store pictures, or even music, as well as contacts and ringtones and the like. If there’s not enough storage a phone will slow down and that could create problems later.
  • Ease of Use: Depending who you’re buying for, some phones are just more intuitive than others. It’s definitely worth exploring the phone’s functions a little to find out just how easy it’s going to be to use, especially if you’re buying for a kid or older relative.

Optional Extras

What about extras? There are some things that aren’t really necessities, but that could be nice to have. Here are a few things that you might want to look out for:

  • Camera: Most, although not all, dumb phones do have cameras nowadays. In general, these won’t be great cameras, but they should be good enough for a snapshot. A camera is good for snapping friends and events, but it could also come in useful. Your kid can snap a pic of a street sign if they’re lost, for example, or your grandmother can send you a pic of the error message on her dishwasher. A camera isn’t a necessity, but it can be an advantage.
  • MP3 Player: Again, not a necessity, but many dumb phones do come with an MP3 player. This could be a selling point, especially if you’re shopping for a child.
  • Weight and Bulk: Finally, you might also want to consider the issue of weight and size. Remember that you’ll be carrying this phone around with you a lot, and keeping it on your person shouldn’t be inconvenient. And asking a kid to carry around a bulky phone probably isn’t a great idea. However, do keep in mind that the bulkier a phone is, the more rugged it’s likely to be.

How We Selected Our Top Models

Just before we get to those model recommendations though, how exactly did we choose them? We did have a few requirements that we were looking for. We wanted phones that were relatively new releases. This is simply because a newer phone is more stable, and will more likely be supported by the manufacturer for a longer period of time. Older phones tend not to receive updates and may not be supported by UK operators.

Finances are always important, so obviously we looked at affordability. And we did also look at specs, though specs aren’t quite as important with dumb phones as they are with smart phones. We checked out reviews and customer feedback too, since it’s good to know that other people have had a good experience with a model. And last but not least, we spend a lot of time around phones and the people who use them, a lot of time with mobile tech professionals, and a lot of time using lots of different mobiles. This means that we got plenty of feedback from the kind of people that use these phones every day.

Now, it’s time to get to the main feature. Which dumb phones do we really recommend?

The Top 8 Dumb Phones

Rank Product Features Pros Cons
1
Nokia 3310
Nokia 3310
  • 2.4" display
  • 79g
  • 2 MP camera
  • MP3 player
  • Allows access to email and some social networking
  • Even limited internet access might be too much for some
  • Not the cheapest candy bar option around

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2
Binatone Blade
Binatone Blade
  • 2.4" display
  • 50g
  • The display is a good size
  • Lots of storage
  • Camera and MP3 player
  • Flat keys can be tricky to type with
  • Limited internet connection might be more than you want

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3
Nokia Asha 210
Nokia Asha 210
  • 2.4" display
  • 97g
  • Good screen size
  • MP3 player and camera
  • Plenty of storage
  • Maybe too much internet connectivity
  • Keyboard buttons are quite small

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4
Binatone M250
Binatone M250
  • 1.7" display
  • 44g
  • Clear display with decent size
  • SOS and emergency contact buttons
  • Easy to use
  • No camera
  • No internet connection at all (even email)

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5
Nokia 105
Nokia 105
  • 1.8" display
  • 73g
  • No internet at all
  • Solid display
  • MP3 player
  • No email
  • No camera

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6
Cat B30
Cat B30
  • 2" display
  • 101g
  • Water proof and dust resistant
  • Very robust
  • Camera and MP3 player
  • Quite bulky
  • Relatively heavy

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7
Alcatel OneTouch 2051x
Alcatel OneTouch 2051x
  • 2.4" display
  • 96g
  • No internet
  • Robust
  • MP3 player and camera
  • Battery life isn’t great
  • Will not work with Three

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8
Nokia 216
Nokia 216
  • 2.4" display
  • 82g
  • Very light
  • MP3 player and video player
  • Decent display
  • Fairly full internet connectivity
  • The camera isn’t great

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Nokia 3310 (Candy Bar)

Nokia 3310

Screen Size: 2.4 inches

Max. Battery Life: 22 hours talk time, 744 hours standby time

Camera: 2 MP

Weight: 79 grams

The Nokia 3310 is the gold standard when it comes to dumb phones. This is an updated version of the classic Nokia phone, and it’s a great buy. You get a torch and a camera, as well as a full-colour 2.4-inch display, and nice big number pad buttons.

There’s a decent amount of storage here, with 16 MB, but there’s also an SD card slot so you can pump that up to a massive 32 GB if you like. There’s an MP3 player too, as well as a headphone jack and micro-USB charging port. And it does allow access to email and a couple of social networking sites (Twitter, most notably).

On the downside, most instant messaging services won’t work here (WhatsApp, for example). And even limited internet access might be too much for some customers. But battery life is a dream!

Pros

  • 2 MP camera
  • MP3 player
  • Allows access to email and some social networking

Cons

  • Even limited internet access might be too much for some
  • Not the cheapest candy bar option around

Binatone Blade (Flip)

Binatone Blade

Screen Size: 2.4 inches

Max. Battery Life: 3 hours talk time, 120 hours standby time

Camera: 0.3 MP

Weight: 50 grams

A flip phone can be a great choice, and the Binatone Blade is a fantastic option if that’s what you’re looking for. It’s basically a remake of the old Motorola Razr mobile, and it’s a stunning little device (and cheap too!).

There’s a full-colour 2.4-inch display, as well as a camera. Running out of storage space won’t be an issue either since there’s an SD card slot that will let you add up to 32 GB of extra memory. As a flip phone, the Blade is robust and that display is well protected. You’ll get an MP3 player as well as a few games and a torch. All in all, this is everything you could ask for.

There is a very limited internet connection here, which could be more than some people want. And the flat buttons on the Blade can make typing touch, especially if you’re in a hurry. But on the whole, the Blade is an awesome flip phone choice.

Pros

  • Display is a good size
  • Lots of storage
  • Camera and MP3 player

Cons

  • Flat keys can be tricky to type with
  • Limited internet connection might be more than you want

Nokia Asha 210 (Keyboard)

Nokia Asha 210

Screen Size: 2.4 inches

Max. Battery Life: 12 hours talk time, 1104 hours standby

Camera: 2 MP

Weight: 97 grams

The Asha 210 is the oldest phone model on the list, but it definitely deserves to be here. This is the king of keyboard dumb phones, and it’s the perfect choice for those who love to text and email. You get a nice sized display, plus a full QWERTY keyboard.

There is an MP3 player and camera, as well as a handful of games. You get email access and limited internet connectivity with a Nokia browser. There’ll be no memory problems with an SD card slot that allows you to add up to 32 GB of external storage. And there’s even Bluetooth so you can go hands-free.

On the downside, this model has more internet connectivity than any other phone on this list, so if you want to limit internet use this probably isn’t the phone for you. But as far as keyboard mobiles go, the Asha 210 is a fantastic option.

Pros

  • Good screen size
  • MP3 player and camera
  • Plenty of storage

Cons

  • Maybe too much internet connectivity
  • Keyboard buttons are quite small

Binatone M250 (Candy Bar)

Binatone M250

Screen Size: 1.7 inches

Max. Battery Life: Unknown

Camera: None

Weight: Unknown

Looking for basic? As in, really basic? Then the Binatone M250 is for you. This mobile will call, send SMS, and… that’s pretty much all. And for those looking for the absolute minimum when it comes to a mobile, this is the clear choice.

You get a torch and… that’s pretty much it when it comes to features. But the Binatone does have a couple of special characteristics. It includes an SOS button which connects directly to emergency services, and it has an emergency contact button that can be programmed for up to five numbers. So if you’re looking for a phone that will keep kids or elderly relatives safe, this could be the one.

On the negative side, there isn’t even a camera here. No MP3 player. No games. Nothing else. But this is the epitome of a dumb phone and it’s versatile too which is why it’s also in our best big button phone list.

Pros

  • Clear display with a decent size
  • SOS and emergency contact buttons
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • No camera
  • No internet connection at all (even email)

Nokia 105 (Candy Bar)

Nokia 105

Screen Size: 1.8 inch touch screen

Max. Battery Life: 15 hours talk time, 30 days standby

Camera: none

Weight: 73 grams

Another very basic choice, but still a good one, is the Nokia 105. It’s a lightweight option, making it a good choice for younger children, and there’s zero internet connection (though that does mean no email).

You get an MP3 player, a torch, and a few games, including the famous Nokia Snake game. Other than that, the 105 is pretty light on features. But if you’re looking for something that just takes care of the basics, then this is the phone for you.

On the downside, there’s no camera. There’s also no SD card slot, so you won’t be adding in any extra storage. But for a basic dumb phone, the Nokia 105 is a great (and attractive) option.

Pros

  • No internet at all
  • Solid display
  • MP3 player

Cons

  • No email
  • No camera

Cat B30 (Candy Bar)

Cat B30

Screen Size: 2 inches

Max. Battery Life: 6 hours talk time, 240 hours standby

Camera: 2 MP

Weight: 101 grams

The Cat B30 at first glance is your every day dumb phone. There’s nothing special here. There’s no internet connection and no email. You get calling and texting, a torch, and an MP3 player, as well as a basic camera.

However, the B30 has a very unique selling point. Like many of Cat’s phones, this is a specially designed rugged phone. It’s IP67 certified, meaning it’s dust resistant and water resistant in depths of up to one metre for up to thirty minutes. It also has drop resistance and can remain intact when dropped on concrete from heights of up to 1.8 metres. So if you’re looking for something indestructible, this could be the perfect phone for you. There’s even an SD card slot for up to 16 GB of external storage.

As for negatives, the Cat is a little bulky. It’s heavier than a lot of comparable models, and thicker as well, so might not be great for little hands. But it is very, very robust.

Pros

  • Waterproof and dust resistant
  • Very robust
  • Camera and MP3 player

Cons

  • Quite bulky
  • Relatively heavy

Alcatel OneTouch 2051x (Flip)

Alcatel OneTouch 2051x

Screen Size: 2.4 inches

Max. Battery Life: 4 hours talk time, 300 hours standby

Camera: 2 MP

Weight: 96 grams

In the market for a basic flip phone? Then the Alcatel OneTouch 2051x has got you covered. There’s really no bells and whistles here, and there’s absolutely no internet connection at all, which could be great if you’re buying for a child.

With the 2051x you get a basic camera, an MP3 player and FM radio, and a few games. There is expandable storage, so you can add up to 32 GB of extra memory. And as a flip phone, that display is nicely protected when the phone is closed.

On the downside, battery life isn’t the best around when compared to other dumb phones. Plus, since there’s no 3G connectivity at all this phone will NOT operate on Three’s mobile network (though should work just fine with most other major operators).

Pros

  • No internet
  • Robust
  • MP3 player and camera

Cons

  • Battery life isn’t great
  • Will not work with Three

Nokia 216 (Candy Bar)

Nokia 216

Screen Size: 2.4 inches

Max. Battery Life: 18 hours talk time, 576 hours standby

Camera: basic (less than 1 MP)

Weight: 82 grams

The Nokia 216 is fairly unique when it comes to dumb phones. It’s affordable, it’s sleek and fairly basic. However, it does allow fairly sophisticated web browsing. Of course, this could be a deal breaker for some. But if you’re looking for a dumb phone that’s cheap but that still allows you to check the football scores, then this is it.

You get an MP3 player, an FM radio, a torch, and the Opera Mini Browser which lets you surf the internet. You also get an SD card slot that allows you to add up to 32 GB of additional memory. There are a few games (Snake, of course), and even a video player.

On the down side, the camera is very basic indeed. And the plastic body, though light, is not the most robust material around. Plus, there’s that internet connectivity which could be a disadvantage depending on what you’re shopping for.

Pros

  • Very light
  • MP3 player and video player
  • Decent display

Cons

  • Fairly full internet connectivity
  • The camera isn’t great