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The best burner phones in 2022: cheap cellphones for less stress

Best burner phone
(Image credit: Nokia)

Assuming you're not a drug dealer or having an affair, why would you want the best burner phone? Well, for one, they're cheap: so cheap you can afford to lose or break them. Second, they're a great way to ease yourself off social media addiction. And thirdly, the battery life is amazing! 

Think about it. There are places you wouldn't want to take your iPhone 13 Pro, lest it get stolen or damaged. And there are times when its battery just isn't going to last, but you might need to make an urgent call. So the best burner phone comes in handy as a useful backup.

No, this won't be the best phone, and certainly not the best camera phone. But it may last up to a week or more before needing a charge, and for the cost of a bottle of wine, that can be a great investment.

Will you need to check email or social media apps like Facebook and Twitter? A few burner phones will let you do so, but not all, and the ones that do will be slow. Some of them don’t even have cameras. And those that do will be pretty low quality.

Most burner phones also use microSIMs rather than nanoSIMs, so you’ll either need to get a new SIM from your phone network or a converter: a little piece of plastic into which your normal SIM slots. You can buy these cheaply on eBay.

However, you need to be careful about what you buy. Since 2G networks in the US have been wound down and the FCC is now shutting down 3G networks too, a 4G burner phone is a must for US usage. Even if you won't be using a burner for mobile internet, if it's not 4G-capable, you won't even be able to make calls or texts in the US now.

With all that in mind, here are some of the best 4G burner phones for your money today.

Best burner phones in 2022

(Image credit: Alcatel)

1. Alcatel 1

The best cheap burner phone

Specifications

Network: 4G GSM/HSPA/LTE
Battery standby time: 1 day
Battery talk time: 4 hours
Screen: 5-inch LCD 480 x 960
Camera: 5MP + 2MP selfie camera
Dimensions: 138 x 66 x 9.8mm
Weight: 134g
Storage: Memory 8Gb + microSD

Reasons to buy

+
Bargain access to Android
+
4G
+
Camera with flash

Reasons to avoid

-
Screen brightness a little weak
-
No fast charge

The Alcatel 1 is a 4G smartphone which might not quite match one of the flagship handsets from Apple or other leading brands, but you can have twenty of these for the same money as the fruit-based brand’s top model. There are a lot of reasons why you might want a burner like this too; when transitioning kids to smartphones it is best to start with something cheap you wouldn’t mind replacing, but at the same time you know the kids won’t be happy with a simple candy bar – this might be the solution.

This handset brings with it Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition) which is thoughtfully designed for folk using pay-as-you-go SIMs; the YouTube app even offers you lower video quality to save data charges. The camera is OK (except for real close up, which is unhelpful with small QR codes), and takes decent pics or 1080P video.

(Image credit: Alcatel)

2. Alcatel MyFlip

A low-cost option if you're happy with refurbished

Specifications

Network: 4G
Battery standby time: 3 days
Battery talk time: 3 hours
Screen: 240 x 320 pixel 2.8-in (+ 128 x 128 external)
Camera: 2MP
Dimensions: 104 x 53 x 20mm
Weight: 118g
Storage: 4GB

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap or very cheap
+
Sturdy design
+
4G compatible

Reasons to avoid

-
Fewer functions than other Alcatel fiip phones you could buy
-
Tied to one carrier

Tracfone is offering a carrier-locked Alcatel MyFlip 4G handset which, with a 2 megapixel stills-and-video camera, browser, wi-fi and Bluetooth 3 gives you much of what you might want from a modern handset, boosting it with the satisfying option of clapping the phone closed to end a call rather than tapping a red icon on the screen. Hinged handsets might be a bit early 2000s, but they have their advantages.

This isn’t a carrier-free phone – it’s not so much a choice for folk who want to explore their network options, as for those looking to get connectivity with the minimum investment, which is why we’ve included the slightly older version in this list – because Tracfone are already offering renewed (new-speak for used & refurbished) handsets for a similar investment to a large coffee (or you can pay more for an all-new version, should you wish).

(Image credit: Nokia)

3. Nokia 8110

The best burner phone for looks

Specifications

Network: 4G
Battery standby time: 25 days
Battery talk time: 7 hours
Screen: 2.4-inch 320 x 240 LCD
Camera: 2MP
Dimensions: 133.5 x 49.3 x 14.9mm
Weight: 117g
Storage: microSD

Reasons to buy

+
Has 4G
+
And some basic app support

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than true burner phones
-
Not as well-made as the 1990s original

Here’s a non-smart phone pick that stretches at the price definition of the kind of phones we’re looking to highlight here. But you will find it online for around $70. 

This was the follow-up to the Nokia 3310. Nokia was no doubt encouraged by the waves of nostalgic interest the retro phone received. The original Nokia 8110 became famous in part for its use in the first The Matrix movie, the phone Neo used to communicate with his handlers out in the “real" world. 

It was also known as the “banana phone” thanks to its curved shape, elongated when the call mic is flicked out. Nokia has leaned into this with the remake, selling a bright yellow version as well as the classic black. 

But unlike the Nokia 3310, the Nokia 8110 is a different prospect to the original. The 1996 version was, at the time, a high-end executive phone. This is more a pastiche or ode to the past than a remake. It is nowhere near as well made, and we’d trust the Nokia 3310 to survive abuse more than the 8110,  although the flick-out mechanism of the call mic does have some of the same satisfying executive stress toy appeal. 

This is a 4G phone that ever-so-slightly blurs the border between feature phones and smart ones. It has GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1, and baked-in email and Google Maps support. However, it uses KaiOS rather than Android. App support is still very, very limited and the apps you do get feel quite clumsy and slow, not helped by now unfamiliar button-based control. The Nokia 8110 can do more than the other Nokias in this round-up, though.

Best burner phone: Total Wireless iPhone 7

(Image credit: Total Wireless)

4. Total Wireless iPhone 7

As cheap as a burner iPhone gets

Specifications

Network: 4G LTE
Battery standby time: 40 hours
Battery talk time: 13 hours (3G)
Screen: 750 x 1334 pixels 4.7-inch
Camera: 12MP Main camera / 7MP Selfie camera
Dimensions: 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
Weight: 138g
Storage: 32Gb / 128Gb / 256Gb versions

Reasons to buy

+
Still a great phone with a good camera
+
Access to iOS without a crippling contract 
+
Older handset

Reasons to avoid

-
This is a US only deal
-
32Gb is a bit limited for an iPhone

This handset is long discontinued by Apple, following a release in 2016 and its year in the limelight. Nevertheless it’s still compatible with the current operating system (Apple are very well behaved in that respect), so in the USA Total Wireless are able to offer a carrier-locked contract free version of the handset. 

That means if you’re less concerned about the initial investment and more concerned about staying off the rolling contract wagon this gives you the opportunity to do so with a 4K-capable camera phone, HDR front & back, and optical image stabilization for a not horrendous investment. The retina screen and IP67 water resistance won’t hurt and many prefer the fingerprint security to the newer FaceID system (especially if they need to wear a mask).

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Andrew is a freelance technology writer specializing in mobile phones. You can find his articles on Wired, Techradar, Digital Spy, Mashable, Stuff and, of course, Digital Camera World.