The phrase 'best dumbphone' might sound like a contradiction in terms. Surely a smartphone is best, and a 'dumbphone' is inferior in every way? Well actually, for some people it's actually the opposite.
For example, maybe you're suffering from phone addiction, and need a digital detox. In that case, a simpler phone that doesn't let you access social media will be a preferable option. If you're buying for elderly, tech-challenged grandparents, a basic phone will be easier to use, so again that can make it a better choice.
If you don't want to spend a lot of money and just want to make calls and send texts, the best dumbphones are incredibly cheap. They also tend to have very long battery life, and be more robust if you drop them.
'Dumb' isn't, of course, a word that any retailer will ever use, prefering a term like ‘feature phone’. Either way, we're talking about basic phones that can handle calls, are relatively robust, and will, in all likelihood, only need charging once a week rather than twice a day. And while they certainly won't be the best camera phones, they'll normally have some kind of camera on board.
In this article, we'll list the best dumbphones available today and, right at the bottom, a couple of smartphones which you should probably also consider before deciding to ‘go dumb’.
Note: in the US, the FCC has now phased out 3G (opens in new tab). And many older dumbphones are 3G-only, so won't work on US cellular networks. So before you buy a dumbphone for US usage, be sure to first check that it's not a 2G or 3G phone, but supports 4G or another current technology, like a satellite network. Every device on this list does.
Best dumbphone in 2023
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Nokia hasn’t let go of the flip phone or KaiOS, which means they’re keeping designs fresh, but this is – more than anything – a low-cost handset, available at under $20 in some places. Despite that, it has a 5MP camera, better than a good many on this list, and screens inside and out. There is also a headphone jack and, crucially for many, support for not only Bluetooth 4.2 but M4/T4 hearing aids too.
If you’re looking for long life in the field, then the phone has a swappable battery. This is especially handy in the 4G era (call time is never as high on the more modern networks; 3.4hr talk rather than 7.3 on 3G). We also appreciate the arrival of a USB-C connection as well as the 3.5mm headphone jack. There is also little bloatware, although Youtube, Google Browser, and Maps are there.
Want an easy phone your grandparents can use without getting overwhelmed? We recommend the Easyfone Prime A6, which keeps things nice and simple with big buttons, large fonts, and basic, easy to use functionality. We also love that it comes with an SOS button for emergencies (which you can disable if you prefer), and that it's hearing-aid compatible.
You don't get a camera, and there's little in the way of features, but that's kind of the point: keep things simple, and your oldest relatives will be able to make and receive calls without getting stressed or confused by too much modern tech.(opens in new tab)
Here's another good choice if you want to avoid the distractions of a modern smartphone, while still enjoying a few smart features. This simple handset can take and receive calls; read (but not compose too many) texts, and even browse YouTube and Facebook. That’s watch YouTube, by the way: the camera only takes stills).
If avoiding distraction is your priority, though, it’s worth bearing in mind that the color screen is good enough for some of Nokia’s famously playable games to work. So if you're a keen mobile gamer, you’ll still need to exercise some self control.
One lovely nod to feature sets from phones 20 years its senior is the inclusion of an FM radio; a more battery efficient way of getting music, news and entertainment than the average smartphone will offer you. Note, though, that you can also add 32GB of MP3s via the MicroSD card slot.
The Cingular Smartflip IV runs KaiOS 2.5, giving it the power to run apps like Facebook or the – essential to some – Whatsapp. There’s also a camera which isn’t much to write home about, though it can record low frame rate postage-stamp videos (352x288) if that’s your thing.
If you’re not a fan of typing, Google Assisant provides voice in most text entry fields, and the contacts sync with Google and Outlook (to a maximum of 1000). You can also use a bluetooth headset, but you’ll still need to open the phone and press ‘OK’ to start Google Assistant.
As a classic phone, though, this is a good value device. The handset supports HD calls and the keyboard can be operated by feel well enough, ideal for those who like the form factor but need to keep in touch across generations.(opens in new tab)
The MP02 is expensive given its stripped-down feature sets, but its design is wholly deliberate. This isn't an old design fished out and re-branded for the elderly: it's a new phone purposely designed to serve as a minimal distraction from the modern world. It's 4G, and it can be a hotspot when needed, but as a phone, it’s distraction-free monochrome.
The MP02 is available in both black and a gorgeous light blue, in both cases with a soft-touch pad on the rear for grip. As well as looking good the device appeals where privacy is a concern. It offers support for the Signal protocol, which allows for encrypted internet-based calls as well as metadata and communications.
The Nokia 6300 is halfway between a very basic voice phone and a smartphone. That means it will suit someone who occasionally wants to access services like Whatsapp, Facebook and YouTube, but doesn't want to get sucked into them like you do on a modern smartphone. It's also a good choice if battery life is a priority: its 1,500mAh battery will keep it going for up to 25 days on standby, and provide up to 7.5 hours' talk time.
A few other features raise this above the norm for dumbphones. Most notably, you can use it as a mobile hotspot, and you get a generous 4G of storage. You can even increase that to 256GB by adding a microSD card (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
This phone is marketed for seniors, but comes with support for Facebook and Whatsapp, which many older people rely on these days. Though it sports physical keys, they’re not the biggest, so it’s probably best for more nimble folk than some senior-friendly handsets. But with 512MB memory and a 1.1GHz processor, the apps should run fine, although we wouldn't want to play the latest games on it.(opens in new tab)
A final device that deserves inclusion on this list is one of the best satellite phones (opens in new tab). Due to the limited bandwidth of the satellite network, this technology doesn't do really data transfer. Physics, however, does give it one huge advantage: it can see most of the Earth’s surface. That makes it perfect for keeping in contact from remote locations.
The IsatPhone 2 is built for adventure with IP65 compliance, a reflective screen with Gorilla glass, a dedicated location-sharing button (texting your location as a GPS text to an interested follower), and an SOS button. Put up the giant antenna snearly anywhere in the world and thanks to a network of geostationary satellites you will be able to make a call.(opens in new tab)
The flip-phone style may be old-fashioned, but it's still iconic thanks to pop culture references like the Matrix movies. The keyboard slider makes this phone not only light and compact but practical too, with no accidental pocket dials (or bag fluff) likely to cause a nuisance. The other side of that argument is that the plastic seems a little more easily scuffed than you’d like, and the processor could be snappier, but the price is very attractive – an ideal backup phone. It's got a 2MP camera, too.
Not so "dumb": lightweight phones for digital detoxers
Decided you can't live without smart features, and don't want a dumbphone after all? But still want to digitally detox, and spend less time using apps and the mobile web? Then there are relatively ‘light’ smartphones that can provide somewhat of a halfway house. One of these basic iPhones could meet your needs.(opens in new tab)
The popular iPhone SE is relatively basic, and can be made even less intrusive with careful setup of apps and notifications. At the same time, when you do want to use your phone, Apple’s A15 Bionic chip can run pretty much any app (including the Burner (opens in new tab) or Flyp (opens in new tab) apps for those seeking anonymity).
The relatively compact 4.7-inch screen is smaller than most iPhones', but still fells generous compared to candy bar phones. And of course, the camera (updated for this version) is in a different league to the average dumbphone, capable of shooting 4K video or 240fps slo-mo.
The iPhone SE can keep its screen playing video for 13 hours. So while the battery won’t beat some of the month-long standby options above, you’re unlikely to run out during the day with a modern smartphone like this. If you do, it’s also nice to take advantage of Qi wireless charging.(opens in new tab)
If you want a cheaper and more basic iPhone than the latest iPhone SE then the 2020 version is a good choice. It doesn't support 5G, it has a less powerful processor and a lower resolution screen. But if you want to minimise your phone use, and just have something relatively basic, it's an excellent option at a very reasonable price compared to more sophisticated iPhones.
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