Looking for the best flip phone, because you love the traditional clamshell design? Or are you after the best fold phone – the new breed of state-of-the-art foldable smartphones? Whatever your budget or needs, this guide will help you find the best flip phone or fold phone for you – and help you find it at the best price.
Flip phones can be smart or traditional, but folding like a clamshell helps make them more pocketable, and perhaps more practical – and give an alternative to the big screen handsets with no buttons that dominate the flagship camera phone models.
The arrival of the smartphone temporarily killed the flip phone market, which was disappointing for anyone who loved to snap the handset shut to finish a call. It was immensely satisfying and, though we might forget it, very practical – closing the phone to hide the screen and buttons does help with longevity. Now, though, technology has moved on, meaning you can have a flip phone without compromising on screen size.
At the same time old flip handsets have shown they have many uses even now. Traditional flip phones offer a less feature-cluttered experience for those who find smartphones overwhelming, be that seniors or those taking their digital detox very seriously. Even the best flip phones are also far less expensive, making them well suited for kids or as backup devices.
Secondly, more excitingly for tech heads, foldable screens have reached the point it’s possible to build a folding or flipping smartphone, offering further improvements in screen real estate without stretching pockets beyond breaking point. Predictably the best fold phones will be more of an assault on the budget, and do come with some concerns about early iterations of tech, though perhaps you won’t need that tablet after all… so… maybe?
Best flip phones & best fold phones
On paper, the 7.3-inch screen-size might not sound much bigger than a 6.7-inch phablet, but it feels like a whole new product category (it is). By folding, rather than flipping, this is smaller than most flagship phones; but encloses a screen 1.4 times bigger than the giant Galaxy Note 10 Plus.
The crease down the centre of the screen can be used to side-by-side some apps, making this live up to ‘small tablet’ more than any other phone. Full-screening an app makes for amazing gaming or photo editing and you’d be churlish to notice the slight bend.
A smaller outer screen means you don’t even need to open the device for most uses – checking messages and framing photos are easily achieved while the phone is still closed. Those photos come from a camera array which is good, but not Samsung’s best (no doubt because this handset’s release was delayed due to testing issues).
This more nostalgic form factor is actually a newer design than the larger Galaxy Fold, and benefits from all the issues which delayed the release of that phone being ironed out; it sports a new hinge which – while you’ll probably not stop worrying about being an entry point of dust – is definitely not a first-generation product.
The flip does pose problems for a lot of phone features, like notifications, so hidden under the shell is a tiny 1.1-inch Super AMOLED display, just opposite the main cameras, which can muster a couple of lines of text. It also allows square selfies to be caught with the main cameras without opening the camera, but the real photographer’s benefit of the flip is that you can part-open the phone and rest it on something to capture things without a tripod, great for time-lapse
It is a bit of a shame there is no telephoto camera – the same money would get you more optical oomph with an iPhone 11 Pro or Galaxy S20 – but ultimately it’s the design, not the megapixels, which will impress your entourage.
Instead of going the whole hog and offering flip phones with flexible screens, LG has taken its above average smartphones and added a detachable additional screen, which pops on and off like a phone case but doubles the already generous 6.4-inch screen when attached. You can use both as separate displays – two apps at once – or in the case of some apps (including all Android’s core apps), spread it across a single expansive display.
There is a chunky bar down the middle, of course, so this isn’t suited to viewing video as on the Samsung Galaxy Fold, but it is a proven tech – LG have done it with two previous generations. Camera-wise, there is a lot to be pleased with here – the ultra-wide rear camera is really wide with a 136-degree field of view, and the selfie camera has an impressive 32 megapixel resolution. Sadly no telephoto lens joins the cluster, but the digital zoom is adequate and it’s worth bearing in mind that this handset is noticeably cheaper than, say, a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra which doesn’t come with an extra screen.
It’s perfectly possible to have grown up and not even remember phones with 700 hours standby and removable batteries, so the younger generation might find this phone, which probably needs charging twice a month, something of a revelation. Admittedly this ‘feature phone’ sucks the juice rather more rapidly if you actually use it, and you can use KaiOS to do some reasonably ‘smart’ things, like play video, browse the web, and use WhatsApp.
Indeed Facebook, Google Assistant and Google Maps are amongst the available apps, although GPS isn’t included on this particular phone so location is derived from cell towers. On the plus side you can enjoy the FM radio – one up on the iPhone!
Sadly the single camera, at 2MP is really the same sort of quality you’d expect when flip phones were new. It isn’t even capable of recording video, though you will see motion blur in a lot of the stills.
The 2MP camera resolution is a bit of a poor show, though it is able to capture 720P video which puts it some other budget flip phones. The 8GB is also bigger than some, and can be extended further by means of MicroSD card.
In terms of communications, Wi-Fi and 4G are on offer, so this isn’t as painfully slow as some of the bargain basement flip phones, and it’s even capable of creating a Wi-Fi hotspot should you prefer to use a laptop over the phone’s built-in web browser.
Running KaiOS with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 like many other feature phones does offer the possibility of apps, but doesn’t feel super-quick. Then again, with up to 12 days standby time, this phone has other advantages.
While this phone is distinctly flip in nature, it does have a few traits in common with smarter devices, running Android (although admittedly the historic version 5.1). Despite its relative age, it’s also 4G LTE and Wi-Fi equipped and the rugged build does give it a USP.
If you’re a smartphone users going somewhere you wouldn’t risk your delicate big-screen slab-style smartphone, this might be a good backup device, with an even safer screen than that on smart devices like the Caterpillar Cat S40.
At 5MP the camera could be worse, and can record 720P video. You can add to the memory via MicroSD.
Video-capable, and running an admittedly old version of Android (6.0, “Marshmallow,” since you ask), this is a more powerful device than many of the flip phones on offer, with a bigger and better screen to boot. Despite that, there are no worries about a delicate flexible screen technology so, if you don’t mind the t9 text-entry system but are going to be taking the phone through some difficult conditions, this might be the choice for you.
The handset is also equipped with all the communications basics – wi-fi, Bluetooth, GPS and a MicroUSB connector, and the main camera can capture video at 1080P30, while you can use the other for VoLTE. The camera is also more modern than many flip phones, with face detection and touch-to-focus ontop of the 3264x2448 image resolution. That said, you might have to pay for it – in some places only a very pricey gold edition can be found.
Okay, so this is a bit of a stretch as a flip phone but, in common with other handsets in the category, there is a physical part of the phone which closes to protect the keyboard. Unlike the snappy jaw-like flippers, the screen remains exposed on the 4G 8110, so there is no need for any dual-screen nonsense to see the caller ID. Best of both?
It nearly was – it even has a version of Snake on board – but it’s let down by a feeble 2MP rear camera which can only boast an LED flash as any kind of useful feature, and no selfie camera at all. It can shoot video, not that you’ll be especially pleased with the results. Build quality isn’t ideal either; the plastic is easily scuffed. On the plus side, it does look cool when the button backlight pops on as you slide the cover down.
With gently curved edges and a small overall size, this is a very traditional flip phone which might make an excellent companion on a trip you wouldn’t want to take your main device. Not only that, but the bright red case means it should be easy to find should you end up needing it (and if you prefer, there is a black version too).
Features-wise, there isn’t anything to get excited about, though the headphones to allow you to use the FM Radio are bundled with the handset, which is nice. Other than that calendar, calculator and alarm are about it – digital detox max!