Between the cost of data packages and the price of the phones themselves, staying up to date isn’t exactly cheap.
That’s not to mention the indirect costs -- the endless distractions, annoying notifications, or the fact that many of the big tech companies allegedly monitor nearly everything you do on your phone.
With these things in mind, people are starting to switch back to the phones of yesteryear…
Whether you call them basic phones, dumb phones, feature phones, or non-smartphones, this guide is going to break down some of the best options available.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2020
1. Alcatel GO FLIP MC
Best Stylish Flip Phone
Pros: Minimalist, sleek design, Easy to read front panel, microSD support, 4G support
Cons: Weak speakerphone, dim display
Featuring a rounded, matte plastic shell and a small screen on the front so you don't have to open the phone to check your notifications, the Alcatel GO FLIP MC design is simple but effective.
The 2.8-inch main display is good enough. It's no smartphone display. But since you won't be tapping it all the time and you have a physical keyboard it's not as big of a deal as it might seem.
The phone 4GB of internal storage. However, only about 1GB if free to use. If you’d like to listen to music or podcasts, you’ll need a microSD card. However, support for cards up to 32GB provides more than enough room for a few albums or seasons.
There's also a headphone jack -- a feature that can be hard to find in basic phones.
Don't expect much from phone's 2MP camera. It might as well not be there unless you just need a quick snapshot as a reminder or to ask someone a question.
While the phone is a feature phone, it fully supports 4G LTE and Wi-Fi tethering. This makes it easy to find coverage and provides a little added convenience.
If you’re looking for a flip phone that doesn’t look like it’s from a museum, the Alcatel GO FLIP MC is offers solid looks at an affordable price.
Related Guide: The Best Flip Phones
2. Sonim XP3
Best Rugged Basic Phone
Rugged, Long battery life, 4G support, microSD support, MIL 810G rated, IP68 rated
Cons: Price, Limited availability
While pricier than other “basic” phones, the Sonim XP3 is one of the most rugged basic phones available. MIL 810G rating brings shock, temperature, and corrosion resistance while IP68 rating means you should have little to worry about from water and dust.
Ideal for those with active lifestyles or who need something that can take a few drops and dings, it features a grippy, rubberized shell and a durable flip phone design.
The 2.6-inch color display makes it easy to read texts while the chunky buttons make sure you dial accurately -- even with gloves on.
Reviewers particularly liked the volume pumped out by the speaker on the phone with a rating of 100db. Whether you’re taking calls or jamming out to your favorite tracks, you’ll have no trouble hearing.
Lastly the phone offers 8GB of internal storage and supports microSD cards up to 128GB. In combination with the included media player, you can store a nice collection of podcasts or music.
If you’re looking for all of the media flexibility, connectivity, and communications options of a smartphone without the actual “smarts” this one is a great pick as long as you don't mind using Telus.
While it comes at a premium price, the Sonim XP3 is up the challenges of life on the go or the harshest job sites and includes all the communications essentials.
Related Guide: The Best Rugged Phones
3. Nokia 3310 3G
Best Basic Phone for Music and Podcast Lovers
Good battery life, FM Tuner, microSD support, Quad-band, 3.5mm and Bluetooth
Cons: No Wi-Fi, No GPS, No 4G support
Featuring the classic candybar shape and look of the classic 3310, the Nokia 3310 3G offers a nostalgic experience with all of the basics.
The 1200mAh battery is one of the largest in this round-up. And as a quad-band phone, it’s compatible with networks across the globe.
WIth support for microSD cards up to 32GB, an FM tuner, and both Bluetooth and a 3.5mm jack, the Nokia 3310 makes a great media playback device.
The 1.5-inch display is one of the smallest in this collection. However, reviewers had no trouble with hammering out a quick text or viewing notifications.
There’s also a 2MP camera, but without Wi-Fi you’re left with few options for actually making use of the photos.
With support for both Bluetooth and wired headphones, expandable storage, and plenty of battery life, the Nokia 3310 3G provides everything you need to keep in touch and enjoy your favorite music and podcasts without worrying about searching for an outlet in an hour or two.
4. Jethro SC490
Best Basic Phones for Kids and Seniors
Pros: 4G support, charging dock, emergency button, speed dial buttons, hearing aid compatible, 3.5mm headphone adapter
Cons: Weak camera
With its candybar format, large print display and hardware buttons for common features, the Jethro SC490 offers an experience very similar to a traditional cordless phone.
The phone is unlocked and supports 4G. This means it will work with a wide range of carriers without the need for a contract or finance agreement and should age well with 2G and 3G networks becoming rarer these days.
Features include a dedicated emergency button, flashlight and hearing aid compatibility. There is also a very basic camera--though don’t expect to print photos or share images online.
From $99.99 at Amazon
The phone also supports microSD cards up to 64GB which is good for listening to music or audiobooks.
The optional charging dock stood out to us as well. We think the ability to just set the phone down in the cradle and not mess with tiny cords and ports is worth the added price!
Bottom Line: The Jethro SC490 is a user-friendly, affordable option for covering the communications basics. The charging dock, SOS feature, and larger buttons also make the phone ideal for the elderly.
Bonus Pick: Light Phone 2
Best Minimalist Phone
Pros: Compact design, e-Ink display, excellent battery life, basic features, Wi-Fi hot spot
The Light Phone 2 straddles the line between smartphone and basic phone.
It's shaped like a smartphone with that rectangular, flat design with a touchscreen as the primary input. This makes it easy to hammer out quick texts, while the few physical buttons help switch between the limited list of features.
The phone uses an e-Ink display for long-lasting battery life and easy to read text. Features include texting, alarms, mobile hot spot mode, and calling -- a simple and straightforward feature list for less distractions and more communicating.
We think these types of minimalist devices will add a nice middle ground between smartphones and basic phones in the future. The phone is currently available in both an international and North American version for use anywhere with 4G access.
The biggest drawback to the phone is its price. For the same price, you could get a very capable smartphone. That's the main reason we're hesitant to recommend this over other basic phones in this line up.
Combining the most essential basic phone features with a stylish, modern design and touchscreen functionality makes the Light Phone 2 one of the most unique takes on modern phones but it comes at a price.
The Wisdom of a “Dumb” Phone
There’s no doubt that smartphones have changed the world forever. However, there’s more debate lately on whether many of those changes were for the better.
From blue light interfering with sleep to notifications keeping us constantly distracted, there’s mounting evidence that smartphones might be causing increased stress and decreased productivity.
That’s not to mention the impact of constant social media streams on mood, the possibility that any number of companies could be watching your every move, and the fact that smartphones essentially place a never ending source of advertising in your pocket.
If you’re curious to see why many people are choosing to ditch their smartphones for simpler models, check out our smartphone ditching guide .
It includes links to additional reading and resources to help you make an informed decision about the right tech for you or your family.
How We Picked
The picks in this buyer's guide are what we think are the best non-smartphones (aka: dumb phones) for most people.
We selected these models based on analysis of expert reviews from around the web, user feedback on sites like Amazon, forum comments on our site, social media discussions, and more.
We compared the things most people consider when purchasing a basic phone.
In short, we did the research — so you don’t have to.
When answering the question, “What’s the best phone that’s not a smartphone?”, we considered the following primary criteria:
A Strong Battery
A phone is only useful if it has a charge. While standby battery life is often better on basic phones, we wanted to make sure that you could get through a day or two without hunting for a charge.
Calling, texting, and picture messages felt like a great baseline for standard phone use. This also means that unless noted in the description, these picks won’t sit and vibrate or chime all day and distract you.
Easy to Find
While you can buy a smartphone just about anywhere these days, basic phones are getting harder to come by. For that reason, we chose picks that you can easily pick up online or that you might find at a local carrier store.
Let’s face it, most basic phones sit at the bottom end of the price scale. And when prices get that low, quality can get sketchy. We scoured online reviews for each of our picks to be sure that you won’t find weak hinges, dim screens, tinny speakers, or other surprises.
- Best Stylish Flip Phone: Alcatel GO FLIP MC
- Best Rugged Basic Phone: Sonim XP3
- Best Basic Phone for Music and Podcast Lovers: Nokia 3310 3G
- Best Basic Phone for Kids and Seniors: Jethro SC318v2
- Best for Minimalists: Light Phone 2
Still not sure?
While we feel our picks offer a great experience to a wide range of people, there’s not a single pick that will be perfect for everyone.
How you like to keep in touch, your budget, and even personal design preferences will change what you consider ideal.
This is why we make multiple recommendations and suggestions based on phone features , prices, and unique characteristics.
If you’ve got a favorite basic phone, or you’ve made the switch from smartphones to a more simple option, let us know how it went in the comments below!
We want more people to live a bit more and worry a little less -- and this seems like a great way to calm the chaos.
Disclosure: You should know that in some cases, we may receive a referral fee (at no additional cost to you) for products purchased through the links on our site. These links help support our work but they do not influence our content. Our editorial recommendations are always genuine and we try to feature only the best products and services. Why trust us?