The best non-smart feature phones available today

Do you ever find yourself checking your smartphone when you already know what time it is and that you don’t have any notifications? Or, maybe you want to unplug from social media when you’re out of the house to improve your mental health. If either of those is true, you’re not alone.

While smartphones can make life easier in a lot of ways, they also often tie us to our jobs, the news, and, worst of all, Facebook. To keep from going insane while also staying connected, in case you get lost or there’s an emergency, consider getting a “dumb” phone.

Also known as feature phones, non-smart cell phones recall the days when phones were used as — well, phones. Instead of green bubbles, group chats and video calls, there were voice calls and simple, old-fashioned SMS messages. But those days don’t have to be all in the past. There are plenty of great flip phones and candy bar phones available today without tons of distracting, time-wasting apps.

Why get a dumb phone?

Disconnecting from constant notifications

There are two main reasons people are gravitating toward feature phones as smartphones become more advanced than ever. The most common is the ever-increasing amount of time people spend staring at screens every day. It can be hard to resist the temptation to whip out your $600 smartphone at every chance to see which social media posts want your attention.

Not only can it be rude to pull out a smartphone and immerse yourself in social media while life happens around you, but it can also be bad for your health.

With that in mind, a few types of people will appreciate a phone that’s not designed as an artery for constant contact and notifications. Anyone who routinely gets stressed by social media or feels anxiety from getting frequent reminders of events and group chats should consider a dumb phone. They’re also perfect for parents whose kids need access to a communication device but who also want to reduce the child’s screen time and social media interaction. Finally, plenty of older folks simply don’t care for fancy apps and want nothing to do with them. Feature phones are designed for all these people.

Increased security and minimal tracking

There’s a database somewhere recording just about every action taken by anyone surfing the internet. That database might not know your exact identity, but it definitely knows your last Google search. If that makes you uncomfortable, a feature phone might be right for you.

The main reason “dumb” phones offer heightened security is simply because they can’t do as much as a full-fledged smartphone. For example, the complete inability to engage in online banking with a feature phone means you won’t have to worry about your savings if you’re hacked. Since you can’t install many (or any) apps on most feature phones, there are fewer potential points of attack for would-be bad actors.

‘Dumb’ phone features

4G network support

A quick bit of research might lead you to believe you can fish an old flip phone out of a box somewhere and use it on a modern cellular network. This isn’t the case. In fact, despite an alarming amount of recommendations otherwise, it is essential to avoid buying a 3G feature phone. Most companies have already disabled their 3G networks, and the ones that are left won’t last long.

Plain 4G should technically work but look for a feature phone with 4G LTE support for best results. LTE compatibility makes it more likely that advanced features such as HD Voice work correctly.

Candy bar vs. flip phones

Folding smartphones are all the rage right now in the high-end market, but they can’t touch the tactile satisfaction of slamming your “dumb” flip phone shut to accentuate the end of a call. Alternatively, nothing gets more compact and rugged than a candy bar phone. In fact, some you can literally drive over with a commercial vehicle, then pick up and use to make a call. And while flip phones aren’t quite as durable as candy bar phones, they’re both a far cry more resistant to damage than anything with a touchscreen.

Limited app support

Just because there’s no touchscreen or comprehensive Android OS installation doesn’t mean a feature phone is limited to just calls and text messages. Some manufacturers use a stripped-down Android implementation that’s just for telephony functions. Others offer a specialized operating system, such as KaiOS, designed explicitly for semi-smart cell phones. 

If you’re trying to reduce your screen time and not feel like you’re always on a digital leash, one of these semi-smart phones can actually help. While some even come with Facebook pre-installed, for example, a feature phone’s small screen and substandard overall performance make it essentially impossible to get stuck doomscrolling on social media.

Even limited access to apps on a feature phone — basic directions courtesy of Google Maps, for example — can be a big help.

Best ‘dumb’ phones

Kyocera DuraXV Extreme E4810

Kyocera DuraXV Extreme E4810

Complete with exceptionally rugged construction, including IP68 dust and water resistance, this is one of the most durable and high-performance feature phones available. This exact model is limited to the Verizon network, which has excellent coverage throughout the country. There’s also a GSM model that is similar.

Sold by Amazon

Sonim XP3

Sonim XP3

This basic flip phone sports a pared-down version of the open-source Android OS that’s easy to use and doesn’t run into frustrating performance snags. While originally engineered for the AT&T network, it’s easily unlocked and supports the most relevant 4G bands.

Sold by Amazon

Nokia 6300 4G

Nokia 6300 4G

The 6300 is the latest evolution of a highly durable and functional feature phone from the company responsible for the most iconic cell phones in history. It supports a few popular apps, so it’s not as “dumb” as other options, but it’s still good for minimizing screen time.

Sold by Amazon

Alcatel QuickFlip 4044C

Alcatel QuickFlip 4044C

If all you need is access to voice calls and text messages, consider this simple model from a well-known manufacturer of budget phones. Don’t expect it to be useful for much else, though, as the operating system is quite limited.

Sold by Amazon

Punkt MP02

Punkt MP02

About as high-quality as a feature phone gets, some users even say it feels like a piece of artwork in your hands. It’s certainly one of the most outstanding options in terms of design, but it’s also particularly expensive.

Sold by Amazon

Nokia 225

Nokia 225

They don’t get much cheaper or easier to use than this straightforward candy bar phone from communications giant Nokia.

Sold by Amazon

Nokia 8110 4G

Nokia 8110 4G

A modern refresh of the “banana phone” made famous in 1999 by “The Matrix,” this surprisingly rugged device works well for texts and calls on all 4G GSM networks.

Sold by Amazon

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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