A mobile phone is inherently a connected device with built-in GPS and other features you might not want in your other tech. That said, you might desire a mobile phone that isn’t a smartphone, with all the tracking and distractions that come with it being “smart.”
Dumb Phone Contenders
- Nokia 3310 3G
- Light Phone 2
- Techless Wisephone
- Punkt MP02 Mobile Phone
- Alcatel GoFlip 3
- Kyocera DuraXV LTE
- Jethro SC490
- Mudita Pure
- Palm Phone
- Jelly Phone
What You Might Not Realize You Are Missng
- Great Camera (or a camera at all!)
- Texting experience will be lacking
- No iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messager, etc.
Basic Features You Want
- Long battery life
- Tough design (no big screen)
- Low price
- No external obligations (3rd party login)
- Compatibility with your network
Here are some phone features that you might want or you might skip in order to maximum privacy or battery life.
What You Likely Won’t Get
Unfortunately “smartphone” is synonymous with “high-end” phone so by skipping the tech you will be skipping many great features.
- Full keyboard
- Easy to find replacement
- Local purchasing (you can’t try before you buy)
- E-Ink display
Can I Just Buy An Old Phone?
10 years ago there were many more dumb phones than there are today. Can you just buy one of those phones instead of hunting down a specialty phone?
Sadly, not, not really. Most of these mobile phones aren’t compatible with today’s networks. Either you won’t be able to activate them with today’s modern SIM cards or they won’t support the 4G, LTE, and 5G networks that we rely on in 2021.
With the end-of-life of 3G networks many mobile phones will become much less useful or, in some areas, stop working entirely. This has already started in some areas and networks, like T-Mobile in the US, and will continue at breakneck pace in the near future.
Which One To Get?
Even with all this outlined, it’s still difficult to figure out which non-smart phone you should get.
Network compatibility is going to be the biggest factor if you have an existing mobile phone contract. After that you can look at the price and the feature set you want, including just how “dumb” you want the phone to be. Then look closely at the hardware — are you OK with texting on an old-school “T9” pad where you have to tap “1” three times to get a “c”?
Of all these phones you’ll probably want to most strongly consider the Nokia 3310 3G as it’s from a large, known brand and you can get it for about $100, depending on the color you want.
Other phones like the Light Phone 2, are much cooler but they are $300 and they are only available for pre-order right now so there is no telling just how good they will be… or when they will even ship. On the plus side (and this is big) the Light Phone 2 will be 4G LTE compatible so there are no immediate concerns with it stopping working, like you will have with the Nokia.
If you are considering buying a dumb phone to simplify your life, don’t give up hope! The initial decision will actually be more complex than buying a standard smartphone, and much, much more complex than just buying the latest iPhone, but it’s a solvable problem.