With new smartphones only ever seeming to get more expensive and complicated, many people may prefer a simpler, less expensive basic alternative.

Basic phones, also known as simple phones, feature phones or “dumbphones”, are modelled on mobile phones from before the smartphone era, meaning that they are small and compact with no touchscreen and a keypad, and are mainly designed for calling and texting.

While some models come with extra features like a torch, camera, or access to certain internet services, the overall philosophy with a basic phone is to keep it simple and avoid the excess of features associated with modern smartphones.

Even if you are happy with a smartphone, a basic phone might be perfect for an elderly relative who might struggle to get to grips with a more complex phone – the combination of simple menus, impressive battery life and basic internet options can make them an ideal option.

Read on to find out our top 10 picks for basic phones on the market right now. Bear in mind that these aren’t in any particular order, as they cover a range of different needs.

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Before we get started…

While most smartphones operate on 4G or 5G networks nowadays, most basic phones tend to run on 2G, 3G or 4G for some higher tech models. A higher number denotes a faster network speed, so for a simple phone, 3G will probably be sufficient for daily use, or even 2G if you do not plan to use internet services at all and only wish to call or text.

However, many providers intend to phase out their 2G and 3G connections, and some already have done so. Three no longer offers 2G or 3G connections at all, for example, and EE and Vodafone both plan to phase out 3G by the end of 2023, and 2G by the end of 2025.

On the other hand, O2 does not plan to phase either of these connections out until 2033. If you intend to buy a simple phone with 2G or 3G connectivity and not 4G, it might be worth buying a SIM card from O2, or one of the providers that runs on O2’s networks (Giffgaff, Sky, or Tesco Mobile), so that you don’t have to change provider in a year or two when the old connections are phased out.

Basic phones also tend to have lower storage than a typical smartphone. Most models in this list come with either 4GB or 128MB of storage, which roughly pan out as follows:

4GB = a few thousand high quality digital images, or about a day and a half of good quality music.

128MB = over 100 high quality digital images, or four hours of good quality music.

Bear in mind that apps, texts, and so on all take up storage space as well.

Considering that the camera on a basic phone is rarely high quality, it is unlikely that you will exceed the internal storage on a 4GB basic phone. However, most basic phones allow you to insert a microSD card for extra storage space if you need it.

What are the best basic phones overall?

Here’s our round up of some of the best basic phones currently available.

Nokia 2720 - £85

  • Type: Flip phone
  • Technology: 4G
  • Battery life on standby: 28 days
  • Storage: 4GB
  • Cameras: Rear camera only
  • Tell me more: The Nokia 2720 is a mix of old and new, combining a retro flip phone design with 4G network capabilities. It supports a few basic apps, such as Google Maps, Facebook, Whatsapp, Youtube and Google Assistant. It also has Bluetooth support and a camera, though it’s not the most high quality and can only take photos (no videos). It runs more expensive than some of the more pared-down basic phones out there, but will still cost you a good deal less than a new smartphone.
  • Best for: People who want a durable phone with exceptional battery life, but still need some of the basic apps.

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Nokia 3310 - £63

  • Type: Bar phone
  • Technology: 3G
  • Battery life on standby: 27 days
  • Storage: 128MB
  • Cameras: Rear camera only
  • Tell me more: Another Nokia model offering impressive battery life, the 3310 is a nostalgic-looking model that comes in a variety of colours (unlike many other models on this list). Just bear in mind that it doesn’t offer any apps and the Wifi support is fairly slow.
  • Best for: Those who want a simple, lightweight phone with a nostalgic look and an MP3 player. It can also make a great first phone for children.

Nokia 8210 4G - £65

  • Type: Bar phone
  • Technology: 4G
  • Battery life on standby: 29 days
  • Storage: 128MB
  • Cameras: Rear camera only
  • Tell me more: Another sleek model based on Nokia’s iconic older phones, the 8210 comes with 4G connectivity but no apps – which may be exactly what you’re after.
  • Best for: Those who want a sleek phone with fast connectivity but no social media.

What are the cheapest basic phones?

Nokia 105 - £18

  • Type: Bar phone
  • Technology: 2G or 3G
  • Battery life on standby: 15 days
  • Storage: 4MB
  • Cameras: None
  • Tell me more: The Nokia 105 is the most inexpensive basic phone out there, shaving down features to the essentials to offer the best price. The 105 comes with no camera or apps, but still includes a torch, FM radio, and games like Snake and Tetris.
  • Best for: Those seeking the cheapest basic phone on the market.

Alcatel 1068 - £18

  • Type: Bar phone
  • Technology: 2G
  • Battery life on standby: 12.5 days
  • Storage: 4MB
  • Cameras: Rear camera only
  • Tell me more: The only competitor with Nokia when it comes to the sheer cheapness of their basic models is Alcatel. The 1068 is compact and designed for convenience, with no apps but – unlike the Nokia 105 – still boasting a camera (but not a lot of storage space).
  • Best for: Those seeking a cheap basic phone that can still take pictures.

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What are the most durable basic phones?

CAT B35 - £170

  • Type: Bar phone
  • Technology: 4G
  • Battery life on standby: 30 days
  • Storage: 4GB
  • Cameras: Rear camera only
  • Tell me more: The CAT B35 is one of the toughest models out there. It’s billed as water-resistant and highly durable, with a thick casing that can survive drops onto concrete and scratch-proof glass. Features include Wifi, 4G, Bluetooth and support for apps like Maps, Youtube and Google Assistant.
  • Best for: People seeking a super-sturdy model with a few features.

Nokia 800 Tough - £109

  • Type: Bar phone
  • Technology: 4G
  • Battery life on standby: 43 days
  • Storage: 4GB
  • Cameras: Rear camera only
  • Tell me more: Tough by name and by nature, the 800 is water resistant, dustproof and built to withstand drops. Best of all is its outstanding battery life, one of the highest on this list. Features include Wifi, GPS, and apps like Facebook, Whatsapp and Google Assistant.
  • Best for: People seeking a durable model with amazing battery life.

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What are the best basic phones for elderly parents?

Doro 1370 - £34

  • Type: Bar phone
  • Technology: 2G
  • Battery life on standby: 21 days
  • Storage: 16GB
  • Cameras: Rear camera only
  • Tell me more: The 1370 comes with a large display, simple menus, hearing and compatibility and a “response” button for emergencies, which could make it a good option for elderly parents living alone. When the button is pressed, the phone automatically calls up to five different numbers one by one and alerts them via text, as well as sharing location. 
  • Best for: A simple phone for elderly parents or relatives that doesn’t break the bank.

Uleway F3103 - £36

  • Type: Flip phone
  • Technology: 2G and 3G
  • Battery life on standby: 12 days
  • Storage: 16GB
  • Cameras: Rear camera only
  • Tell me more: The F3103 comes with an SOS button that can reach out to up to five emergency contacts when pressed. It’s charged in a dock, which means no fiddling around with cables, and the large keys and display make it easy to use.
  • Best for: Older relatives who want a simple phone with no apps.

TTfone Lunar TT750 - £43

  • Type: Flip phone
  • Technology: 2G
  • Battery life on standby: 7.5 days
  • Storage: 32MB
  • Cameras: Rear camera only
  • Tell me more: Another flip phone option with a charging dock, the TT750’s large keys, increased font sizes, and high volume options make it particularly accessible. Like the Uleway F3103, it comes with no apps but features an SOS button for emergencies. Note that the internal storage is very low compared to other phones in this section, however.
  • Best for: Older relatives who want ease of typing.

Where can I find a cheap mobile deal?

If you buy your basic phone without a SIM contract included, you’ll need to get this set up in order to make calls and texts. SIM stands for ‘Subscriber Identity Module’ but you probably know it better as the little plastic card that you slot into the back or side of your phone to activate it.

Buying a SIM-only deal separately can often be cheaper than buying together with a handset, and can provide you with more flexibility as you can take out a contract lasting just 30 days if you want to. This means if a better deal comes along, you can move across to it without having to wait months for your current deal to finish. Most standard mobile phone contracts require you to sign up for at least 12 to 24 months, so you’re often locked in for much longer.

If you’re looking for a cheaper SIM-only deal on your current phone, our comparison tool lets you compare the cheapest options on the market. You can filter by price, data, contract length, provider and more.

If you are still looking for more ways to keep the cost of buying a phone down, check out our article 5 tips for buying a cheap mobile phone

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