The first smartphone — or “smart phone” — was developed by American computer manufacturer IBM in the early 1990s. But while the Simon Personal Communicator (SPC) did have a touchscreen interface, it couldn’t be used without a stylus, and its battery only lasted for about an hour.
However, as integrated circuits and solid-state computer memory became less expensive, smartphones became better and more computer-like over the following decade, with internet access soon becoming possible. Then, the introduction of 3G (third generation) mobile phone networks meant users could send and receive photos, videos, music files and emails, as well as make phone calls and send text messages.
Today, there are more than 6.5 billion smartphone users in the world. That’s the equivalent of 83 per cent of the world’s population. When you compare this figure to the number of mobile phone users in the world — which is 7.3 billion, according to Statista — you can deduce that there are 800 million dumb phone users in the world.
But what is a dumb phone? In this article, we’ll explain all.
Also known as a “feature phone” or “basic phone”, a dumb phone is a non-smart mobile phone that’s designed for basic calling and messaging. Typically, these phones have smaller screens, limited features, and physical buttons rather than a touchscreen. They are usually cheap to buy, simple to operate and can last for weeks on a single battery charge.
If you’re considering switching to a dumb phone — or you simply want to use one alongside your smartphone — you may be wondering what’s available. Thanks to their massive advertising spend, we all know about the latest iPhone or Samsung smartphone, but dumb phones get a lot less attention. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of the best dumbphones on the market:
1. Nokia 2720
In the late 1990s, Nokia was the go-to brand if you wanted a high-quality, user-friendly and durable mobile phone. And even though the Finnish telecommunications company has been overtaken by the likes of Apple and Samsung when it comes to smartphones, it remains the number one choice for dumbphones.
The 2720 may be more than three years old, but this flip phone from Nokia is our top pick, thanks to its 2.8 inch colour screen, FM radio and social media browsing ability. Instagram may not be an option, and a lack of video recording means you can’t upload videos to YouTube, but if you’re looking for a simple device to take calls and send text messages, this phone is a great choice.
2. Nokia 8210 4G
Cementing its status as the number one dumbphone manufacturer, Nokia also takes second place with its 8210 4G.
The 8210 4G is an updated version of the classic 8210 — which was once one of the most popular mobile phones on the planet.
While it may not be as durable as its predecessor, the 8210 4G is just as stylish and simple to use, plus it has a battery life of more than 29 days.
3. Doro 1370
Swedish brand Doro launched the 1370 back in 2019. Aimed at the over 65s, this device is cheap, easy to use and hearing-aid friendly. Plus, its capabilities go beyond calling and texting. It may be a simple handset, but it features a wide display and 3-megapixel camera — which is more than many other dumb phones at this price point offer.
4. CAT S22 Flip
Admittedly, the CAT S22 Flip phone isn’t technically a dumb phone because it runs on the Android operating system. However, its tiny screen makes it difficult to immerse yourself in the mobile experience, meaning it’s more of a dumbphone-smartphone hybrid.
If you are looking for a simpler device but still want access to smart apps, this could be the mobile phone for you.
Some of the CAT S22 Flip’s standout features are that it is slim and — being a CAT device — it is highly durable, boasting an IP68 rating, which means it is waterproof to a depth of five feet for up to 35 minutes.
5. Nokia 225 4G
Nokia makes it onto the list again, this time for its 225 4G mobile device.
Like the 2720, it’s ideal for calling and texting, but also has an FM radio and allows browsing on social media apps like Facebook and YouTube. Although, again, it can’t record videos, meaning you won’t be able to upload anything to YouTube yourself.
For the most part, it is great for avoiding distractions. However, the colour screen may be difficult for avid mobile gamers to resist.
6. CAT B35
The second CAT phone to feature on this list is the B35.
As you would expect from the construction equipment manufacturer, this dumb phone is perfect for use on a building site. As well as having a raised lip around the display to protect it from drops, it boasts a loudspeaker, and the keyboard is operable while wearing gloves.
It may be more expensive than some other dumbphones, but it is rugged and submersible, meaning the price can be offset when it is used in certain situations.
7. Nokia 3310
The fourth and final Nokia phone to make this list is the 3310. This updated version of one of the world’s most iconic mobile devices is stylish, allows simple browsing, and you can, of course, make phone calls and send texts. For added nostalgia, it even features the classic Snake game.
A lack of an email app means you can only access emails via internet browser, but since typing out an email on the 3310’s keyboard isn’t easy, it’s best to wait until you have access to a computer anyway.
8. Easyfone Prime A6
Easyfone may be one of the less well-known mobile phone manufacturers on this list, but its Prime A6 should prove popular with senior citizens, children and anyone else seeking a straightforward mobile phone experience.
This is thanks to its large buttons, basic display and user-friendliness.
9. Alcatel Go Flip 4
Like Easyfone’s Prime A6, the Alcatel Go Flip 4 has large buttons and minimal features to allow for a basic mobile phone experience.
But they are in fact, two very different devices. To start with, the Alcatel Go Flip 4 is — as its name suggests — a flip phone. And, unlike the Prime A6, it also features a camera. What’s more, it’s got a much more powerful battery.
Dumb phones have many advantages over smartphones. While smartphones do allow you to perform multiple tasks at once and provide you with media on the move, the payoff is that they tend to be expensive, they have a short battery life, and they’re not very durable.
Here are some of the many benefits of dumbphones:
Since the development of smartphones — or “smart phones” — in the 1990s, the traditional mobile phone has taken a back seat. However, many people are now returning to these so-called “dumb phones” for their low price, extensive battery life and durability. Dumb phones are also praised for being more user-friendly, less distracting, and for their underrated features. Additionally, they emit less radiation than smartphones. This means that rather than choosing either a smartphone or a dumb phone, many people have both, as they are finding that each one serves its own purpose.