The 8 Best Basic Cell Phones to Buy in 2017

Sometimes, all you need is just a plain phone with no bells and whistles

While the smartphone is beloved by millions, not everyone needs one. For some, a phone that makes phone calls, has an address book and enough battery to get through the day is more than enough. Skip the costs of data packages, streaming music and watching live TV. Whether you call them a “dumbphone” or a “feature phone,” whether it’s for family or friends, take a look at some of the most popular non-smartphones on the market today.

It’s true that you don’t see too many basic cell phones out in the world today, with most phone owners opting for smartphones over the phones of the good ol’ days. But there are still some folks, for a variety of reasons, that want to own a basic cell phone. If that describes you, the LG Exalt on Verizon Wireless is likely your best bet.

The LG Exalt measures 2.06 x 0.62 x 4.37 inches and weighs 3.84 ounces. It offers the best features you can find on a basic flip phone, including a three-inch display, a two-megapixel camera, Bluetooth connectivity and a microSD card slot for expanding storage. Battery life is stellar with 679 hours of standby time and roughly eight hours of talk time. Software on the LG Exalt will not impress, but it does still have some basics covered, including a primitive Web browser, e-mail client, calculator, calendar, alarm clock, world clock and notepad. 

LG’s Verizon-ready Extravert 2 adds a slide-out QWERTY keyboard to the mix, offering a completely viewable screen and an easy way to input SMS messages. The 3.2-inch display offers both easy viewing and navigation around LG’s proprietary feature phone menu system. The two-megapixel camera offers a good opportunity to capture photos and video worth sharing via MMS and can be auto-scheduled to send your messages at a pre-set time. Smart LED notifications will change color to indicate a different alert such as a missed call, a received text message and more. Lastly, expandable memory supports a microSD card up to 32GB for adding music and additional storage for both photos and video.

If you think there’s nothing exciting about basic cell phones, just have a look at Samsung’s Alias 2. It’s the first phone to use e-ink, the same technology as in the Amazon Kindle, in its keyboard. The keys reconfigure on the fly depending on what you’re doing and are easy to view in both bright and low-light environments. It’s really a fantastic feature that we hope to see used more often in the future.

The phone itself is pretty hefty, measuring 2 x 4 x .7 inches (HWD), and has a dual-flip design to reveal a large, 2.6-inch screen. On the front, it has a two-megapixel camera and a small 1.3-inch, 128 x 128 pixel screen. It delivers great call quality and about 5.5 hours of talk time, though there’s no doubt texting is really where this phone shines.

ZTE’s QWERTY keyboard device is another feature phone that strives for smart capabilities with a QWERTY keyboard. The 2.4-inch TFT display pairs with the QWERTY keyboard for both quick and easy SMS and MMS messaging. Besides its keyboard, the ZTE also stands out with its two-megapixel camera, expandable microSD memory slot and music and video playback. Offering both 2G and 3G support, the ZTE works well on AT&T, as well as T-Mobile’s network.

ZTE’s Z222 flip phone is a dual-band GSM AT&T device that offers a similar features set to other phones on this list (text, picture and video messaging). The two-inch TFT display pairs with a battery that allows for more than four hours of talk time. The Z222 does offer a crude version of a WAP browser, a gateway to the Internet, but requires a separate data package to connect. The outside monochrome display helps alert you to incoming calls, received texts or missed notifications for both calls and texts. As a flip phone, the Z222 is as basic as it gets, but still offers reliability and great signal reception on AT&T’s network.

BLU’s Tank II is a great unlocked GSM device that works on both T-Mobile and AT&T’s network with quad-band GSM capability. The 2.4-inch TFT display is paired with a 640 x 480 VGA camera with LED flash, as well as video recording. Powering the display and the rest of the device is a battery that offers an incredible 16 hours of phone calling, almost four times that of many other feature phones. Utilizing both the camera and video will require the addition of a microSD card, and the Tank II supports up to 16GB of added memory. The music player piggybacks off the expanded memory for adding tunes, and there's even an FM radio that can work without having headphones plugged in.

The Rugby 4 offers a rugged outer shell that’s tough enough to handle any environment. As a phone built for the outdoors, the built-in compass and GPS offer additional features that help blur the line between feature phone and smartphone. Beyond its rugged exterior, the Rugby offers a 2.4-inch internal display and a 1.3-inch screen on the front to help identify incoming calls as well as provide alerts for missed notifications. A three-megapixel camera offers one of the better cameras available on a feature phone. The phone features quad-band GSM support and tri-band support for AT&T’s higher-speed UMTS network. Additionally, the Rugby offers WiFi connectivity for connecting online and browsing via its WAP web browser.

Like Samsung’s Rugby 4 for AT&T, the Convoy 3 is another military-spec rugged flip phone that is capable of withstanding tough environments, in addition to being water-resistant, dustproof and more. Right out of the box you’ll notice dual-microphones that will work to cancel out external sound to maintain call clarity. As a bonus, Convoy 3 owners will have hands-free convenience options available to call, send messages and redial a number all without picking up the device. The Convoy 3 also has a 2.4-inch display on the outside, as well as a battery that allows for 6.5 hours of talk time. The Convoy works with Verizon’s CDMA network and is not available for any other carrier.

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