The 9 Best Basic Cell Phones of 2019

Sometimes you just need the bare essentials

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

  • Best for Texting: ZTE Z432 at Amazon, "Offers the benefits of a smartphone-style keyboard without weighing it down with too many extras."
  • Best Durability: Samsung Convoy 3 at Amazon, "Another military-spec rugged flip phone that is capable of withstanding tough environments."
  • Best Flip Phone: LG Exalt VN220 at Best Buy, "A great combination of basic functionality and new technology."
  • Best Basic Smartphone: Nokia 3.1 at Amazon, "A great in-between option if you want a basic device but crave more functionality than a flip phone."
  • Best Budget: Alcatel QuickFlip at Amazon, "If you just want to make calls, this is a smart choice for the budget phone shopper."
  • Easiest to Use: Doro 7050 at Best Buy, "Has a dedicated emergency button on the back that instantly calls a pre-programmed number if pressed three times."
  • Best Battery: Kyocera Cadence LTE at Amazon, "A great phone for voice calls, delivering HD audio quality so you don't miss a word."
  • Runner-Up, Best Durability: Kyocera DuraXE at Amazon, "The real highlight is its durable frame, which is both waterproof and dustproof."
  • Best for Music: BLU Tank II T193 at Amazon, "The music player piggybacks off the expanded memory for adding tunes."

Our Top Picks

Best for Texting: ZTE Z432

2.8

The inclusion of a full QWERTY keyboard on ZTE’s Z432 AT&T-ready cell phone is a true highlight that offers the benefits of a smartphone-style keyboard without weighing it down with too many extras. Featuring a 2.4-inch display, 4.5 hours of talk time (10 days on standby) and a rear-facing camera, the Z432 offers a four-way navigation key right in the middle of the device for quickly accessing shortcuts or navigating the phone’s menu. The two-megapixel camera on the rear of the device and QVGA camcorder won’t win any awards for quality, but it’ll more than happily capture memories of friends and family right on the device or the separately purchased microSD card. Running on AT&T’s 3G network, the Z432 offers nationwide flexibility as a go-anywhere, anytime device with a keyboard that helps you easily punch out quick messaging or emails. Take a look at other product reviews and shop for the best text messaging phones​ available online.

Best Durability: Samsung Convoy 3

2.1

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. Take a look at other product reviews and shop for the best Samsung phones​ available online. 

Best Flip Phone: LG Exalt VN220

LG Exalt LTE

 Verizon

3.6

Supported by Verizon’s nationwide LTE network, the Exalt is a simply-designed phone that’s great for making calls. It has a three-inch 400 x 240 LCD screen and a 5MP camera that can snap good-looking photos and capture HD-quality video, plus 8GB of internal memory to hold those files to store them (storage can be expanded up to 32GB with a microSD card). The numbers on the keypad are also easy to press, and the navigation toggle allows you to intuitively scroll through the menu system.

Alongside the stand-out camera is a high-fidelity speaker, which makes your calls sound loud and clear through Verizon's HD voice network. That Exalt can also be used as a mobile hotspot to share your network connection with other devices, which makes this phone a great combination of basic functionality and new technology.

See more reviews of our favorite LG phones​ available for purchase.

Best Basic Smartphone: Nokia 3.1

If you want a basic, inexpensive device but need more functionality than a flip phone can offer, the Nokia 3.1 is a great in-between option. With a sleek 5.2” 1440x720 resolution display built of sturdy Gorilla glass, it’s got plenty of room for web browsing, games, and apps, and it can still easily fit in your pocket. It also packs an Octa-core processor to ensure it never feels sluggish or lags.

Running Android 9.0 software, this phone gives you full access to Google’s Play Store. That means millions of apps are at your disposal, and with 16GB of storage, there’s room for quite a few downloads along with pictures and video from the 13 MP camera. And with a 2990mAh battery, there’s more than enough power to last the whole day with average use.

Best Budget: Alcatel QuickFlip

Alcatel QuickFlip

 Amazon

If you just want to make calls, then Alcatel’s QuickFlip is a smart choice for the budget phone shopper. Inside the compact design is a 1350mAh battery that delivers eight hours of talk time alongside 16 days of standby. That’s among the best battery life you’ll find in today’s basic phones. As for the design, it's a pretty straightforward device: a 1.44-inch TFT display on the outside displays the time and date along with caller ID. Inside, the 2.8-inch QVGA display is brightly lit and easy to see outdoors. The "budget" features are most evident in the camera, which is an unimpressive 2MP, and the very minimal 4GB of storage — not great if you want to take photos or store much media.

Running on both AT&T and T-Mobile’s LTE networks, there’s plenty of speed to be had. It's also Wi-Fi compatible, though most users will opt for the cellular signal. No matter which carrier you choose, HD voice gives you crystal-clear calls.

Easiest to Use: Doro 7050

Doro 7050

 Best Buy

Connected to Consumer Cellular’s LTE network for nationwide coverage, the Doro 7050 is a simple flip phone that's super easy to use. The best feature of all is Doro’s roomy keypad, which is ideal for anyone with impaired vision. The monochrome LCD screen on the front displays the date, time, and caller ID, and the 2.8-inch interior display offers large fonts that can even be read in sunlight.

Utilizing AT&T’s LTE network, the Doro gets a great signal. Calls come through loud and clear with HD voice quality, though it can't make Wi-Fi calls without some additional hardware.

The Doro also has an added feature that makes it a favorite on our list: this phone has a dedicated emergency button on the back that instantly calls a pre-programmed number if pressed three times. This might also be a handy addition for kids that need a quick way to call their parents, or it can be programmed to call 911 as a kind of emergency "speed dial."

Best Battery: Kyocera Cadence LTE

If all you need out of a phone is a strong signal and long battery life, then you should check out the Kyocera Cadence. Working on Verizon’s LTE network, the Kyocera is a great phone for voice calls, delivering HD audio quality so you don't miss a word. It also has dual-mic noise cancellation so callers on the other end of the line will hear almost no background noise. As an added bonus, the Cadence has a voice dialing feature for hands-free calling, a functionality that most smartphones now have. Ultimately, the real highlight of the Cadence is its whopping 7.2 hours of talk time and 16.3 hours of standby. That’s more than enough battery life to last for days and days with average use. 

The phone's minimal design makes it easy to use one-handed, with large, thumb-friendly keys. The 2.4-inch QVGA screen is big enough to comfortably browse photos and texts from friends and family. As is the downside of most flip phones, the 2MP camera is pretty low-quality, so don't expect this to replace a point-and-shoot camera.

Runner-Up, Best Durability: Kyocera DuraXE

Rugged to the core, the Kyocera DuraXE is a basic phone that’s built to last. The phone only offers the bare essentials, but it’s a great option for voice calls when paired with AT&T’s reliable nationwide LTE network. The real highlight of this device is unquestionably its durable frame, which is both waterproof and dustproof. It also has great call and ringer volume —dual-front speakers make it super easy to hear your ringtone or someone else's voice in a noisy restaurant or a sporting event.

There are some smarts to this phone as well. Loaded with Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and Wi-Fi, the DuraXE has a rough web browser for basic internet. The phone can be set up to be used as a mobile hotspot to create an internet connection for a few friends or family.

The interface is also as user-friendly as it gets with a simple layout that's easy to learn. There’s even an option in the menu to choose the function of the side button, so you can use it as a shortcut to the camera, calculator, etc.

Best for Music: BLU Tank II T193

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. 

Tested by

How We Tested

We bought five top-rated basic cell phones and our reviewers tested them for 32 hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these cell phones, from their keyboards to their screens. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a Basic Cell Phone

Keyboard - If you’re a big texter, you’ll want a phone with a practical keyboard. Flip phones with standard dial pads are not so easy to type on, so your best bet will likely be a QWERTY keyboard that gives you access to all the keys you need.

Battery Life - Remember when phone batteries used to last past bedtime? Without dozens of apps running in the background, your new cell phone should maintain its battery life longer than the typical smartphone. Some of these phones can last on a single charge for days or even go for a whole week without being plugged in. Look for a battery about 1,000 mAh or larger to get the best battery performance.

Screen - Display sizes range from a tiny 2 inches up to a larger 3.5 inches. A flip phone usually has a smaller screen, but if you’re only using it to send and receive text messages and change your settings, a small screen might be fine. If, however, you want email access or limited app capabilities, a larger screen will serve you better.

Test Results: ZTE Z432 (Best for Texting)

2.8

What We Like

  • Physical keyboard works well

  • Effective for calls and texts

  • Inexpensive

What We Don't Like

  • Outdated software

  • Inconsistent web browser

ZTE Z432
 Lifewire
ZTE Z432
Lifewire 

If you’re looking for a basic cell phone that works well for calling and texting, the ZTE Z432 is a great option at a cheap price, according to our testers. “The physical keyboard makes it ideal for typing out texts and emails,” one of our reviewers reported. On the other hand, our testers noted its limitations in most other areas, including the poor camera and web browser. “Some of the key software is now non-functional.” explained one of our reviewers. The bottom line: “The only people who should buy it are those who only plan to call/text and can't stand texting with number keys,” declared one of our testers.

Test Results: Samsung Convoy 3 (Best Durability)

2.1

What We Like

  • Rugged build

  • Extensive battery life

  • Functional app store

What We Don't Like

  • Won’t work after Verizon shuts down 3G

  • Non-functioning email app

Samsung Convoy 3
 Lifewire
Samsung Convoy 3
Lifewire 
Samsung Convoy 3
Lifewire 
Samsung Convoy 3
Lifewire


Our testers liked the Samsung Convoy 3 for its durability, battery life, and the fact that it has a functional app store. “The rugged build is well-suited to withstand dust and the elements,” one of our reviewers revealed. On the other hand, one of our testers said the “email app doesn’t work at all.” But the big negative? “It won't have a network once Verizon shuts down its 3G service at the end of 2019,” explained one of our reviewers. However, in the meantime, it could fit your needs. “It has a long-lasting battery that can keep you up and running for days at a time,” one of our testers noted.

Test Results: LG Exalt LTE (Best Flip Phone)

3.6

What We Like

  • Sleek design

  • Large display

  • Excellent call quality

What We Don't Like

  • No external screen for previewing calls/messages

  • Pricer than other flip phones

LG Exalt LTE
Lifewire
LG Exalt LTE
Lifewire 
LG Exalt LTE
 Lifewire
LG Exalt LTE
Lifewire

One of our testers recommended this flip phone “for people who want a good-quality basic phone that has LTE capability.” Highlights, according to our testers, include a “sleek and minimal design and “large 3-inch display.” Plus, one of our reviewers said, “It has excellent call quality thanks to Verizon's LTE network and HD Voice feature.” On the other hand, one of our testers noted the lack of an external screen keeps you from previewing calls and texts and also didn’t like the placement of the camera on the lower half of the back. “It’s pricier than a lot of flip phones on the market,” one of our reviewers declared. However, he added, “Most flip phones are cheap (and look and feel as such), so this is a slightly elevated version for those willing to pay extra.”