The 6 Best Basic Cell Phones of 2021

Sometimes you just need the bare essentials

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Smartphones appear to rule the cell phone market. Everywhere you look, it seems that someone is fiddling with their iPhone or newest Android. While smartphones have some of the best features, these embellishments don’t come cheap to the average consumer. 

For instance, an iPhone can set you back $1,000. In addition to smartphones themselves, the cost of data packages vary depending on the wireless carrier and can be $10 to over $100 each month. Smartphones also have several non-financial costs associated with them. With different apps and features, smartphones are distracting and easily monitored by tech companies. 

Considering how much it takes to keep up with a smartphone and the availability of other mobile devices, basic phones are making a comeback. That’s right: Flip phones are no longer objects of the past. Basic phones, which also have been referred to as non-smartphones, dumb phones, or feature phones, provide the bare essentials any person requires from a cell phone. A best basic cell phone is an excellent choice for those primarily concerned about staying in touch with friends, family, and colleagues but don't need all of the extra smartphone features getting in the way. 

What else does a basic phone get you instead of a smartphone? With a basic phone, you’ll usually have days of battery life compared to mere hours, durability without large glass screens, and more money in your pocket. No matter if you're looking for a basic cell phone for your kids or an elderly family member, one of the best basic cell phones on our list will have you covered.

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Plum Ram 7 at Amazon
Users have plenty of time to enjoy the Ram 7's many features, as the 1,700mAh battery delivers a full day of use.
Even with the DuraXV Extreme’s ruggedness, it takes crisp pictures and videos with the incorporated 5MP auto-focus camera.
The phone supports Google Assistant, allows web browsing, and can handle email and calendar appointments.
Best for Texting:
ZTE Altair 2 at Amazon
The AT&T network phone comes equipped with a full QWERTY keyboard, making it easy to text your friends and family.
Best for Seniors:
Easyfone Prime A1 at Amazon
The Easyfone A1 includes a hearing aid compatibility mode to avoid electronic feedback while talking on the phone.
Best for Media:
Nokia 3310 3G at Amazon
The new and improved Nokia 3310 has a customizable retro user interface, Bluetooth, FM radio, an MP3 player, and 128MB of storage.

Best Overall: Plum Ram 7 E700blk

What We Like
  • Rugged design provides durability

  • Dual, quality cameras

  • Dual SIM card reader

What We Don't Like
  • SIM card not included

  • Only 64MB built in

In reality, the Plum Ram 7 E700 isn’t that basic of a phone. Its bells and whistles make it the cream of the crop, among other basic phones. For example, the Ram 7 has a sizeable 2.4-inch display with a 320 x 240 resolution, a 5MP back camera, a 2MP selfie camera, a 460MHz processor, and 64MB of RAM. Suppose the standard amount of RAM isn’t enough for storing your pictures, videos, and music. In that case, the incorporated SD card slot allows users to add more storage to save memories and media.

Users have plenty of time to enjoy the phone’s many features, as the 1,700mAh battery delivers a full day of use. With the Ram 7, users can enjoy 24 hours of talk time or 900 hours of standby time. Unlike the modern iPhone and Android smartphones, the Ram 7 can last weeks between full charges.

The cell phone's rugged design can endure almost anything you can throw at it. Unlike most smartphones with big glass screens and fancy cameras, the Ram 7 is IP68 certified for water and dust resistance, military-grade shockproof, and scratch-resistant. The phone can withstand extreme elements including rain, snow, and wind.

Specifically, the Ram 7 can stay submerged in up to 2 feet of water for up to 30 minutes without issue and can also survive extreme drops unscathed. Whether you enjoy the outdoors or are constantly on the go, the Ram 7 is perfect for travelers as it offers dual SIM capabilities.

Screen Size: 2.4 inches | Resolution: 320 x 240 | Processor: 460MHz | Camera: 5MP, 2MP | Battery Life: 24 hours 

Best for Verizon: Kyocera DuraXV Extreme E4810

What We Like
  • Sturdy, lasting flip design

  • Certified for hazardous conditions

  • Exceptionally loud dual speaker system

What We Don't Like
  • Limited advanced features

While Verizon has plenty of options for smartphones, it’s surprising that the carrier provides several options for basic cell phones as well. For Verizon customers, the Kyocera DuraXV Extreme E4810 cell phone checks all the boxes for a quality basic phone. 

One of the most impressive characteristics of the DuraXV Extreme is its resilience. Kyocera opted to use a traditional clamshell design to protect the phone. The DUraXV Extreme’s military standard protection can tolerate almost everything you or the elements throw at it. This level of protection acts as a shield against dust, shock, vibration, temperature extremes, rainstorms, low pressure, solar radiation, salt fog, humidity, snow, freezing rain, and more.

The phone is even certified for use in Class I, Division 2 hazardous locations, suggesting that the DuraXV Extreme is guaranteed to be safe in many industrial areas where flammable gases may be present in smaller concentrations. The phone is also safe if dropped from up to 5 feet onto solid concrete or dropped into 6.5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. 

Even with the DuraXV Extreme’s ruggedness, it takes crisp pictures and videos with the incorporated 5MP auto-focus camera with an LED flash and video recording capabilities. If you’re hard of hearing or you frequent noisy environments, you’ll appreciate the phone’s speakerphone, as it’s one of the loudest on the market thanks to the 100dB+ front-facing speakers.

The DuraXV Extreme can serve as an LTE mobile hotspot for up to 10 other devices. But be careful when acting as a hotspot or otherwise using your phone, as the 1,770mAh battery affords a battery of life of under 10 hours. Fortunately, the DuraXV Extreme’s 1.2GHz processor allows you to navigate from task to task quickly.

Screen Size: N/A | Resolution: N/A | Processor: 1.2GHz | Camera: 5MP | Battery Life: 9.5 hours

Best for T-Mobile: Alcatel Go Flip 3

Alcatel Go Flip 3
What We Like
  • 4G and 4G LTE network

  • Bluetooth capability

  • Supports Google Assistant

What We Don't Like
  • Subpar camera

  • Mediocre internal memory

Although the Alcatel Go Flip 3 is the only basic cell phone sold on T-Mobile, the Go Flip 3 has decent specs and features. As a part of the T-Mobile network, the Go Flip 3 operates on the carrier's 4G and 4G LTE network. The phone’s network capability is considerably more impressive than the 3G networks that most basic cell phones are limited to.

Furthermore, the Go Flip 3 has dual-band Wi-Fi, VoLTE, and Bluetooth 4.2. For music lovers, you have the option to use wired or wireless headphones for music playback as the phone includes a 3.5mm audio jack.

The Go Flip 3 includes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of internal memory. Luckily, you can expand the storage to 32GB, depending on your needs. Like most other basic phones, the Go Flip 3 has a screen size of almost 3 inches, a resolution of 320 x 240, and a 2MP camera.

Perhaps most interestingly, the phone supports Google Assistant, allows web browsing, and can handle email and calendar appointments. Consequently, the Go Flip 3 provides essential smartphone features without making it too complicated for users. Moreover, you’ll be able to use the phone’s basic and smartphone features for a full day, as the Go Flip 3 has a battery life of 7.9 hours of talk time.

Screen Size: 2.8 inches | Resolution: 320 x 240 | Processor: 1.1GHz | Camera: 2MP | Battery Life: 7.9 hours

Best for Texting: ZTE Altair 2 Z432

ZTE Altair 2
What We Like
  • Full QWERTY keyboard

  • Long battery life for texting

  • Bluetooth connectivity

What We Don't Like
  • Outdated design

  • Compatible only with AT&T

If you’re not much of a talker and would rather text instead, the ZTE Altair 2 Z432 is the phone for you. Mainly using your phone for texting doesn’t require a more expensive, complicated smartphone when you have a basic phone like the ZTE Altair 2 on the market.

The AT&T network phone comes equipped with a full QWERTY keyboard, making it easy to text your friends and family. Some would argue that using the QWERTY keyboard is even easier than using a touchscreen. With the Altair 2’s 2.4-inch display with a 320 x 240 resolution, there’s plenty of room to read incoming texts, navigate menus, and screen the caller ID for incoming calls.

The phone’s design closely resembles the more traditional Blackberry PDAs of 2 decades ago. Unlike the earliest Blackberry models, the Altair 2 is slim and compact enough to fit into a shirt or jeans pocket when not in use. When tucked away on your body or purse, you can lock the keyboard to avoid pocket dialing or texting.

The ZTE Altair 2 also includes a built-in MP3 player, GPS, 2MP camera, 460Hz processor, and Bluetooth connectivity. The phone has only 14MB of internal storage, but you can add a 32GB card to store more of your favorite photos and songs.

One of the less impressive features is the Altair 2’s battery life for anything other than texting. For example, the battery supports only up to four hours of talk time. On the flip side, the Altair 2 grants a staggering 240 hours of standby time. The phone is a device designed more for texting than talking.

Screen Size: 2.4 inches | Resolution: 320 x 240 | Processor: 460MHz | Camera: 2MP | Battery Life: 4.5 hours

"The ZTE Z432 clearly gets its inspiration from classic BlackBerry handsets, with a 4:3 rectangular screen above navigational buttons and a full QWERTY keyboard." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

ZTE Z432

Lifewire 

Best for Seniors: Easyfone Prime A1

What We Like
  • Dual screen

  • SOS/emergency feature

  • Compatible with hearing aids

What We Don't Like
  • Not compatible major networks

  • SIM card not included

While some seniors are tech-savvy enough to enjoy the latest smartphones, the Easyfone A1 will appeal to the rest—the rest being seniors who just need a simple phone to make and receive phone calls from their children, grandchildren, and other family members. 

As the name suggests, the Easyfone A1 was designed to be one of the simplest basic cell phones on the planet. In particular, the phone boasts features such as sizable, easily readable text and menus, and larger buttons clearly designed with older users or those with poor vision in mind. The Easyfone A1 even includes a hearing aid compatibility mode to avoid the potential for electronic feedback while talking on the phone.

While the phone is easy to use, its use is limited as the Easyfone A1 isn’t compatible with major cellular networks. However, since the phone doesn’t come with a SIM card, you can use any available compatible network.

To further highlight its ease of use, the phone has an eternal screen so users can check the date, time, and ID of incoming calls and texts at a glance without needing to open the phone. In an emergency, the Easyfone A1 has an SOS calling feature that will rapidly dial up to five contacts.

The phone even features storage for critical personal and medical information that first responders can access. For day-to-day use, users don’t have to worry about charging the phone much as the Easyfone A1 has a battery of life of almost an entire day. 

Screen Size: 2.4 inches | Resolution: 320 x 240 | Processor: 460MHz | Camera: 2MP | Battery Life: 22 hours

Best for Media: Nokia 3310 3G

Nokia 3310 3G
What We Like
  • Battery life

  • FM tuner

  • microSD support

  • Connectivity options include Bluetooth and 3.5mm jack

What We Don't Like
  • No Wi-Fi

  • Small, hard-to-read display

Music and podcast lovers, rejoice! The Nokia 3310 3G will have you reminiscing about the old days in various ways. Like the old yet classic Nokia 3310, the unique candy bar shape has returned with the Nokia 3310 3G. The newer model doesn’t just bring back the phone's basic features. Nokia has integrated additional features over the years.

If you remember, the 3310 was one of the best-selling phones of the 2000s. This new model is sure to be a trailblazer too. Yes, users can still enjoy a game of Snake. Yes, you’ll enjoy the ability to listen to your new and old favorite songs while being able to take a call or shoot a text if need be.

The new and improved Nokia 3310 3G has a customizable retro user interface, Bluetooth 2.1, FM radio, an MP3 player, and 128MB of storage. If you need more storage for your tunes or podcasts, the phone is equipped with a MicroSD card slot to add up to 32GB of storage.

Nokia truly tailored the phone for media, as MP3 playback time is 40 hours and the FM radio playback time is 35. When you’re listening to music, you have the option to employ wired or wireless headphones as the 3310 3G can handle both. It is truly the ideal playback device. 

As a quad-band phone, you’re able to listen to your media on compatible networks in the comfort of your home or abroad. The phone is available with single SIM and dual SIM options. Since the 3310 3G doesn’t have Wi-Fi capability, you’ll need to determine which SIM alternative is best for you.

Navigating the 3310 3G isn’t as easy as basic phones with larger screens. Sadly, the 3310 3G has a smaller display which may present issues reading the screen. On the flip side, Nokia’s viewing window has a polarized layer for better readability in sunlight. Considering the 3310 3G is a media-focused phone, you probably won’t be doing that much reading anyway.

Screen Size: 2.4 inches | Resolution: 320 x 240 | Processor: 460MHz | Camera: 2MP | Battery Life: 6.5 hours

Final Verdict

The Plum Ram 7 (view at Amazon) has everything you need in a non-smartphone and more, making it the best option for a basic phone. The Ram 7 is speedy, has two cameras, a decent amount of internal storage, and a long-lasting battery. One of the most notable characteristics of the phone is its ruggedness to protect its precious specs.

As an alternative, T-Mobile’s Alcatel Go Flip 3 (view at Walmart) has notable features users will enjoy. The Go Flip 3 operates on T-Mobile’s 4G and 4G LTE networks, has Bluetooth capability, and supports Google Assistant. The only downfall to the Alcatel Go Flip 3 is that it’s restricted to T-Mobile. Other than being limited to a single carrier, the Go Flip 3 is a great basic phone.

About Our Trusted Experts

Nicky LaMarco has been writing and editing for more than 15 years for consumer, trade, and technology publications about many topics including: antivirus, web hosting, backup software, and other technologies. 

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering technology and video games since 2006.

FAQ
  • How much does a basic cell phone plan cost?

    The price of a basic cell phone plan can vary, but there are a variety cheap cell phone plans if you don't want to pay the price of a major carrier such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Smaller carriers and MVNOs including Cricket Wireless, MetroPCS, Visible, Republic Wireless, and others offer plans that can save considerable amounts for people. Instead of signing up for a full prepaid plan, you have the option of getting a plan that allows you to pay just for the number of voice minutes, texts, and data you need and can use. Some of these plans cost as little as $15 to $20, making them a great deal cheaper than mainline options.

  • Can basic cell phones be hacked?

    If your main concern is privacy and security, a basic cell phone can offer some advantages because not all of them have full WI-Fi connectivity, GPS, apps, and sophisticated operating systems. But like any cellular device, they can be used to track you and your whereabouts, and that's true even of a basic cell phone. That said, if your cell phone has no apps to speak of, and you don't use it for web browsing, that'll limit a good deal of your exposure.

  • How long will basic cell phones be supported?

    Most new basic cell phones come with 4G LTE connectivity at a minimum, and you should avoid buying 2G-only devices since those networks have been shut down in the US and many other parts of the world. 3G service continues to be supported, but its end is also scheduled in the next few years, so your best bet is to make sure your device supports 4G LTE.

What to Look For in a Basic Cell Phone

Battery Life

In the world of basic cell phones, you'll often find that your battery life is measured in days or even weeks. Unlike smartphones, basic cell phones don’t have to continually process many complex actions. Thoroughly review the phone’s specs to identify the one that offers maximum talk time and standby time. To eliminate how often you need to charge your phone, also consider how many advanced features there are, as they may cut into your battery life.

Ease of Use

If you're buying a basic cell phone, it's at least partly because you don't want to deal with the complexities of a modern smartphone. While most basic cell phones are inherently simple, some are surprisingly complicated. Today’s basic phones can include features such as texting, taking photos, or listening to music. Aside from premium features, some fully loaded basic phones have complex interfaces. While looking for a basic phone, make sure it has an interface that makes it fairly easy to place and answer calls.

Expandable Storage

Basic phone users and smartphone users alike can benefit from extra storage. Today, most basic cell phones include a camera. If you plan on taking photos or videos, you'll want to ensure the phone has enough storage. Getting a phone with expandable storage can help if you’re unable to transfer your memories from the phone to a computer. With expandable storage, not only are you able to add more capacity, but you’re able to easily swap memory cards when the current card gets full.

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