The best modern feature phones

Believe it or not, there was a time when people primarily used mobile phones to make phone calls. Way back in the 1990s, just as the internet was picking up steam as a mainstream institution, flip phones rose to prominence due to their convenience, durability and undeniable cool factor.

Unfortunately for today’s kids, most don’t know the satisfaction of punctuating the end of a call by clapping shut a flip phone and sliding it into a pocket. There’s still a chance to have that experience, though. An increasing desire to unplug from social media and constant notifications has led to a renaissance of sorts for flip phones over the last couple of years.

Flip phones vs. foldable phones

Let’s make one thing clear. To most people, the term “flip phone” refers to the rugged, usually plastic-bodied handsets of the late 1990s and 2000s. They had relatively low-resolution screens, many of which were monochrome, with physical buttons in a traditional keypad layout. The overwhelming majority relied on T9 predictive texting, although some offered landscape-oriented configurations and tiny QWERTY keyboards.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and Samsung became the first manufacturer to release a smartphone with a foldable, high-resolution, full-color LED screen. While such phones are, technically, clamshell devices that you flip open, they’re the opposite of an old-school flip phone. While they fold down to a compact size that fits easily in most pockets, that’s where the similarities end. Foldable phones are on the cutting edge of mobile device technology, with the most advanced apps and hardware possible.

Do you need a flip phone?

Also known today as feature phones and even dumb phones, traditional flip phones had little in the way of advanced features. They weren’t exactly useless outside of phone calls and SMS text messages, and some carriers even offered mobile data (and, therefore, internet access) over two decades ago.

What feature phones lacked, and continue to lack, are the powerful hardware and extensive app selection of today’s smartphones. Those two factors go a long way in roping us all into staring at our phones. And by far, the simplest and most effective way to quit wasting time on apps is just to get rid of the apps.

Important flip phone features

4G connectivity

The most important thing to keep in mind when searching for a feature phone is 4G support. Flip phones don’t advance much from year to year as smartphones do. For that reason, you’ll run across some relatively old flip phones for sale. Take care to avoid flip phones that are limited to 3G networks. Most are completely useless in 2022, as most carriers have switched off their 3G networks, and the ones left won’t last much longer.

Some kind of app presence

You can avoid the most time-consuming apps without sacrificing everything that makes smartphones so helpful. A decent number of recent flip phones do support some low-overhead apps. For example, the KaiOS operating system on some flip phones offers a basic web browser for access to services like online maps. In cases like this, you won’t be able to use features such as voice-guided GPS navigation, but you won’t be left out to dry if you get lost.

Best flip phones

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

Already on its third iteration, the Galaxy Z Flip originally ushered in the new era of durable, reliable smart flip phones. It’s great for communication, viewing media, playing games and anything else you can fit on its 6.5-inch, high-definition display.

Sold by Amazon

Kyocera DuraXV Extreme

Kyocera DuraXV Extreme

Thanks to in-depth testing to meet military-grade standards, you can trust that this is one of today’s most rugged feature phones. It supports HD voice and can serve as a mobile hotspot for up to 10 devices. The only drawback is that this version is restricted to Verizon, but Verizon does have great coverage across the country.

Sold by Amazon

Alcatel QuickFlip 4044C

Alcatel QuickFlip 4044C

If you just want voice calls and SMS messaging, this is a straightforward and affordable option that can do both reasonably well. It can’t do a whole lot else, but it is compatible with most GSM networks worldwide.

Sold by Amazon

Nokia 8110 4G

Nokia 8110 4G

While it’s not technically a flip phone, the mouthpiece slides out in a similar design, and it also happens to be a nearly identical copy of the most iconic mobile phone of the 1990s. Nicknamed the “banana phone,” it was featured in “The Matrix” in 1999 and is known as one of the most durable feature phones ever.

Sold by Amazon

Sonim XP3

Sonim XP3

It’s about as resistant to physical shock damage and scratches as any phone currently made, and it won’t distract you with fancy apps or frequent notifications. While it doesn’t have many bells and whistles, it’s one of the rare models that’s compatible with both CDMA and GSM networks, such as Verizon and AT&T, respectively.

Sold by Amazon

Kyocera Duraxe E4830

Kyocera Duraxe E4830

This is an unlocked AT&T-branded member of Kyocera’s rugged lineup of flip phones, and it does a few things well, including making calls, sending and receiving text messages and staying in one piece in the face of heavy use. There are 16 gigabytes of storage inside and it lets you expand your phone’s memory by up to 512 GB using a microSD card.

Sold by Amazon

Motorola Razr 5G

Motorola Razr 5G

The modern evolution of one of the most popular flip phones of its era, this is about as premium as a smartphone gets. In addition to the stunning, high-resolution primary screen, there’s a 2.7-inch OLED screen on the front to keep you updated on notifications, time, weather and more.

Sold by Amazon

 

Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.