The 10 Best Basic Cell Phones to Buy in 2018

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

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Cell phones these days do much more than just let us communicate. They help us order food, hail rides, track our activity, and stream endless entertainment whenever we want it. But you don’t always need a phone that can double as a personal assistant. For some, a phone that makes phone calls, has an address book and maintains enough battery life to get through the day is more than enough.

Whether you call them a “dumb phone” or a “feature phone,” basic phones are still relevant for many. To help you pick the right one for you, we’ve rounded up a list of most popular non-smartphones on the market today.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: LG Extravert 2

4.5

Offering vibes reminiscent of the old school Sidekick phones, the LG Extravert 2 is a perfectly viable modern cell phone that won’t take over your life with smartphone-caliber features. Let’s start with the screen: It’s a 3.2-inch WQVGA display that offers both clear, bright views and easy-to-navigate touchscreen menus. But, when it comes time to text, you can slide out the side-accessed, full QWERTY keyboard, which is not only super convenient for sending out texts, but also pretty great for those seeking the nostalgia of early 2000s phones.

Also on the outside of the phone is a smart LED indicator that can tell you your notifications without the need to turn on the screen, depending on if you have a missed call, a text message, or more. And there’s Bluetooth 3.0 functionality, so you can easily connect peripherals like a Bluetooth headset. It’s powered by a long-lasting lithium-ion polymer battery, and it even offers mobile Web-browsing via Android-based apps. So, while it isn’t a full-featured smartphone, it does offer some limited social media and chat apps for basic Internet use. The design is a stark, shimmery blue on a deep black, which gives it a nice, striking look that is unfortunately absent from a lot of the modern, display-oriented devices of today.

Best for Texting: ZTE’s Z432

4.7

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 for Music: BLU Tank II T193

BLU Tank II T193
Courtesy of Amazon.com
4.7

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.

Best for Durability: Samsung Convoy 3

Samsung Convoy 3
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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 for Internet Access: LG Xpression 2

LG Xpression 2
Courtesy of Amazon

While its slide-out keyboard might be attractive for text messaging, the LG Xpression 2 has a three-inch display, which makes it a terrific basic cell phone for browsing the Web. Powered by AT&T’s HSDPA 3G network, the Xpression 2 offers a host of basic features without jumping into smartphone territory. Keeping up to date with social networking, looking up movie times or just checking the news is easy with AT&T’s Mobile Web service on the three-inch WQVGA touchscreen display that accurately responds to fingertip touches. The two-megapixel camera on the rear adds a camcorder for video recording. The phone also includes both “zoom” and “night” camera features for a little extra oomph with every photo. The included music player adds easy access to add your favorite songs to accompany you while you’re walking around town or around the block. The 1,000 mAh battery allows for 3.45 hours of talking time with up to 16 days and six hours of standby time before requiring a re-charge.

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

Best Flip Phone: LG Exalt 2 VN370 Verizon Black

Flip phones are fabulous for a number of reasons: They are compact; they can endure drops and they make “butt-dialing” a bit more difficult. The LG Exalt 2 is one of our favorites not only for its sleek design but its display. The phone has gracefully curved edges and is refreshingly thin when flipped open. The three-inch display is 240 x 400 pixels, making it easy to read texts without squinting. If you still struggle, though, the phone will read texts aloud. It has a five-megapixel rear-facing camera, but lacks a front-facing one, much to the dismay of selfie-lovers. Overall, it’s a good-looking option for those who value simplicity and perhaps a little nostalgia, too.

Runner-Up, Best for Texting: ZTE Z431

ZTE Z431
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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.

Check out our other reviews of the best ZTE phones available on the market today.

Best for Ease of Use: ZTE Z222

ZTE Z222
 Courtesy of Amazon

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.

Best Budget: ZTE Z233

This ZTE flip phone brings things back to basics. There are no bells or whistles here, just a very affordable price tag and the ability to get the job done. This ZTE phone boasts eight hours of talk time on a single charge and an external caller ID that lets you see who’s calling before you answer. And while it's far from the most high-tech device, the 4G LTE capability does provide high-quality web access so you don’t have to sacrifice apps, streaming services, or social media platforms. (The super basic user interface makes web browsing a lot less intuitive, but that's a trade-off you make for the spectacularly low price.) It also doesn't have a QWERTY keyboard, so texting is more time-consuming.

With an internal memory of just 4GB, the ZTE doesn't have a great deal of space — but a separate microSD card can offer an additional 32GB of storage for everything from contacts to apps. Featuring a 240 x 320 TFT display, the phone also has a quad-core 1.1GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, and Bluetooth 4.1 wireless technology. The 2MP rear-facing camera is pretty low-quality, but then again, this phone does cost less than $20. 

Runner-Up, Best for Durability: ZTE Cymbal 4G

Verizon Prepaid - ZTE Cymbal 4G
Courtesy of BestBuy.com

This ZTE flip phone, pre-paid via Verizon, will basically make you do a double take – it gives you the nostalgia-inducing feel of flipping your phone open to answer a call (and tapping out texts via a number pad), but it is otherwise, basically, a full-featured, Internet-ready 4G phone. First, let’s talk construction: At only 4.4 ounces, this little thing is super light and won’t add any unnecessary bulk and weight to your pocket or your purse.

The back offers a carbon-fiber-like texture that is both rugged and grippy (hence its durability spot on this list). The 2.6-inch QVGA internal screen is surprisingly crisp for the cost, and the almost-one-inch OLED outside screen is bright enough to read your messages and incoming calls, even in direct sunlight. The removable battery is pretty sizeable at 1,500 mAh, which should give you a ton of standby time.

Verizon has loaded up the call function with their HD voice tech, so your conversations will be super clear, and they’ve even hooked you up with Bluetooth functionality for a pretty modern experience. The camera on the outside is 2MP, and you can also record HD-quality videos, all of which can be stored on a removable SD card slot that supports up to 32GB.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 192 hours testing the three most popular basic cell phones that are available today. They ran down the battery, texted family and friends, and exhausted all the features. We told them to pay careful attention to a few important factors that we've outlined 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: LG Extravert 2 (Best Overall)

4.5

What We Like

  • Straightforward setup

  • QWERTY keyboard makes typing easy

  • Battery lasts a week

What We Don't Like

  • Camera doesn’t take quality photos

  • Small keyboard keys

Setting up a new device can potentially turn into a long, drawn-out process, but all of our testers assured us that this phone’s setup process was a breeze. Two testers both described simply walking into their local Verizon stores to buy a prepaid talk and text plan. One person said that she was able to leave with a fully functional phone in “less than 20 minutes.”

Without fail, every reviewer highlighted the QWERTY keyboard as this phone’s standout feature. One tester said, "I like the tactile feel you get with this keyboard, which is something you don't experience with a smartphone." Another added that it makes “typing messages fast and simple.”

Unfortunately, the phone loses some points for its photo quality. As one tester put it, "The photos are grainy and dark. I wouldn't use the camera to take any photos I was hoping to save." If a great camera isn't a key feature for you, this phone is still a great option for texting and making calls. And with an “unreal” battery life — according to one of our testers — you’ll only have to charge this phone every few days to once a week.

As for durability, one of our reviewers thought this phone could take a slight beating without getting damaged. “I throw it into my giant tote bag before work with no fear that it will break or get messed up. I couldn't do that with my iPhone,” she said.

Test Results: ZTE's Z432 (Best for Texting)

4.7

What We Like

  • Compact size

  • Impressive battery life

  • QWERTY keyboard enables two-handed texting

What We Don't Like

  • Screen is small

  • Camera quality needs improvement

ZTE’s Z432 really goes back to basics. Because of its QWERTY keyboard and physical navigation buttons (no touchscreen here!), one tester noted that “this phone feels very old school.” She said it would be ideal for a former Blackberry user or someone who prioritizes an actual keyboard.

The phone comes with all the apps you need fully installed — and that’s a selling point for our reviewers. Its limited capabilities caused one tester to suggest that this phone would be great “for kids who need a phone to reach parents or parents who want to control what their kids are doing on their phones.” It’s like a built-in parental control feature.

Like many basic cell phones, this phone’s camera needs improvement. Our reviewers caution that you won’t get particularly good photos in low-light settings. One person snapped some photos that looked fine on the phone’s screen but, ultimately, ended up being blurry.

Test Results: BLU Tank II T193 (Best for Music)

4.7

What We Like

  • Lightweight

  • Speakers are loud

  • Long battery life

What We Don't Like

  • Unintuitive menu navigation

With its music player and included FM radio, this light and compact phone gives music lovers a lot on a small budget. When one of our reviewers took the BLU Tank II T193 for a spin in the real world, she discovered that it can produce much more sound than its slim profile lets on. “The speakers were surprisingly loud for such a little phone. I accidentally turned on the radio at work and found that out the hard way,” she said. That little workplace embarrassment resulted from the phone’s unintuitive menu, which she eventually got the hang of.

Besides its surprising sound capabilities and music features, this phone also boasts an excellent battery life. One of our testers found that the phone lasted three days on a single charge.