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.

In the ever-important smartphone world, the flip phone might not look to have much of a future, but the Samsung a157 begs to differ. The AT&T-centric device offers a beautiful and thin form factor, measuring only 1.9 x .7 x 3.8 inches in size and weighing a truly lightweight 1.1 pounds for easy storage in a pocket or purse. The clamshell-based design helps eliminate concerns over errant pocket dialing with covered buttons and controls. While the lack of a camera might be a glaring omission in today’s camera-centric smartphone world, it’s the omission of so many bells and whistles that make the a157 so great. The interior 1.77-inch display offers just enough information to tell you what you need to know, including time, date, battery life and signal strength. With five hours of talk time, up to 240-hours (10 days) of standby time, it offers more than enough power to keep you connected to AT&T’s 3G network for nationwide calling and texting.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Sign up for our daily deals newsletter


Disclosure: E-Commerce Content is independent of editorial content and we may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page.