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8 Jan 2020

Simple mobile phones that could be the ideal backup for your smartphone

We put the £18 Nokia 105 against rivals from Doro and Mobiwire to see which cheap mobile phones you can rely on

With the latest high-spec smartphones from Apple and Samsung costing upwards of £1,000, it may come as a surprise to find there are still basic mobiles on sale for less than £20. But are they any good?

Modern smartphones are impressive devices, doubling as cameras, music players and pocket-sized computers - but not everyone needs these fancy features.

Whether you want a cheap backup phone for emergencies or when you don't want to carry a valuable smartphone with you, or just want a simple phone that's easy to use for calls and texts, we've tested some of the newest simple phones on the market to tell you which ones are worth buying.

Not sure what to look for in a simple mobile phone? Head to our guide on How to buy the best simple mobile phone to find out more.

If calling and texting is all you need a mobile for, high priorities should be a decent battery life and a handset that's easy to use. Although these are considered the bare necessities of any phone, our tests of simple mobile phones have uncovered some unreliable budget phones that don't meet the mark.

We've put the newest simple mobile phones from established tech brand Nokia and simple phone specialists Doro to the test to see how they fared.

Cheap simple phones from Nokia

We've reviewed Nokia's latest simple phones, the Nokia 105 and 2720 Flip, to give you a rundown of what you'll get with each one.

Nokia 105 (£20)

Connectivity: 2G - often labelled Edge (E) or GPRS on the screen
Screen size: 1.77-inch
Camera: No
Phone storage: 4MB

Nokia is well known for its simple phones, and the candy bar design of the Nokia 105 is reminiscent of some of the brand's most popular models, including the Nokia 3310.

The 105 is a stripped-down mobile phone, and its low price makes it ideal for anyone who wants a cheap smartphone backup. It doesn't have a camera, or any apps or smart functionality, which is just as well given the small screen size.

The minimal 4MB of storage will let you save up to 2,000 contacts and 500 messages directly onto the phone. There's no micro-SD card to expand storage.

The minimal functionality means fewer drains on the mobile battery, and Nokia claims that this phone can last up to a month on standby.

Read our full Nokia 105 review to see how long it lasted when we put it to the test.

Nokia 2720 Flip (£90)

Connectivity: 4G
Screen size: 2.8-inch
Camera: Yes
Phone storage: 4GB (expandable with micro-SD card)

The Nokia 2720 Flip is one of the most advanced simple phones on the market right now.

The classic clamshell design, also called a flip phone, has a surprising host of smart features tucked under the hood. It's got a decent 2.8-inch display, and smart features include social media apps, a web browser and Google maps for navigation.

It offers 4G connectivity, the same as is offered with most smartphones, and the screen is a reasonable size for using all the phone's smart options.

It has a 2Mp rear camera lens so you can take photos. If you fill up all 4GB of its internal storage, you can expand the phone's memory by up to 32GB with a micro-SD card.

For the price, the Nokia 2720 Flip packs a lot of punch, but is it good at the basics and is it easy to use? Our review of the Nokia 2720 Flip reveals all.

Is Doro the king of simple mobile phones?

Doro has positioned itself as a leading name in the basic-mobile market, leading some to dub it the 'king of simple mobile phones'. The Swedish manufacturer aims to create unpretentious phones that will help people to live more independently, with a particular focus on older people.

Many of Doro's phones come with specialist features such as hearing aid compatibility and large buttons so they are easy for everyone to use. Doro phones range in price from as little as £13 (without mandatory pay-as-you-go top-up) up to £175 for its most advanced simple phones.

Doro 6620 (£39)

Connectivity: 3G
Screen size: 2.8-inch
Camera: Yes
Phone storage: Minimal (expandable with micro-SD card)

The newest addition to Doro's line-up, the Doro 6620, takes the brand's common clamshell design. The 6620 handset combines standard mobile functionality with the brand's specialist features.

You'll get a decently sized 2.8-inch display screen, a 3Mp rear camera and 3G connectivity so you can browse the internet. As with many of Doro's phones, this model comes with hearing aid compatibility. It also has a built-in SOS button so you can easily contact your emergency contacts.

There's barely any internal memory, but you can expand the phone's storage by up to 32GB with a micro-SD card.

It's fairly affordable, but is it a good all-rounder? Read our Doro 6620 review to find out.

Doro 1370 (£30)

Connectivity: 2G - often labelled Edge (E) or GPRS on the screen
Screen size: 2.4-inch
Camera: Yes
Phone storage: Minimal (expandable with micro-SD card)

One of Doro's best-known handsets, the Doro 1370 rivals the Nokia 105 in design and simplicity but manages to fit a few extra features in.

Like the Nokia 105, it comes with 2G connectivity, but it also includes a 3Mp rear camera lens. You get a larger 2.4-inch screen on this model too. You'll also get Doro's signature hearing aid compatibility and SOS button. It lacks smart features, although this is unsurprising given the price.

As with the Doro 6620, there's next to no internal storage but you can expand its capacity with a micro-SD card of up to 32GB.

Could this be the best affordable phone on the market right now? Head to our Doro 1370 review for our test results.

Which? tests simple mobile phones from just £10

Finding the perfect simple phone isn't as easy as just looking at the price, as not all cheap mobiles are created equal. For example, some £30 mobiles have a camera - others don't.

To help you narrow down your search by features that might matter to you, we've highlighted some things to look out for when you're shopping for a simple mobile phone.

A valuable backup for calls and texts

For many of us, it's hard to imagine a time when our mobiles didn't double as our sat navs, cameras and calendars. So it might seem odd to suggest you spend money on another, less advanced phone as a backup.

But having a simple phone that requires no internet to function and can easily make calls and send texts is a wise precaution in case your smartphone runs out of juice, you lose or break it, or for occasions when you don't want to risk carrying an expensive phone with you - at festivals or while travelling, for example.

To see our top picks, take a look at our Best Buy simple phones.

Emergency call features

If you need to make an emergency call, some simple phones come with a dedicated SOS button that automatically contacts the emergency services and your emergency contacts when pressed.

You can find this function on phones such as the Alcatel 2008G, and Doro 6050, as well as the two Doro models we've highlighted above.

Big buttons

Simple phones with large buttons are ideal for those with sight problems, and also make it easier to use and navigate on the phone if you have reduced dexterity or suffer from arthritis.

Several phones, including the Alba Big Button Mobile Phone, Alcatel 3025X and Doro 7060, have large, easy-to-use buttons.

Hearing aid compatibility

Typically, if a model has hearing aid compatibility it means that the telecoil inside the hearing aid picks up audio through signals transmitted from the phone, allowing you to hear calls directly through your hearing aid.

There are no hard and fast rules about which hearing aids are compatible with this technology, so try the feature on a phone you're thinking of buying before purchase.

Also look out for 'M' and 'T' ratings on phones: 'M' ratings tell you the level of interference a phone has when connected to your hearing aid, and 'T' ratings tell you how well it couples with a hearing aid's telecoil.

Head to our reviews of simple mobile phones with hearing aid compatibility to browse phones with this feature.

Camera and web browsing

Not all simple phones come with web browsing functionality or even a low-resolution camera. Typically, simple phones that come with both of these features have more smart features in general than most basic mobiles, and they are likely to cost a little more than the cheapest on the market.

The standard connectivity is 2G but more simple phones now have 3G or even 4G. Phones such as the Doro 8040, MobiWire Nokosi and Nokia 8110 4G all have cameras and can browse the internet.