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How to buy the best simple mobile phone

By Oli McKean

Want to know how to choose the best simple phone? Let this page lift the fog on these basic but useful handsets.

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Complicated smartphones aren't for everyone. You may just want a no-nonsense mobile that lets you get on with the essentials, without any faff. Read on to discover our top tips on buying the best simple mobile phone for you.

The best simple mobiles make tasks such as making calls, sending text messages and saving numbers a breeze. And good sound quality means you'll be able to have clear phone conversations without having to ask people to repeat themselves, too.

You can spend anything from £10 to nearly £200 on a simple phone. The good news is that you can find brilliant phones at surprisingly low prices - you don't need to venture near a three-figure price tag.

Look at our Best Buy simple phone recommendations to quickly discover the right model to spend your money on.

Do I need a budget phone or a specialist simple phone?

The cheapest phones are basic models from manufacturers such as Alcatel Onetouch and Nokia, and are designed to be as cheap as possible rather than being specifically built to be simple. These phones would be suitable for someone who just wants to make calls and send texts.

If you spend a little bit more (£20-60) you can get a specialist simple phone that is more focused on ease-of-use, from a brand such as Doro or Ttfone. They typically have features such as large buttons, very simple menu navigation, and hearing-aid compatibility. So you might consider a specialist phone if you have issues with dexterity, sight or hearing - or just want one that's really easy to use.

Above £60 or so, models won’t get much easier to use, but typically include more of the features found on modern smartphones - such as a camera or the ability to browse the web on a 3G or sometimes even 4G mobile network.

Recently, manufacturers have started producing simple smartphones, which run a modified version of the Android operating system. With clearly presented menus, simplified text and a step-by-step set-up process, they could be great from someone who wants to have access to apps and mobile internet but not the added complexity of most smartphones.

Should I choose a candy bar or clamshell design?

There are two different designs for simple phones: candy bar and clamshell.

The keypad and the screen are on the same surface on candy-bar phones. They're often small and compact, which means they're very easy to carry around - but the keypad buttons are sometimes small and feel quite cramped together.

Clamshell phones are often referred to as 'flip phones'. The display is on a different surface than the keypad, and you can close the lid when you're not using it. As the display and keypad are on different surfaces, there's more room for the buttons - which means they can be large and better spaced.

What features do I need?

To help you figure out which simple phone to buy, we've highlighted some of the top features you might consider.

  • 3G/4G connectivity If you want to browse the web at a reasonable pace on your phone, look for one that lets you use the 3G or 4G network. Bear in mind that phones on the 4G network are often expensive, and tend to be the simple smartphones as mentioned above. You might find the 2G network frustratingly slow and limited.
  • Assistance button Pressing this can automatically ring or send a text message to people you've assigned to an emergency contacts list on the phone. The button is often on the rear of the phone.
  • Big buttons Look for large keys with plenty of space between them if you have sight or dexterity issues.
  • Camera You might like a camera phone for taking quick shots of family and friends. We haven't found a good camera on a simple phone yet, but you still might find it useful.
  • Memory card slot Many simple phones have very limited storage, intended just for things like phone numbers. If you think you'll need more space, for photos for example, choose a phone that lets you increase it using a memory card. This feature is sometimes described as the micro-SD card slot.
  • HAC Some simple phones are hearing-aid compatible (HAC). If you need one of these, find one that gets a good M/T (microphone and telecoil) coupling rating. M4/T4 is the highest rating.
  • Simple layout Well-labelled apps, quick shortcuts and clear text all make phones easier to use. Read our simple mobile phone reviews and check our ease-of-use star ratings as assessed by our lab experts, to pick a straightforward phone that does everything you need.

Should I just buy a normal smartphone instead?

It really depends on how difficult you find using modern smartphones. There are cheap smartphones available that will beat any simple phone for features, and if you choose carefully you could get a really impressive model for a price that’s not too steep. 

If you’re still unsure about which type of phone is right for you, the best thing to do would be to go into a shop and ask to have a go using a simple phone and also a good value smartphone (or try using a friend's). Try out some of the functions that you’d use most often, such as finding numbers in the phonebook, writing text messages, and browsing the internet to see which you prefer.

Now find the perfect simple mobile phone for you by checking out our simple mobile phone reviews.


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