Instead of a complicated smartphone, you may want a no-nonsense mobile that gives you all the essentials without any fuss. Discover our top tips on buying the best simple mobile phone for you.
The best simple mobiles make light work of tasks such as making calls, sending text messages, and come with a range of helpful features. What's more, they have terrific battery life and let you have clear phone conversations even when you're surrounded by noise.
You can spend anything from £5 to around £200 on a simple phone – but with great phones available at surprisingly low prices, there's no need to venture near a three-figure price tag for top quality.
Best simple mobile phones
We've selected some of our favourite simple phones to suit different needs.
This simple phone comes with some smartphone features within an easy-to-use package. Like with a lot of simple phones, the cameras could be better, but other perks include up to nine days of battery life , a 5-inch touchscreen and 4G connection.
With it's clamshell-style and a large 2.8-inch display, it will suit older users well. It has an assistance button, GPS and hearing aid compatibility. It's easy to use and can last you eight days before running out of battery.
You won't have to worry about battery life with this simple phone - it will last you 11 days on standby with over eight hours of call time. It's easy to use and straightforward to set up. The camera has a low resolution, can't record video and doesn't have a flash. But it's a good option if the camera quality doesn't matter much to you.
Simple phones tend to work on the 2G, 3G or 4G networks. On the 2G network, you can send text messages and browse simple apps and web pages. However, the connection can only transmit a few kilobytes of data per second so it will be painfully slow to load most modern apps or websites. 3G and 4G give you better wireless access to the internet, but 4G works significantly faster for browsing, downloads and streaming.
With 4G you can make phone calls over the 4G network, which gives you higher quality calls if you have a good signal. A 3G connection might be enough if you'll only be using the internet to access a few apps and websites. However, both 2G and 3G will be phased out completely by 2033, and some networks have already phased them out:
Three no longer offers any 2G or 3G connections.
Vodafone plans to phase out 3G by the end of 2023, and 2G by the end of 2025.
EE plans to phase out 3G by the end of 2023, and 2G by the end of 2025.
O2 will phase out 2G and 3G in 2033.
If you buy a phone that does not have 4G-connectivity, soon you will need to have an O2 Sim, or a Sim from a provider that runs on one of O2's networks: Giffgaff, Sky, or Tesco Mobile, for it to have an internet connection without Wi-Fi.
What is a simple feature phone?
Simple feature phones resemble mobile phones from the 1990s and early 2000s – with a raised, push button keypad instead of the more modern touchscreen design. Basic handsets are designed to be as cheap as possible, and could suit you if you’re looking for a phone just for calls and texts – or one to keep in your car’s glove compartment in case of emergency.
A number of simple phones are designed with seniors in mind - with extra loud sound, big buttons and hearing aid compatibility.
There are two main designs to choose from: clamshell or candy bar. Clamshell phones are also known as ‘flip phones’ – the display is on a different surface than the keypad. The keypad and the screen on candy-bar phones, on the other hand, are on the same surface.
Basic phone features to look out for:
Torch: Some models have a built-in torch function, which could come in handy in a power cut – or if you’re looking for your keys at the very bottom of your bag. There’s sometimes a dedicated torch button on the keypad for quick and easy access.
Internet access: Some handsets don’t offer any internet access whatsoever – they are really designed for just calls and texts. If you’d like to be able to read the news or check your Facebook profile, it might be worth narrowing down your options by internet connectivity. Some let you browse on the 2.5G network, but this is painfully slow – so look for one that runs on the 3G or 4G network.
Camera: Many basic handsets have a rear camera. Useful for taking the odd picture of your friends and family, but quality is usually quite poor. Internet access.
Should I choose a candy bar or clamshell design?
There are two main 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 also known 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 larger and better spaced.
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 for someone who wants to have access to apps and mobile internet without the complexity of most smartphones.
What is a simple smartphone?
Simple smartphones, sometimes known as specialist simple phones, on the other hand, look more like modern smartphones. They differ in having a far more straightforward interface that usually focuses on making key features, such as calling and messaging, more accessible. They usually offer large touchscreen controls, simple menu navigation and can include features like hearing-aid compatibility. You may want to consider a simple smartphone if you have issues with dexterity, sight or hearing - or if you just want one that's really easy to use.
These features generally make specialist phones more expensive than the more basic handsets.
Simple smartphone features to look out for:
Hearing-aid compatibility: If you need a simple phone with hearing-aid compatibility, look for one with a good microphone/telecoil (M/T) rating. M4/T4 is the highest rating, and means you should be able to have clear conversations with very little interference.
SOS button: This is a dedicated button on the handset that you can press in case of a fall or another emergency. Pressing it sends an automated message to your pre-assigned contacts, to let them know that you need help.
Big buttons: Especially important if you have dexterity or sight issues. Buying a phone with large, clearly-labelled and well-spaced buttons means you’ll have better luck pressing the right one each time. Find out more in our guide to the best phones with big buttons.
If you're comfortable without the simplicity of operation that a simple phone can bring, you might want to consider a cheap regular smartphone instead of a simple smartphone. We've found plenty of good models for under £200 that will usually outperform a simple phone, and include additional features such as 4G or even 5G, good cameras and impressive battery life.
If you’re still unsure about which type of phone is right for you, it's best to go into a shop and ask to try out a simple phone and a good-value smartphone. 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. This will give you a better understanding of the type of phone you'd prefer.