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Technology.

19 October 2021

Which simple mobile phone brand to buy?

We lift the lid on the brands that make the longest-lasting simple mobile phones from Samsung to Doro
Louise Muyanja
Simple mobile phone texting

You should be able to rely on your mobile phone lasting for years, particularly if you've bought a simple model without loads of the latest technological bells and whistles.

But even the simplest phone can start to let you down after you've had it for a while. A battery that starts to drain increasingly quickly, frequent screen freezes and unexpected shutdowns can all become daily annoyances for owners of simple mobile phones that weren't built to stand the test of time.


Best brand
Worst brand
Average score in our tests
69%
52%
Reliability rating
95%
86%
Customer satisfaction score
77%
52%

As you can see from the table above, there's a big difference between the top-performing brand for average Which? test score (69%) and the brand in last place (52%) as well as the average customer satisfaction score for the best brand at 77% and the worst brand at 52%. This is why we've surveyed simple mobile phone owners about their handsets to find out which brands are the most durable, and that last the longest without developing serious faults. 

Each year we ask hundreds of Which? members to tell us whether they are happy, or have experienced problems, with their simple mobile phones in our unique reliability survey. Here, we reveal the brands with the most and least complaints, to help you buy a simple mobile phone that's likely to stand the test of time.

719 Which? members have rated their handsets in our latest mobile phone brand reliability survey - and we've crunched the numbers to bring you our definitive verdict on the most and least reliable simple mobile phone brands in the table below. We also asked each owner to rate their overall satisfaction with their phone to bring you customer scores for each brand.

Which simple mobile phone brands are the most reliable?

Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive ratings in the table below for the brands we have surveyed. In alphabetical order the brands we cover in our survey are Alcatel, Doro, Nokia and Samsung. 

If you're not already a Which? member, join Which? to get instant access to this, and all our best simple mobile recommendations.

Brand
Customer score
Average test score
Reliability score
Reliability rating
77%
N/A
95%

75%
69%
86%
74%
58%
94%
52%
52%
93%

Sample sizes: The above data is based on our survey of 719 simple mobile phone owners in April-July 2019.

Choosing the best brand of simple mobile phone

The customer score and reliability data in the table above reveal the brands you can rely on most for the best simple mobile phone.

The best brand of the bunch earns a whopping 95% reliability score, meaning you're unlikely to experience any undue faults with a simple mobile phone from this brand - at least for a while. And with a collection of Best Buys to choose from, you'll be hard-pushed to go too far wrong with this brand.

The least reliable brand is still decent, but we're underwhelmed by its simple handsets we've tested in our lab. Its customers seem to agree, too - it has the lowest customer score of any of the above brands.

Use our reliability data alongside our expert simple mobile phone reviews to make the best choice.

Which simple mobile phone brand stays fault-free longest?

Simple mobile phones are pretty reliable - only one of the brands we have results for received fewer than five stars for this measure.

However, there are some interesting differences between the brands. For instance, only 3% of phones from the most reliable brand developed a fault in their first year, whereas it's 10% for the least impressive brand.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings in the table below. Join Which? to get instant access.

Brand
% faults after 1 year
% faults after 7 years
10%
13%
4%
10%
3%
9%
3%
8%

Table notes: The above data is based on our survey of 719 simple mobile phone owners in April-July 2019.

How simple mobile phone brands compare

As you can see from our survey results, simple mobile phones are pretty dependable.

But the best brand is nothing short of astonishing, with only 10% of owners reporting faults with their phone after seven years. Conversely, the same percentage of simple phone owners from the least reliable brand told us they experienced problems in their first year of use.

We ask our respondents to describe their faults as minor, major or catastrophic based on the following guidelines:

  • Minor A fault that doesn’t affect the product’s performance significantly or a fault that only occurs occasionally with minimal impact. This issue may be irritating or annoying but it isn’t frequently problematic and you can easily work around it. For example, deteriorating sound quality.
  • Major A fault that has a noticeable effect on the product’s performance. This fault affects how you use the product and can be problematic. For example, the simple phone might frequently turn itself off of its own accord.
  • Catastrophic A fault that renders the product unusable, with the fault needing to be repaired or parts replaced before it can be used again. For example, the buttons might stop working completely.

We think it’s vital to consider reliability alongside our product testing, and asking owners to tell us about their experiences is the best way of judging a product’s real-world performance. Because of this, we’ll strip products of Best Buy awards if they get fewer than three stars for reliability.

Common simple mobile phone problems

  • Almost one fifth of simple phone problems (18%) in our survey related to the handset either losing charge quickly.
  • 7% of faults related to the camera on the simple phone failing (e.g. the camera refusing to take the picture).
  • Another 7% of faults related to the phone becoming slow or sluggish.

Battery-related problems take the number one spot for the most common simple phone faults. It's likely that your phone's battery will degrade after prolonged use, but it's annoying if this happens within a year of purchase.

Failure with the camera on a phone can be detrimental to how you use it. Although the resolution on simple mobile phone cameras is typically low (below 5Mp), if you're used to taking photos regularly, a faulty camera will significantly reduce the functionality of the phone.

Other reported problems included phones turning themselves off (7%) and developing other faults with their battery or charger (6%).

How we calculate the best and worst brands

We survey hundreds of simple mobile phone owners each year, to find out about their experience with their handset.

We ask owners to tell us about any faults they've had with their simple mobile phone, the severity of these faults, and when they occurred. We use this data to generate our reliability star ratings, to help you pick a simple mobile phone that's more likely to stand the test of time.

For our customer score, we ask people whether they're satisfied with their simple mobile phone - and whether they'd recommend a simple mobile phone from that brand.

Our reliability and customer scores, alongside our independent lab test results of the most popular simple mobile phones available, means you can make the best buying decision for you using our full simple mobile phone reviews.