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4 June 2021

Most reliable simple mobile phone brands

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

The best simple mobile phones help you keep in contact with friends and family, at a much cheaper price than most smartphones. But they're not very useful when they break.

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.

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.

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

Below, we explore the most and least impressive simple mobile phone brands, and what separates them. Plus, we reveal the most common simple phone faults reported to us in our survey.

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

Which simple mobile phone brands are the most reliable?
Reliability rating
Reliability score

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

Which simple mobile phone brand stays fault-free longest?

The graph below shows how the brand that stays fault-free for longest compares with the worst brand, as well as the average. Which? members can see how brands compare for faults, and which are the best and worst, in the table below.

% faults after 1 year
% faults after 7 years

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 the table above, simple mobile phones are pretty dependable, according to our survey.

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%).