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8 best feature phones

Whether you're on a digital detox or need something festival-proof, these are the best stripped-back mobiles

David Phelan
Thursday 25 May 2017 16:55 BST

A feature phone is the mobile phone many of us grew up with, the ones that excel at calls and texts but are not designed for much more. They have few apps (a game of Snake or a clothing size comparison chart, perhaps) and slow internet speeds so web browsing is arduous. They don’t have the latest 4G connection, and sometimes not even 3G.

So why would you want one? Well, they’re cheap, simple to use and have battery life that lasts days, or even weeks. Perfect, then, as a child’s first mobile or an elderly relative’s lifeline. Ideal if you’re going to Glastonbury, say, and don’t want to take your shiny smartphone with you.

Note that unlike the latest smartphones, feature phones have a microSIM card, or even a miniSIM, rather than the more recent nanoSIM. So if you plan on taking the SIM from your smartphone for a digital detox weekend with your basic mobile, you will need an adaptor, though these are dirt cheap and widely available.

Note also that some feature phones which are on the 2G network are not compatible with sim cards from Three.

1. Nokia 3310: £39, Vodafone

The just-released feature phone from Nokia is a redesign of the classic 3310 from 2000. As such, it’s big on nostalgia but it also has a gleaming, attractive style and feels great in the hand. Purists won’t care for the new version of Snake, but it’s still fun to play. Battery life is up to 30 days on standby, so perfect to keep as a back-up in the car’s glove compartment. There’s a basic, but not all that bad, 2-megapixel camera on board. It’s currently available for £39 from Vodafone in navy blue, in red from Very for £59.99, or in grey from Littlewoods for £79.99, and for pre-order elsewhere.

Buy now

2. Doro 6050: £69.97, Appliances Direct

Doro focuses on the senior mobile phone market with feaures such as loud sounds, clear displays with adjustable font sizes and keys that are separate enough to make them especially easy to hit. There is a 3-megapixel camera with a flash that can also be put to service as a torch. The grippy back makes it easy to hold. This is a flip phone so the screen is a reasonable size but the phone itself is small (though not slim). There’s also a front display to show the time and show who is calling. It has hearing aid compatibility and a dedicated assistance button: when pressed for three seconds it sends a message to everyone on a pre-determined list of contacts and calls the first number, automatically on speakerphone.

Buy now

3. Alcatel OneTouch 10.16G: £19.99, Carphone Warehouse

The 10.16G includes an FM radio and, with a 1.8in screen, is tiny enough to hide in the smallest pocket and forget you’re carrying anything (it weighs just 63g). There’s no camera, and battery life is only decent if you use it sparingly, but highlights include a torch and you can use the phone’s microphone to record voice notes. At this price, it’s hard to knock. Buy it sim-free from Carphone Warehouse.

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4. STK R45i: £14.99, Carphone Warehouse

Astonishingly for the price, this phone has a camera – though at 1.3 megapixels, don’t plan to shoot a masterpiece on it. The screen is small (1.8 inches). It also has two sim card slots, ideal if you want to have your work and private numbers in the one phone, or plan to take it abroad and use a second, local sim for overseas calls and texts. It works with up to two miniSIM cards. The design isn’t much – the brand itself even describes it as “no-frills” – but that’s made up for with a battery that last for four or five days.

Buy now

5. Nokia 105: £24.99, Carphone Warehouse

Nokia has been making feature phones for decades so it really knows its stuff. This one looks cool (choose from black or blue finishes) and the battery lasts as long as in the new Nokia 3310 – that is, a month on standby. The keyboard is splash-proof and dust-proof, and there’s a just-about-big-enough 1.4in display. Like several phones here, it has a torch and FM radio built in, plus five games. Buy it sim-free from Carphone Warehouse.

Buy now

6. Alba 2.8in: £19.95, Argos

Another dual-sim phone, the Alba has a basic (0.3-megapixel) camera and comes in a vibrant purple colour, though red and blue are also options. The phone has two miniSIM card slots but there’s also a memory card slot. Put a microSD card in and you use the phone as an MP3 player, with a memory of up to 32GB. The display is 2.8-inches and it’ll give you around 10 days of battery on standby, so it’s another that’s good to keep as a back-up. This phone doesn’t work with a Three sim card.

Buy now

7. Amplicomms PowerTel M6300: £34.99, Hearing Direct

Amplicomms makes phones which have extra-loud ringtones and a volume booster. As such, they’re a good choice for those with hearing loss, but also useful for, say, taking to a festival in the knowledge that you’ll hear it ring amongst the hubbub. It also has an SOS button to call five selected numbers. It is lightweight and compact, with a small 1.7in display, and there is space in the contacts for 200 numbers. Battery on standby will last you around five days.

Buy now

8. Cat B25: £69.95, Argos

Tough as old boots, the Cat 25 can withstand a drop of six feet and is waterproof and dust-proof. So it’s ideal if you’re a bit clumsy. This is a 3G phone, though still pretty basic features-wise. An FM radio and torch are included and a 2-megapixel camera. Price requires purchase of £10 airtime, and you’ll get around nine hours of talk-time with a full battery charge.

Buy now

The Verdict: Feature phones

The Nokia 3310 scores highly for looks, build and effectiveness. Note, though, that it doesn’t work in the USA, unlike some here. Technophobes will love the Doro which looks smart enough and works in a simple, intuitive way. And if you’re forever smashing the screen on your smartphone, the Cat B25 is for you.

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