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Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Dumb Phone? 313

An anonymous reader writes: For those of us who don't need or want a smartphone, what would be the best dumb phone around? Do you have a preference over flip or candy bar ones? What about ones that have FM radio? Do any of you still use dumb phones in this smart phone era? Related question: What smart phones out now are (or can be reasonably outfitted to be) closest to a dumb phone, considering reliability, simplicity, and battery life? I don't especially want to give up a swiping keyboard, a decent camera, or podcast playback, but I do miss being able to go 5 or more days on a single charge.
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Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Dumb Phone?

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  • Ultra Power Saving (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:33PM (#49753767)

    Some smart phones have an "ultra power saving mode" (see Samsung Galaxy 5/6) that essentially turns them into dumb phones. My Galaxy 5 will last 2 weeks in this mode.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @05:43PM (#49754801)

      My HTC One M8 has an Extreme Power Saving mode which replaces the Launcher, drops all network connections, and only allows a few basic functions to work. Not sure how long it will last, but easily over a week.

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:34PM (#49753779) Homepage

    Related question: What smart phones out now are (or can be reasonably outfitted to be) closest to a dumb phone, considering reliability, simplicity, and battery life? I don't especially want to give up a swiping keyboard, a decent camera, or podcast playback, but I do miss being able to go 5 or more days on a single charge.

    So, you want a dumb phone, but you want it to have smart phone features, and a huge battery charge, and lots of doo-dads and stuff ... just like a smart phone?

    Well, good luck with that.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2015 @04:10PM (#49754123)

      No. The person sent in the question wants a dumb phone.

      The stupid editor added the second question about a smart phone because TIMMY !

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Well, good luck with that.

      After reading another comment, and looking at TFS again, I concur with the other poster that the bit you are complaining about was added by our favorite [southparkVoice] Timmie [/southparkVoice] and not the OP.

    • Smart phones with a huge battery charge? Which are those?

      • All of them. Smartphones have much bigger batteries than their dumber counterparts.

        • But they don't last half as long.

          • Actually with a push of a button my Galaxy S5 will switch to a dumbphone with limited features available which extends it battery life to 14days standby. Better than any dumbphone I've ever had.

            Best of all with a push of a button I can switch it back again.

    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @04:33PM (#49754307)

      Exactly. You can't have it both ways. If you want a good camera, then you're firmly in smartphone territory, and recent phones too. Even my 4-year-old smartphone's camera sucks.

      What we need to be doing is figuring out how to make our own smartphones that actually work well. The key to this (since we can't build them ourselves obviously) is to back some of the open-source community projects like CyanogenMod (or any better ones, I'm open to suggestions) and get those working well, just like OpenWrt works well for a lot of routers. If you want a good router that doesn't have any spyware or other BS from the manufacturer, you don't *need* to build your own router from the ground up, you just need to find a cheap consumer router that's supported by OpenWrt and install that, and then you're set. We need to do the same for phones.

      There's always going to be limitations, however. Phones only come with batteries that are so large, but by customizing the software some of that can be mitigated, by removing all the bloatware and making very stripped-down builds which don't have much running in the background. Obviously, the phone makers and carriers are not going to provide what we want for us, at any price, so if we want this stuff we have to do it ourselves. And, there's already projects in existence with goals much like this, so it shouldn't be that hard to piggyback onto one of them.

    • by afgam28 ( 48611 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @04:39PM (#49754353)

      Most of the crappy battery life of smartphone is due to constant network polling by apps. If you just get a smartphone and use it as a dumb phone, then turning off cellular data will give you many days of battery life. Try it, you might be surprised.

    • A swiping keyboard requires capacitive touch. Capacitive touch requires more energy than just a hardware keyboard. There are Android phones without touch capabilities and only hardware keyboards, especially in developing countries, but I do not think that's what you want. Also, those phones do get security updates, but they will never go above Android 2.3x because they only have a single core processor.

      An FM radio requires a wired earbuds/headset to act as an FM antenna. Phones in developing countries have

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @05:44PM (#49754813)

      Well, good luck with that.

      You mock, but it exists. Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6.

      With the push of a button you're in ultra power saving mode. Black and white screen. SMS and Calling only. No background software, no other foreground apps other than your contact list. 12+ days of battery life. WiFi and 3G off. etc. It's quite good for a short trip of a few days where you want to preserve battery life and still receive calls (about the only thing a dumb phone is good for).

  • NOKIA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tyrannosaur ( 2485772 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:34PM (#49753785)

    Those things really are indestructible. I would hop on Amazon or ebay and pick up a used one. Definitely worth it.

    If that is not an option, then I would go something candybar. Every phone I have seen broken that had moving parts broke at the moving parts.

    • Re:NOKIA (Score:4, Informative)

      by antiperimetaparalogo ( 4091871 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @05:08PM (#49754539)
      When (some decades ago) i was serving as a conscript in the Greek SP my unit was tasked to use as a "long period test" what was destined to be the regular army's new personal radio communication equipment - with that as my personal experience i can claim that yes, Nokia are indestructible: i have my heavily (ab)used 6303 for 6-7 years now, this thing works and looks like it was new - if i was ever going to war, that's a phone i would take with me... plus, it can be useful if you ran out of bullets... or if you ever need a hamer!
    • by unrtst ( 777550 )

      My vote would go to the Motorola Motofone F3.
      It's a very thin GSM candy bar format phone with an eink display.

      Many Nokia phones were really good (or so I've heard), but I have little experience with them.

      I think my second choice would be to go back to my last non-smart phone - a Motorola Razr (I think I had the v3m version). Size, battery life, usability, durability, and voice quality were all very good.

    • by mirix ( 1649853 )

      I still use an E71 (from.. 2008?). Candybar with qwerty. Symbian so it's not as dumb as S40, but it's dumb by modern standards. I still get close to a week of battery life (on the ancient original battery).

      Makes good quality calls, has reception where all of my friend's iphones and androids don't... has real buttons.

  • why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by koan ( 80826 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:36PM (#49753805)

    I don't especially want to give up a swiping keyboard, a decent camera, or podcast playback

    Then you're stuck, or get a tablet.

  • AT&T Z432 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OccamsRazorTime ( 2621799 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:37PM (#49753809)
    It looks like a blackberry, has a real keyboard, and can stay charged for 3-4 days while in use for texting. It has GPS, bluetooth, and web. but really not. I have this phone as a dumb phone...no data plan. It's pretty good.
  • by NEDHead ( 1651195 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:37PM (#49753813)

    Wall mount, plug in power block. Totally indestructible in either rotary or touch tone.

  • by davydagger ( 2566757 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:37PM (#49753815)

    Motorola Razr v3xx is probably one of the best handsets of all time.

    That said, its old, uses a now non-standard charge port, and all the hacked tools are no longer readily available.(Motorola PST, Qualcom's tool, etc...)

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      Motorola Razr v3xx is probably one of the best handsets of all time.

      Which is why I still use my 7 year old Razr. The only problem I have now is that something is sporadically killing the jog-dial (not sure if it is mechanical or electrical or software), which makes a bunch of functionality impossible to use. Fortunately I have my wife's old Razr of the same era as a backup.

      As a bonus for my model Razr (depending on your paranoia) .. it also is pre-GPS chip E911.

    • by aheath ( 628369 ) *
      The Motorola RAZR V9X is a really nice phone. It's more sturdy than the RAZR V3xx.
    • The port's no longer standard, but still readily available, and it's not like regular USB (the other end of the cable) as a charging standard is going to disappear any time soon. I agree - the RAZR is an easy choice here: cheap, readily available, still an aesthetically attractive phone, good battery life. The only possible knock against it as a dumbphone is that it has a camera, which will keep you from taking it into a federal office building.
    • by RingDev ( 879105 )

      I bought my wife a Motorola Tundra. She doesn't want a smart phone, but she does want something that will get reception in the boonies and survive the rigors of horse back riding (or falling off said horse). I have seen that phone light up while at the bottom of a 3' deep creek, and she called me on it after taking a dive off a horse and was in need of an ambulance. So it passes my tests ;)

      -Rick

  • by MillerHighLife21 ( 876240 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:38PM (#49753829) Homepage

    What's the best dumb phone? I want calls, voice mail, text message and battery life. That's it.

    • by Benwick ( 203287 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:51PM (#49753959) Journal

      I got a Samsung in the Ukraine for about $10 US at a phone stand in a mall. Once I figured out how to get it into English instead of Cyrillic, it became the most practical phone for travel that I've ever found. The screen is just old one-color LCD with a backlight. The battery lasts for weeks on a good charge. It sends old fashioned texts and makes phone calls with better sound quality than the fancy Android I use now. And I never have to deal with the whole phone "locking" thing US carriers have, I can just buy a new cheap SIM card wherever I travel.

      • by JazzLad ( 935151 )
        How does a one colour LCD work?
        • by Benwick ( 203287 )

          It's just a big solid mess, ok?

          Technically the liquid crystals are one color.

        • by Benwick ( 203287 )

          Actually, I was wrong. It is a color display. There's no particular reason for it to be a color display, since you're not going to use it to do anything interesting, but it is.
           

        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          Each pixel is either a color or black, which is the absence of light (color). That wasn't so hard to figure out, was it?
        • Old LCD tech only had 1 color that would only show up when the pixel was energized, causing the film to become opaque at that point in the grid. If it wasn't energized, there was no color as the film would be clear. Two available states, one displayable color. (Nice try at being a pedantic fool.)
        • When you apply electricity to the liquid crystal, the color appears. When you remove it, the color disappears. It's quite simple, really.
      • I've been getting a bunch of BLU phones for the kids for about $20 - $30 a pop.
        http://www.amazon.com/BLU-Unlo... [amazon.com]

        They're by no means nice phones, but they have a good feature set, and we haven't had any problems with them that weren't caused by dropping them into puddles or sending them on a ride through the laundry machine.

        BLU also has a slightly larger one with a full Blackberry-like keyboard for texting that also has a broadcast TV receiver instead of just FM radio.

    • by plopez ( 54068 )

      I have an old LG Cosmo 3. Everything you asked for is all I do with it. I need to replace it though as the screen is now getting too scratched up. I think they still make them. Though I might upgrade to a Kramer.

    • Casio G*Zone One. Doesn't even have a camera.

      Verizon likes to pretend they don't stock them, but they do - corporate clients buy that model all the time for their delivery drivers.

    • Motorola made an e-Ink candybar phone for India at one point, is that still around? Would it be useful in any other countries, given the frequencies? It was supposed to have more or less best-ever battery life, like a month of standby or something nutty like that, and days of talk time.

    • You can get a Tracphone flip phone from Walmart for $15, and service for $10/month (50 minutes). If you don't like it, well, you haven't even reached the one-month unlimited charge for most providers and you can start over. Not the best network (AT&T) but it'll work in cities and along major highways.
      • Correction, it's actually Verizon, which has a very good network. A good deal if you don't call much (20 cents/minute), or Verizon has $35/month unlimited plans if you need more.
  • by Known Nutter ( 988758 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:39PM (#49753831)

    That related question that the editors added to the OP's question is going to screw the thread up.

    They are hardly related -- and were obviously written by separate individuals.

  • Model 500 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:39PM (#49753841)

    My parents still have one of these in their house, and it still works fine (even if dialing is tedious):

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    Since it's around 50 years old and still working, I'd say it's the best dumb phone.

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )

      Since it's around 50 years old and still working, I'd say it's the best dumb phone.

      I second that as I still using my Touch-Tone Model 500 (Bell System Property, Not For Sale) I've had since 1980s (even has same phone number label from where I used to live). Another thing to note this phone is so rugged it can survive getting dumped in water, dropped from tables, chock a runaway railway car, and withstand a nuclear blast at 50 yards (OK so I made up the last two).

  • by larwe ( 858929 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:41PM (#49753863) Homepage
    Actually for this set of needs, take a look at the Nokia Lumia 635. Dirt cheap (off contract), good battery life, FM radio inbuilt, and no huge app store full of loads of apps to distract you with complexity (#iceburn). Seriously, I have a few of these on the bench at home for development work, and I recently replaced my in-laws' several-year-old flip phones with 635s. At the time I purchased them I believe they cost $59; they're now $49 (AT&T GoPhone variant).
  • by Bill Hayden ( 649193 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:44PM (#49753901) Homepage

    I've done a lot of research on this, and the Nokia Asha 501 is the best dumb phone I've found: http://amzn.to/1HncbcC [amzn.to]

    I purchased it because it was the most smartphone-like phone on which AT&T does not require a data plan (my definition of dumb phone, yours may vary). The battery lasts a few days when using it mostly for music and internet, or a couple weeks (!) when using it for calls only. It's small, but not too small to be useful. With it's built-in WiFi, it's the only dumbphone that I know that will do Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Email, and even a small number of games.

    This is not going to touch any iPhone or Android phone by a long shot, but for the price it does pretty well.

  • by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:44PM (#49753903) Homepage
    Personally I always like my old Nokia 5190 [wikipedia.org] built like a tank, it made phone calls, and with the Li-ion battery instead of the NiMH it would go almost 2 weeks on a charge. That said I gave up on non smart phones recently as the last time I needed to replace my phone the only non smartphones available at the store were the flip phone model that went to shit on me in 8 months that I was replacing and the display model for a candy bar phone that they were otherwise out of stock of. I don't play "angry flappy craft" or tweet about my latest bowl movement from the stall at work but I do like the ability of my current phone to accept a huge SD card filled with my music and that it can run Navit [navit-project.org] but other than that one program I could do everything I currently do with a simple dumb phone.
  • Noia E6 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aglider ( 2435074 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:45PM (#49753911) Homepage
    It's a smartphone with great battery life. 4/5 days to me.
  • by kamapuaa ( 555446 )

    In ultra power saving mode, a galaxy s5 will last two weeks, with very good call quality. Plus it cash become a supercomputer if you find the need.

  • by mrbill1234 ( 715607 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @03:52PM (#49753965)

    Available in single or dual sim - and an incredible 30 days (yes, one month) standby time.

  • I'm still using the Nokia N73 I bought in 2006. It lasts about a week on a charge, but then again I don't really use it that often. I did have to replace the battery about 2 years back, but 7 years on a single battery seems fair enough. The only reason I'd give it up is the text on the screen is tiny and it's getting hard for my old bastard eyes to read it now.

    Maybe you should try getting a second hand handset of ebay?

  • People tend to keep their old phones and there's little reason why you couldn't just re-activate some else's. Perhaps ask a friend for his and use that older model? If that doesn't work for you, Walmart still has old style phones in their electronics departments... I feel your pain though.... I use a phone to communicate, not to look at mini-versions of Facebook. Also touch screens annoy the crap out of me (unresponsive and typo prone). I use a 6 year old Samsung slide phone ATM. Laziness and a physical ke
  • Pretty dumb phone, although with some effort you can browse, text, even take crude pictures. If you choose the right plan at Tracfone and keep to less than 1 minute a day, you can get by for ~$5 a month. Of course at home I wouldn't use anything other than my genuine Western Electric rotary-dial.
  • Several months ago, I spent many hours researching the same question, and eventually settled on the Nokia 515. I got the phone, and am very happy with it.
  • I just bought the Exelvan MTK6260A phone watch (2G) and it's great! Battery lasts 4-5 days, 1-2 days when using bluetooth a lot.
    http://www.amazon.com/Excelvan... [amazon.com]

  • Blackberry bold (Score:5, Insightful)

    by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @04:05PM (#49754085)
    If you want a smartphone that isn't a smartphone, I am assuming you want to avoid the app infrastructure of apple and google? I have no idea what your actual goal is, but blackberry solved this ages ago. What you really seem to want is a smartphone from before iPhones ruined the market for practical smartphones.

    I submit to you: Blackberry Bold
    insane battery life (remember BB was competing with dumb phones not smartphones, so the charge every 8 hours thing hadn't started yet) - 12 days standby 6 hours talk, 50 hours audio playback
    camera, sure it has a decent camera
    Insanely good Keyboard that openly laughs at "swipe" keyboards.
    Podcasts, sure
    costs about 80 dollars now.
    • I agree. The 9930 was the best phone I ever had. Rock solid with no need for a case, touch screen up top, keypad on the bottom. Excellent camera, simple interface, did everything I wanted without all the stupid games.

  • then just use my laptop/pad for anything resembling internet usage.

  • Samsung Rugby III (Score:3, Informative)

    by thirdpoliceman ( 1350013 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @04:12PM (#49754147)
    I really enjoy my Samsung Rugby III. http://www.samsung.com/ca/cons... [samsung.com] It has a memo feature that is handy, a calendar, and each feature can be locked or kept open depending on your preference.
  • Is a smart phone, runs android 4.2, lasts over a week if only dumb phone features are used. 100 or so dollars.

    Obviously how much you talk on it like a dumb phone matters, if I don't use it much I can get two weeks

  • Wanting a feature phone makes about as much sense as wanting an old wooden phone with a separate earpiece and the cone that you have to shout into. Technology doesn't stand still, and most feature phones are going to have poor reception since they won't support any of the newer networks. For example, Bell Canada's network is HSPA+, and does not support 2G GSM at all.

    With smartphones available for forty to fifty bucks (like the Lumia 530), feature phones just don't make sense.

  • Dumb phones are sort of like mechanical keyboards. Robust, archaic technology that works really well for what you need it for. However, they don't have as many flashy lights and can be a bit annoying for some around when you type on them - and in the end are going to rise in price because there isn't enough demand for them.
  • Phillips Nexium is a winner, in my view.

    Batteries last almost one month, of course less if you will be talking nonstop. Some models have slots for 2 sim cards, some can have three sim cards.

    No need to waste time monkeying around with the smartphone.

  • by xleeko ( 551231 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @04:54PM (#49754449)

    I'm happy with the low end Blu phones. $20 for an unlocked dual sim phone on newegg. They have dozens of models. I use a candy bar, my wife texts more and used the blackberry style. Run a full week on a charge, and basically bulletproof.

  • Samsung t139. It costs about $15 to $20 brand new (unsubsidized). I spend $5 to $10 per month on minutes (T-Mobile).

  • AT&T 210M Trimline; no battery needed, it gets it's power from your landline so it works in a power outage, never has reception issues.

    Hey, if you are going to be retro-technology boy for no good reason, might as well plug your phone into the wall while you are at it.

  • Answer to the related question... "What smart phones out now are (or can be reasonably outfitted to be) closest to a dumb phone, considering reliability, simplicity, and battery life?".

    That's easy: any of them that you don't install all of those crappy, battery-sucking Apps on, and turn off polling for push notifications from Facebook, email, and so on, so they they aren't constantly running the battery down because then they can actually get the application processor into sleep state once in a while withou

  • The Motofone F3 is dirt cheap, light, compact and lasts long on a charge. It features an epaper display that is perfectly readable in full sunlight and is always on. It's quite convenient to be able to read the time without pressing the power button first. The disadvantage is that the segment display shows only a few letters at a time. If you want to do any amount of texting, it's too inconvenient.
  • Nokia 1616 [microsoft.com] with a 1020mAh battery lasts more than ten days.
  • by GPS Pilot ( 3683 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @06:38PM (#49755111)

    If you're like me, it's the expense of your talk, text and data plan that you dislike, not the features of a smartphone.

    I pay $20 every 90 days to Virgin Mobile (works out to $6.67 per month). I'll upgrade to a smart phone if and when the price of a plan that includes a reasonable amount of data drops to $15 per month. Until then, I'll make a mental note of what online content I'd like to consume, and wait until I get home to consume it.

    Calculate the annual cost of your cell phone plan; do you find that having instant gratification of your online desires is worth that cost? Not judging; just curious.

  • by ignavus ( 213578 ) on Friday May 22, 2015 @11:29PM (#49756513)

    Thing is, I don't want to make or receive phone calls or text messages!

    I hate them.

    The only reasons I own a phone are because a smart phone is a small handheld computer that can surf the net, play games, play music, show movies, and do other useful tasks (alarm clock, exercise timer - even flashlight). And a smart phone can act as a modem for my laptop to connect to the internet.

    So ... remove the smarts - the data, the computer-like features, the hotspot - and all you have left are the two things I don't want: phone calls and SMS.

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