The mid-2000s called and the flip phone answered. That tiny gadget, which once upon a time helped so many people out of jams, stuck around until January 9, 2007, when it was unceremoniously muscled off center stage by Steve Jobs, who on that day debuted Apple’s touchscreen iPhone in a Macworld Expo keynote. While smartphones are now approaching ubiquity — 77% of Americans now own one according to Pew Research — they’re beginning look quite generic and boring despite their huge array of brilliant features.
Now, the old-fashioned flip phone seems to be enjoying a new moment — note the buzz around the impending release of the Motorola Razr folding smartphone. In its honor, Digital Trends scoured the current flip phone landscape to discover which ones are worthy of buying and by whom. Even if you’re a die-hard smartphone devotee, a flip phone still may make sense as a backup line of communication when other methods fail.
Why a flip phone?
Feature phones — non-smartphones to us civilians — focus on the basics: Call quality, text capabilities, and battery life, wrapped in an easy-to-use, reasonably priced, pocketable package. If you’re on a limited budget, and you need a way to call and text loved ones, the flip phone may be the best and most affordable option. It’s no frills, but it gets the job done. While not all flip phones are super cheap, they do tend to be much cheaper than most smartphones, even budget ones.
Flip phones are intuitive and offer plenty of variety. Your phone rings, you flip up to answer. You want to text, you flip up and start typing. Most flip phones are designed to be used with one hand, though some also have a hands-free mode. Some flip phones also feature a small touchscreen, while others may sport a full QWERTY keyboard.
Battery life is one of the hallmarks of flip phones. Flip phones can run for up to a week and even longer without recharging. If you don’t need to surf the web, have a bunch of apps running constantly, or scroll through your Facebook and Twitter feeds, but instead rely on the phone for making calls (what a concept!), consider a flip phone. If someone calls you, your phone will connect with cell towers, just like a smartphone. Otherwise, your flip phone stays offline and away from the prying eyes of location services, beacons, and spyware. And most flip phones tend not to store or share personal information, so for hackers, a flip phone is a waste of time compared with the treasure trove of information found in most smartphones.
Most of today’s smartphones can barely cram into an oversize pocket. Not so with a flip phone. These small units fit easily in a shirt or pants pocket, plus a flip phone is wrapped in its own durable case and better protected in case of drops.
If the quality of phone calls is paramount, a good flip phone will deliver a clear call with the best of them. Some also have built-in Bluetooth that lets you use wireless accessories such as earbuds and headsets. Flip phones have acknowledged advantages for older users. With fewer features and no apps, the flip phone has a lower learning curve. The buttons are generally larger, so they’re easier to see for those with vision issues. For the hearing impaired of any age, some flip phones have volume enhancers.
Apart from common characteristics, some flip phones come unlocked, have internal memory, can support data plans, offer a push-to-talk feature, and have a convenient display on the outside case for quickly checking the time or caller ID. Sold? Now let’s take a look at a few of the best flip phones you can buy today.
The best flip phones available
As one of the most popular flip-phone models, the Alcatel Go Flip offers an easy-to-use interface and intuitive keypad design for dialing and navigation. Powered by KaiOS, and sporting a 4G LTE connection, you can use this phone for email, calendar, web surfing, and, of course, calling and texting. It has a quad-core processor, built-in GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4GB of storage, and SD support up to 32GB. There’s a 2.8-inch display, as well as an external display that lets you preview incoming calls, notifications, and messages. The battery provides about 16 days of standby time, with 8 hours of talk time. It’s got a 2-megapixel camera you can use to capture still images and 720p HD video.All of this comes encased in a neat clamshell body. It’s available for Boost Mobile, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T starting from just $20.
If you’re looking for a flip phone with a few appealing extras, there’s the LG B470 prepaid basic flip phone, offering a 1.3-megapixel camera with zoom and customizable effects, and built-in Bluetooth. It can even download and play multimedia files like video and music. The outer 0.98-inch display is monochrome, which helps extend its weeklong battery life and lets you instantly read texts without having to actually flip the lid. A colorful 2.2-inch main display is accompanied by an enhanced audio mode that augments high frequencies. A text-to-speech feature reads texts aloud, a benefit for folks with vision issues. It works with AT&T.
Heavily advertised and promoted as the preferred phone for seniors, the Jitterbug Flip has numerous features that appeal to all cell phone newcomers and people who prefer a simpler, more limited device. The Jitterbug sports a large keypad for ease of dialing, while menus sport bright, easy-to-read text with Yes and No menu buttons. A large earpiece keeps conversations loud, but the phone also works with hearing aids, and even has a special button to summon emergency aid with 5Star and other services, if needed. Other features include a camera, flashlight, bright 3.2-inch screen, and enough memory to store more than 1,000 contacts. The Link app connects users with their family, allowing them to stay updated on the health and safety of older relatives. It works on the GreatCall network for the U.S. only.
A rugged flip phone that can survive some tough environments, Kyocera’s DuraXE for Sprint and AT&T promises to keep your connection. If you prefer Verizon, then consider the DuraXV LTE instead. These hardy specimens are waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof, with dual front-facing speakers that are plenty loud, a MicroSD card slot for storing your favorite tunes, an integrated 2.6-inch display, and a 5-megapixel camera. They offer approximately 8 and 9 hours of talk and 16 and 18 days of standby time, as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi . The AT&T version has 8 GB, while the Verizon model has 16 GB of internal storage, and both have expandable slots for additional storage (up to 32GB for the XE and 64GB for the XV). Unfortunately, the XV is a bit pricier at $264.
A moderately priced, compact flipper, the ZTE Z222 Go Phone combines a simple design with some cool features. It’s easy to use — the phone’s large buttons facilitate swift, accurate texting, while a Media Mall lets you download ringtones, games, and graphics to make the phone your own. There is a Push to Talk option, hands-free speakerphone, voice dialing and voice commands, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, email access, a rear-facing camera with video capture and playback, and a 2-inch display. When it comes to yakking, you get up to 4 hours of talk time and 195 hours of standby time. It operates with AT&T for 3G data and voice.