The Best Flip Phones [November 2019]
It’s been more than ten years since the original iPhone launched, and in that time, we’ve seen smartphone adoption skyrocket. Just fifteen years ago, smartphones weren’t much more than a utility for white-collar business workers and folks with exorbitant amounts of cash, but since 2007, smartphones have become commonplace. In that decade, your parents have upgraded to iPhones, your tech-addicted friend has switched between a dozen phones, and kids as young as eight years old have begun to adopt their parent’s old smart devices.
Meanwhile, the major players in the smartphone wars of the 2000s—Microsoft, Nokia, Palm, and Blackberry, have all but left the market, replaced by Apple, Samsung, and Google, bought out or replaced and forgotten about in the minds of consumers over the years. And while those companies create flagship devices that can run upwards of $1000, budget smartphones have also gotten really good, allowing access to a powerful new device for on-the-go computing no matter your budget.
As of February 2019, smartphone adoption in the United States had hit 81 percent according to Pew Research, meaning more than four out of five American adults now have a smartphone in their life. Those numbers have especially increased among adults over 50 years old and lower-income Americans, presumably due to the increased simplicity of smartphones and the ability to buy a good device for around $100. But those numbers still mean one in five Americans have held onto non-smartphone devices, and from a certain perspective, it’s easy to see why. Feature phones tend to get the basics right, with solid call quality, the ability to send text messages, and perhaps the most important feature: multi-day battery life.
Whether you haven’t yet committed to owning a smartphone, or you’re looking for a secondary device to take camping, hiking, or to keep on the side for emergencies, owning a basic flip phone is a great idea for some consumers. Unfortunately, most technology sites don’t quite keep track of flip phone devices any longer, which might leave some consumers on their own when looking for a new device for the basic necessities. Let’s fix that. This is a look at the best flip phones on the market today.
Though branded as an AT&T-exclusive device, the Cingular Flip 2 goes by another name on a different carrier: the Alcatel Go Flip, available on T-Mobile. Both devices are nearly identical outside of the branding, and both work great as barebones flip phones. Though the physical design of these devices may seem fairly dated the inclusion of LTE in both the AT&T and T-Mobile models make this an ideal upgrade for anyone looking to stay on a basic flip phone.
The basic design of the phone is relatively unassuming. It’s made of black or blue plastic, featuring a color display on the front of the device for the time and battery life, and an internal 2.8″ display at a relatively low-res 240p. On the front of the device is a 2MP camera, which means you’ll want to keep a point and shoot with you if you plan on taking some real photographs. Both devices feature standby ratings of up to 16 hours, and 8 hours of continuous voice calls. Both devices run the same operating system, a more modern take on the user interfaces of previous basic devices. Text messages are threaded, similar to smartphones, and you can even check your email using the device’s data connect.
Browsing is also an option, though the included browser is unsurprisingly simplistic and a bit too basic for anything beyond quick searches. Unlike Verizon’s first LTE flip phone, the Exalt LTE, the Flip 2 supports both 3G and LTE, making it a perfect phone for anyone no matter where they are in the country. The inclusion of LTE means access to HD Voice for improve call quality between users, but more importantly, the phone can act as a WiFi hotspot (on T-Mobile) or as a USB tether (AT&T). Both of those options will require a data plan, but it means you can connect to the internet easily on your tablet or computer while still holding on to a basic device.
Pricing on both of these devices is pretty affordable, especially considering they’re only a couple months old as of writing. The Flip 2 model on AT&T costs an upfront payment of $59.99, but there’s no two-year contract and no device payment each month. It’s a solid price for a well-built phone considering the features included, and at only an extra $10 more than our runner-up LG device, anyone who can afford to spend the extra cash on this model should look into it—assuming of course that you can use LTE and HD Voice in your area. T-Mobile’s model, the Go Flip, is a bit more expensive, coming in at $75 in full. Again, no contract, but it’s odd to see the same device run an extra $15 on a different carrier.
At such a low price, that qualifies as a 25 percent price hike without any noticeable gain. Luckily, T-Mobile allows you to lease the device over 24 months, paying $3 down plus an addition $3 per month for a total of $75. Both of these devices offer a solid deal, especially if you have a tablet or other smart devices in your life. The inclusion of both LTE and HD Voice is something we hope to see on all basic phones moving forward, and it’s nice to see both of those options offered here.
- HD Voice, LTE, and tethering in a flip phone
- Better UI than most basic devices
- Solid battery life
- T-Mobile model more expensive
- Poor camera
One of the benefits to owning a flip phone over a smartphone is the improved ruggedness in its design. Since the body and screen on a flip phone are almost always made of plastic, they’re a lot less fragile than the glass and aluminum builds displayed in most smartphones today. And while rugged smartphones do exist, most of them are typically slower and more expensive than their competition. For this reason, keeping a backup rugged flip phone next to your smartphone might be an ideal solution for people who work in a dangerous profession, or spend a lot of time backpacking or camping. Kyocera makes two different devices, the DuraXE for AT&T and the DuraXV Plus for Verizon, that can fill this need for a rugged device.
The two devices have a different body, with the XE featuring a black and blue-grey design while the XV features red highlights to promote its carrier, but beyond those slight cosmetic differences, the two devices are nearly the same. They both have a grayscale external display for notifications, a 2.6 or 2.4 inch internal display, and a 5MP camera for capturing shots on the go. Both devices feature noise cancellation and were built to be used in noisy environments, making it easy to use at a concert or on a construction site. Battery life on both are solid, with a 1500mAh battery that has up to 18 days of standby time on Verizon and up to 16 days on AT&T. Finally, both phones meet military standards for shock, extreme temperatures, dust, rain, and more. In fact, despite their removable batteries, both models can be submerged in up to six feet of water for up to 30 minutes.
Pricing is, unfortunately, not standard on these devices. Despite their near-identical specs (with one notable exception), the price difference between the two models is rather extreme. Verizon users get off easy: the DuraXV Plus, which is a slightly older model than the newer XE, will run you $120 upfront without a contract or $5 per month over two years of payments. Customers on AT&T will, unfortunately, be paying nearly double.
The DuraXE costs users $269 off-contract, and without a different payment method (ie, signing a 2-year agreement or leasing the device), you’re looking at dropping nearly $300 for the device, making it the most expensive model on our list. This is where the biggest difference between the two devices come in: the DuraXE has support for LTE. That said, without advanced features like HD Voice, LTE doesn’t offer a ton of benefits here; certainly nothing worth the additional $150 upcharge. AT&T does offer certified refurbished versions of the DuraXE for only $229, but it’s still an expensive deal to make when unlocked smartphones can be had for a similar price.
- Rugged, waterproof design
- Incredible battery life
- 5MP camera
- Bulky; nearly an inch thick
- AT&T model is very expensive
The Nokia 8110 isn’t a flip phone, but it’s still worth a look for anyone looking to dump their smartphone to return to the days of basic devices. Created by Nokia, the 8110 is a revised version of the phone of the same name, originally developed in the late 1990s and made famous by, of all films, The Matrix. Dubbed “the Banana phone” for its curved body and slider piece, the Nokia 8110 is a great device if you’re looking to switch to a phone that does calling, texting, and plays Snake for when you’re bored in the supermarket line.
The phone uses a Snapdragon 205 processor, the same chip found in low-end Android devices, which is more than enough to power the basic tasks you’ll be performing on this phone. With 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, a 2MP camera with a flash, and a 2.45″ TFT display, this is far more powerful than the original device when it was released, all for under $70 unlocked. The device supports most international carriers, in addition to AT&T (and all AT&T subsidies) in the United States. Unfortunately, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon customers will have to look elsewhere for their nostalgia trips.
The phone has some features that make it a great buy in 2019. From mobile hotspot to apps like Maps and Search, you can use the Nokia 8110 in your real life instead of as a novelty phone. While it might not be a flip phone in the traditional sense, the slider feature is great if you’re willing to dumb the flip phone format for a different type of device.
- Very cheap
- Retro design
- Slider design
- Only works on AT&T
- Weak camera
Most people probably aren’t going to want to drop the $350 required to pick up a Light Phone 2, but for users who are in their twenties or thirties and trying to get away from the smartphone revolution, it might be the perfect device. Unlike the majority of flip phones (and let’s be clear: this phone doesn’t flip, though it does fall into the same “basic” product range that most users looking for flip phones would be interested in), the Light Phone 2 isn’t marketed towards older audiences. Instead, this is a product for millennials looking to get away from constantly being connected to the web, while still being able to place phone calls, send texts, and even use ride-sharing apps to get around.
The first Light Phone was overly minimalistic, often to a fault. It could place phone calls and not much else, which made the device fairly useless for a lot of people, even those looking to disconnect. So while the original device was a gorgeous piece of engineering, as a modern phone, it couldn’t even compete with the basic phones on this list. The Light Phone 2 aims to change all that when it starts shipping in October (update: it’s been delayed). With a 2.84″ e-ink touchscreen, the phone is now capable of much more than the original device, while still holding true to the minimalist approach the company is aiming for. You can still place phone calls, sure, but now you can text your friends and set alarms each morning. After launch, you’ll be able to use ride-sharing apps (presumably Lyft, since their co-founder and president is one of the Light investors; it’s unclear whether Uber will also be included), load directions, and listen to music with the built-in player.
The Light Phone 2 comes unlocked and works with T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, or you can choose to use Light’s own carrier option for $30 per month. That carrier nets you unlimited domestic calls and texting, along with a gigabyte of data for the various apps that will be included on your device. It’s not the best deal we’ve seen, but it’s competitive with most prepaid carriers and saves you the time and hassle of switching your account. Obviously there are plenty of unanswered questions about the Light Phone 2. Will it actually ship this fall? When will the post-launch apps be added? Still, if you’re not in a rush to get a new phone and you want a hybrid device between a smartphone and a flip phone, keeping an eye on the Light Phone 2 is ideal.
Update: November has rolled around and the Light Phone’s website still lists the phone as available for pre-order, with the date now changed to “November or early December.”
- Good looking design
- Good middle-ground between flip and smartphone
- Hasn't shipped yet
- Extremely expensive for a basic phone
Nokia’s been on a roll with updating their classic phone designs lately, and their new Nokia 2720 Flip is the best yet. If you’ve been longing for the return of a flip phone with modern features, this might just be the device for you. While most flip phones have remained stuck in 2005, Nokia’s new 2720 includes support for 4G bands, as well as some included apps that are must-haves in 2019.
Let’s focus on the design first. We’ve already praised Nokia above for their work on redesigning the classic Nokia 8110 “banana phone,” and with the 2720 Flip, they’ve finally brought their retro-tech enthusiasm to a flip phone. As you’ve probably come to expect from Nokia, the 2720 is incredibly long-lasting, boasting a classic silver-on-black design that looks premium without breaking the bank. The body is built out of polycarbonate, helping to keep things light and durable. The front display allows you to check the time and incoming notifications, including calls and messaging. It’s a great design that continues once you open the phone to discover the main display.
It might not be a vivid, 6″ display, but the screen on the Nokia 2720 is fantastic, making it easy to read incoming messages, check your upcoming calendar appointments, and any other small necessities you need on your phone. As with most flip phones, the 2720 uses a T9 keypad for phone calls and messaging. It’s no replacement for a keyboard on a smartphone, but for sending quick messages, T9 works wonders. The keys here are large and clicky, making it easy to navigate through various menus or to play a quick game of Snake while waiting for the bus.
By far the coolest feature of the 2720 is its built-in smart apps. While this phone is absolutely a flip phone, it includes a number of apps that you might need in a pinch, including YouTube, Google Maps, Facebook, and more. This might turn some users off, but thanks to the limited size of the device, it’s tough to get addicted to these apps the way you could on an iPhone or Galaxy S10. There are two apps that, in our eyes, stand above the rest: WhatsApp, which allows you to communicate with your friends and family around the world without having to rely on texting, and Google Assistant. Assistant doesn’t just allow you to use your voice to search the web, but it means you can use voice-to-text to avoid texting with the T9 pad altogether. Lengthy messages have never been easier to type out on a flip phone.
Overall, as long as the 2720 Flip is supported on your carrier, this is a great flip phone, one of the best in 2019. It meets the best of both worlds, offering a basic phone experience—with some incredible battery life—while also giving users apps they may need in a pinch. As long as you don’t need a good camera, the Nokia 2720 Flip should be able to meet your most basic phone needs, with some extras thrown in for good measure.
- Great build quality
- Good mix of flip phone and smartphone
- Not supported by all carriers
- Not all apps look great on the small display