The Best Flip Phones – October 2018
It’s been just over ten years since the original iPhone launched, and in that time, we’ve seen smartphone adoption skyrocket, with the device itself changing from a utility for white collar business workers and folks with exorbitant amounts of cash to a device nearly everyone has. In that decade, your parents have upgraded to iPhones, you’ve switched back and forth between Android and iOS, and kids as young as 8 or 9 years old have begun to adopt their parent’s old smart devices. 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 of course, budget smartphones have gotten really good, meaning anyone can have access to a powerful new device for on-the-go computing.
At the beginning of this year, smartphone adoption in the United States had hit 77 percent according to Pew Research, meaning more than three out of four 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 four Americans have held onto non-smartphone devices, and it’s easy to see why. Younger kids don’t need the added responsibility of holding onto an expensive iPhone when a $30 basic phone (also known as feature phones or “dumb phones”) allows the parent to call their child when necessary. 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.
So, whether you haven’t 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.
Just because you’re going to stay entrenched in the world of basic flip phones doesn’t mean you should have to give up some of the quality of life improvements to cell functionality smartphones have brought to users of the past decade. One of the biggest upgrades we’ve seen offered from smart devices are improved voice quality over phone calls, specifically when using HD Voice and VoLTE (Voice over LTE). Up to now, basic phones had been limited to older 3G networks, and hadn’t seen improvements in their call quality beyond better earpieces or speakers for hands-free calling. LG’s newest flip phone for Verizon, the Exalt LTE, is here to change all that.
This is Verizon’s third Exalt phone, and the first of its kind to use LTE on the network. While most users think of LTE as improving your data speeds and providing faster internet, the truth is that LTE also improves your call quality, specifically when HD Voice has been activated on your handset. Gone are the crackling voices you’ve grown used to hearing when calling friends and family. Instead, HD Voice sound similar to the call quality you’d expect to hear from a Skype call. It’s that good, and when you’re using a basic phone, you want the call experience to be as positive as possible.
Enough about the technology inside the phone, though—what about the phone itself? It’s strange to say a flip phone looks nice, but there’s something about the Exalt LTE’s minimalist design that really makes the device look great. The sides, front, and back of the phone are covered in a metal-like plastic with a nice textured grip and the Verizon logo. There’s no screen on the front of the phone to display notifications, though there is a large 5MP camera capable of 720p video. This camera won’t compare to the smartphones of the world, but you should be able to get some alright shots in the right lighting, something we can’t say about most flip phones on the market. Inside the device is a pretty basic T9 layout. The buttons are large and clicky, and the 3″ display might seem small next to the Galaxy Note 9, but it’s comparatively large for most basic phones. The device has 8GB of storage, offers up to 10 days of standby time (and 6 hours of talk time), and supports both Bluetooth 4.1 and text-to-speech.
Unfortunately, being on the cutting edge of flip phone technology comes at a cost, and some users might want to reconsider buying the Exalt LTE depending on your plans for the device. Verizon is in the process of slowly phasing out their legacy networks, beginning with their 2G CDMA 1X network in 2019, and continuing with their 3G CDMA network sometime after. When those networks are finally disabled, certain phones—including most of their flip devices—will cease to work. Unfortunately, their 2G and 3G cellular networks still cover a lot of rural America that hasn’t been touched by Verizon’s LTE signal yet.
Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but the Exalt LTE is only LTE, meaning the device cannot work on 2G or 3G networks at all. If you live in a fairly populated area, you’re probably fine to upgrade to this phone without much of a worry. If you live in a remote location with poor cellular coverage, or you consistently travel, camp, or hike in a similar area, you might want to consider a different device. The good news? This device also supports WiFi calling, so as long as you can grab an internet connection, you’ll be good to go.
So what about pricing? Unfortunately, budget users might want to look at another device—the Exalt LTE is not a cheap phone. Verizon has two different methods of payment, having done away with most of their contract options years ago. The first: pay $7 per month on your bill to work towards paying off the device over 24 months. Most users will want to spring for this one, as you don’t spend any extra cash dividing up the payments over time. The second method is to pay $168 for the device when you buy it. This allows you to own the device instead of “leasing” it from Verizon over 24 months, but either way, you’ll be paying $168. If you ever want to upgrade to a new device on their payment plan, just pay off the remaining amount of cash and you can pick from any new phone.
Overall, the LG Exalt LTE won’t be for everyone. First off, it’s limited to Verizon customers only. As with most basic phones, this one is locked to the carrier you buy it on, instead of being able to switch carriers, as you can with the iPhone XS or Galaxy Note 9. Secondly, it’s rather expensive for a flip phone. You can get a solid smartphone on any carrier for $168, and some users who don’t mind owning a smartphone might want to consider moving up to the next tier. Finally, with the device only functioning over Verizon’s LTE network, you’ll want to ensure that your property is covered by Verizon’s network before you upgrade to the Exalt. But for anyone looking for a basic device with awesome voice quality, a decent camera, and none of the extra bloat that comes with owning a smartphone, the Exalt LTE is by far the best flip phone on the market today.
- HD Voice and WiFi calling
- Decent camera for a flip phone
- Solid battery life
- LTE coverage can still be spotty
- Priced similarly to budget smartphones
Verizon’s Exalt LTE is a great phone, with some really cool features that will make it a great upgrade for anyone looking to stay with their feature phones while also upgrading to a newer, more powerful device. But not every phone owner need HD Voice or WiFi calling, especially when the device costs nearly $200. That’s where LG’s lower-end flip phones, the LG Revere 3 on Verizon and the LG B470 on AT&T, come in. These two phones aren’t identical to each other in appearance, but the individual phones are similar enough that they represent great offerings for both Verizon and AT&T customers on a budget, looking to stay with a basic flip phone.
Both devices feature a black shell, with the AT&T model displaying a silver coating along the front of the camera and the Verizon model simply all black. The camera on the front of both models is a 1.3MP camera, nothing that will replace your point and shoot, but it can take some quick snaps and, at least on the AT&T model, capture 144p video clips. Again, nothing you’ll want to dedicate time to using, but adequate for emergencies and quick snapshots around the house. Below the camera on each device is a .98″ monochrome display, which will show your signal, the time, your battery life, and any incoming notifications. It’s not a perfect display, but it is nice to have to quickly check the time when your phone is sitting on a desk. Verizon’s Revere 3 and AT&T’s B470 both have removable 950mAh batteries, though the Verizon model claims to have a standby time of 15 days, compared to AT&T’s lowly seven.
The interior of both devices is exactly what you’d expect from a flip phone. A 2.2″ color LCD display shows your incoming calls, messages, and menu systems. Some amount of customization is possible with each device; you can change your wallpaper, cycle through some different menu layouts, and change your speed dial options. The software on these flip phones hasn’t changed too much over the past decade, becoming slightly more refined over time compared to older devices, but nevertheless staying basic and easy to use. Both the Revere 3 and the B470 use T9 keypad layouts, but the AT&T model includes dedicated shortcuts for SMS, text-to-speech, and the camera. The Revere 3, meanwhile, features a slightly different layout with quick shortcuts to your SMS messages, alarm clock, and speakerphone. This layout allows the Revere 3 to feature buttons with a better tactile feel than the B470, but both options will be fine for entering phone numbers or sending some quick texts.
There’s really no competition between these devices; they’re radically similar phones for two different carriers, so your best bet is to buy whichever one is available on your carrier. Unlike the pricing of the Exalt LTE, both the Revere and the B470 are at a solid price range for anyone to purchase and rely on. AT&T requires users to purchase the phone outright for $49.99 unlocked, a solid price considering you aren’t locked into a contact. Anyone looking to save a few bucks can also grab a refurbished model for $42, making it a great starter phone for seniors or middle schoolers not quite ready to step up to a smartphone.
The Revere 3 on Verizon is also available for $49.99 without a contract, but as with the Exalt, you also have the option to select a monthly payment of $2.08 over two years ($49.92 altogether). If you’re looking for the cheapest phone available, the Revere 3 is a perfect choice; a $2 per month increase on your bill without having to pay anything upfront beyond an activation fee will go down far smoother than dropping $49.99 in the Verizon Store.
So, while there’s nothing cutting edge about either of these phones, that’s not necessarily a negative point. Both the Revere 3 and the B470 represent solid offerings for anyone just looking for a phone that works today, without any bells and whistles beyond basic SMS messaging and an alarm clock. Call quality from both devices is acceptable, battery life spans over multiple days so long as you aren’t taking multi-hour calls, and the design of each phone is small enough to not feel like a burden while you’re carrying it around. At $49, the pricing beats all but the cheapest of smartphones sold from Amazon, most of which won’t work well for most consumers anyway. If you’re just looking for a phone that you can take to the grocery store or to school with you, this is a solid option.
- Simple, basic designs
- Very affordable
- Poor camera
- No HD Voice support
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 function as alternatives to Verizon’s LG Exalt LTE. Like that phone, the Flip represents an evolution in basic flip phone technology. Though the physical design of that device isn’t quite as modern and minimalist, featuring a smaller display and a more basic design, 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 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
This might seem like an odd phone to suggest. Unlike most of the devices on this list, the Alias 2 has been on the market for over eight full years, and is no longer officially offered by Verizon. The device doesn’t offer more advanced features, like HD Voice or support for LTE, and if you purchase it, there’s a good chance you’ll be buying off-contract from a site like Amazon or eBay. Unfortunately, despite the age of the Alias 2, it’s still one of the only options available for users looking for a flip phone that also offers an easy way to text with friends, family, and colleagues. If you’re looking to stay with a flip-style device but want to make the move to a more-advanced device that offers a full-size QWERTY keyboard.
At first glance, the Alias 2 is an average looking flip phone, with a relatively-thin design compared to other phones on this list, an external color display for showing the time, and media controls on the front of the phone. The camera is a relatively-weak 2MP, but considering that some phones on our list are even lower quality despite being release far more recently, it’s not as bad as an eight-year-old device could be. When the phone is closed, the Alias 2 looks like any other flip phone, albeit with a strange hinge design that hints at what’s waiting inside. Opening the device reveals the main gimmick of the Alias 2: the bottom panel of the phone is covered in multiple chiclet-style keys, each of them containing an e-ink display underneath.
This allows the Alias 2 to open in two directions, both as a flip phone and as a QWERTY-equipped messaging device that makes texting a whole lot easier than on a T9 keypad. When attempting to dial numbers, the keypad changes to a full number pad; when texting, you have access to a standard keyboard. It’s a remarkable idea, and it’s unfortunate that smartphones killed the Alias line prematurely.
Beyond that keyboard, the phone itself is largely unremarkable. A 2.6″ display on the inside with a 240p resolution displays your texts and photos, and the 880mAh battery is relatively small compared to most of the other flip phones on this list. It’ll still net you a solid 5 hours of talk time and two weeks of standby, and since the battery is removable, you can always keep a second one on you to power the device. If you’re looking to do anything else on this device, though, like browse the web or check your email, you’ll want to look elsewhere. As far as availability goes, you’ll have to depend on third-party sites like Amazon to purchase the phone. Typically, the phone will run you about $110 unlocked from these sites, and you’ll be looking at refurbished models that are guaranteed to work. It’s not a perfect device, but anyone looking for a flip phone that doubles as a messaging machine will want to jump on the Alias 2, so long as you’re willing to pay for a nearly-decade old device.
- Only flip phone to include a QWERTY keyboard
- Solid design
- Double-flip hinge
- Age means it's no longer officially sold
- Hinge can be fragile
- Weak camera