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Would you buy a simple mobile phone?

mobile phones

Does your mobile phone really have to be all-singing, all-dancing? If all you want one for is to make calls or as an emergency back-up, wouldn’t a cheap, simple mobile phone be a better option?

Lately, my working days have been mostly taken up writing about super-expensive smartphones such as the £999 iPhone X (64GB) and the £869 Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (64GB). It’s somewhat refreshing, then, to write about mobile phones with a double- or even single-digit price tag.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my smartphone. I like that I can catch up with the news at the press of a button, and it’s very easy to keep in contact with friends I don’t get to see that often through texts and various social media channels.

Plus, as a pathetic cook, having a smartphone also means I can quickly access recipes to bring variety to my dinners.

But I do wish all this convenience wasn’t so expensive or so distracting.

The simple life

This is why I’ve recently been tempted to buy a cheap simple mobile phone. Granted, most of them are pretty limited, but you may be perfectly happy with one if all you want is to ring family and friends, and send the occasional text.

Take the MobiWire Ayasha. It has its pros: it costs just £5 and is so compact you’d hardly notice it in your pocket. But it also has its cons: its 1.8-inch screen is arguably too small, so you might find yourself regularly squinting. And you can’t use the internet on it.

Nifty features

While many simple phones are very basic, some have some genuinely useful features – especially for those with any hearing- or dexterity-related issues.

For instance, some are compatible with hearing aids, while others come with a physical SOS button. On pressing, this automatically calls or sends a message to pre-assigned contacts – handy in the event of a fall or similar emergency.

Some simple phone manufacturers also focus on enlarging physical buttons as much as possible. This will help you hit the intended button without mistake.

Use the filters on our simple mobile phone reviews page to whittle down the options so you’re left with the models that offer the features you want.

Useful in emergencies

Of course, buying a simple mobile phone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re saying goodbye to smartphones. You might consider buying one to keep in your car’s glove compartment, in case you break down and don’t have your smartphone on you. Or you might want one in case you lose your smartphone, or simply want a cheap and cheerful alternative to hand.

In this case, you’ll want one with exemplary battery life – so that you’ll only need to charge it every three weeks or so, rather than every few days.

Do you own a simple mobile phone? If so, are you happy with it – or do you feel limited? If not, would you buy one?


Many will never use all things on many mobile phones but just buy them as status symbols A simple phone is all that many need but will not because they just want to be up with everybody else They must have a phone with all the trimmings that they will never use or even find useful at all a phone that just does the tasks you want it to and nothing more is all anybody needs Phones are now another status symbol the more you pay the better you think you are

Bishbut, we have to accept that some people are so lacking in status that they do actually need status symbols in order to compensate for their deficiencies. Other people have so much status that they can function effectively with the simplest of devices. The highest status, of course, is given to those who have someone else to make and take their phone calls.

I can only speak personally, but I would agree with Bishbut, I have a ‘smartphone’ but I only use it for texting and going on social media- although I often think I’d be able to do so much more with my day if I didn’t go on social media in the evenings! Think of the money I would save as well 😲

I do also check Conversation on my phone, so if I had a simple phone I couldn’t do this while out and about.

I used to follow Convo on the phone in the bad old days when only the three most recent posts could be seen without checking individual Conversations. Thanks to the new website, I can go back and look at the day’s posts when I get home. Maybe with a proper Convo app it would be more user friendly and encourage me to post from the phone, but I spend enough time here.

I was planning to buy a new simple phone to keep in the car for emergencies, having lost mine. Fortunately it turned up and Tesco Mobile had not cancelled the SIM despite being unused for months. Even the battery was still partly charged. It’s now back in the car. If it does let me down I might buy a simple smartphone for emergency use because I don’t always remember to take my phone when I go out of the house. Having used a smartphone for about three years I would not want to have to use a simple phone very often.

It’s useful to keep a phone charger in the car for at least one of your mobiles. Make sure its an OEM and not a clone.

I’m not paying Apple prices for a rarely used car charger. I have a Belkin charger which was a couple of pounds in Halfords – presumably because it’s a lurid pink colour.

It always amazes me how long simple phone’s battery lasts. I’d be lucky if my smartphone’s lasted a day, let alone months!

A smartphone battery might last quite a long time when switched off like a phone kept for emergency use, but who does that with a smartphone?

I have happy memories of my Nokia 3510i which could be left on standby for over a week without needing to charge the battery.

I have two relatively old mobiles – “up to” 11 years and still going strong. I was yanked into the C21 when my eldest son found a Samsung Galaxy 4 that he’d not used for a few years and passed it on. I still mainly use it for phone calls and the odd message, whilst getting to grips with the multitude of other essential tasks that others seem unable to function without. I now have mastered the calendar, occasionally get on Which? Convo (but have I got the right app?), have a family Whatsapp group and use the internet very occasionally. I bought a new battery for it but it still needs a daily charge (what is the point in having a telephone and disabling it by switching it off?). I still take the other two phones with me, and their batteries last “up to” a week.

Do I have high status as “malcolm r”. Regrettably not.

For others, the Apple store offers a Belkin charger for £14.99. That seems a reasonable price to pay to always have the means to use your phone when out and about, with something that should give peace of mind and not catch fire. I’ve been happy to pay up to that for genuine Nokia and Samsung chargers. Particularly given the cost of the phone.

It’s worth turning off features that you don’t use, which can save both battery power and data, Malcolm. There are plenty of sites giving useful information and other users can be helpful. When I had a simple phone I learned that contact numbers could be stored on the phone or SIM card and how to switch off Nokia predictive texting, which had behaved unpredictably for me.

I just plug it in each night, wavechange.

You do not believe in keeping up with Joneses then as many seen to want to do Malcolm

I actually don’t know any Joneses bishbut, so the problem does not arise 🙂 However, of course I am to some degree influenced by others, but I’ve survived for years with “ordinary” mobiles that make and receive calls and messages.

It’s worth looking for unlocked or SIM-free phones when buying a cheap mobile. That saves the cost and hassle of getting it unlocked when you want to switch service providers.

I enjoy having a smartphone and it has proved very useful numerous times, but I’m thinking of getting my stepdad the Doro 5030, because it will be perfect for him for various illness reasons.

You will find a review of this phone on the Which? website, Sophie. The obvious drawback is the small size of the screen, but that’s not a problem for someone with reasonable sight.

In his introduction, Oli mentions the MobiWire Ayasha, a pay as you go phone for £5: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/simple-mobile-phones/mobiwire-ayasha This seems to be available only on the Vodafone network. On the basic tariff you cannot spend more than £1 a day for unlimited calls and text and a 500MB data allowance: http://shop.vodafone.co.uk/shop/pricePlans/freeBee/listing/freeBeeList.jsp?&phone=mobiwire-ayasha-payg&hardwareSkuItemId=&_requestid=110851 This looks ideal for occasional or emergency use. Presumably the company is assuming that most users will use their phones regularly and £1 a day is a considerable amount of money over a year. Since many have reported unexpectedly high mobile bills on Which? Convo and elsewhere, the reassurance that the bill is capped at £1 a day will be attractive.

I have an old phone with £9.13 credit for emergency use and it is not tied to any network, so I’m not tempted by a new £5 phone.

£1 a day! That could be £365 a year. I pay £12.50 a month (£150 a year) for more calls and texts I could possibly make, and a sensible data allowance. What do these people do with their phones and have they not got better things to do with their time? Rant over 🙂

It would be interesting to know how many days users pay for in a year. The £5 phone is obviously subsidised and no doubt locked to the Vodafone network to prevent users using a cheaper PAYG tariff. I used to use Three for my emergency phone and that cost 3p per minute and the credit did not expire, unlike some tariffs were credit expires at the end of the month.

I’d be interested to see a breakdown of smartphone ownership against age and occupation. We do see many in London who seem to have umbilical,connections to their smartphones and use them continuously.

I suspect they will soon be available as surgical implants. How ever did we get by before we had instant access to all the information in the world? They are probably a major cause of our reduced productivity at work.

On the other hand, just think of the amount of time that can be saved by being able to get hold of people without having to leave messages. Maybe that’s why so many people I know carry both a personal and work mobile. If companies etc. thought that mobiles would reduce productivity, why are so many people given one?

Our sales force and managers who needed to be out of the office as part of their job were given them to enable contact to be kept. Just as some were loaned laptops and company cars. Necessary for the job. We kept a couple of spare phones for anyone else to take out when necessary.

We do not very often need to get hold of people. Most times if we do it is not so urgent it must be done that minute, anyway. So I don’t buy that argument. We have the magic phone that can do all sorts of things, so lets play with it.

Misusing them in work time, just like misusing a work computer for personal stuff, is where time can be wasted. But maybe the Brits would do this anyway, like sneaking off to the toilet with the daily paper. I, sadly, took work too seriously, had a lot to do anyway and as part of my job was thinking and developing new stuff, I had no idle time on my hands.

The fact is that many employees are provided with phones. If they wanted to waste work time they could have used their own phones to do that.

If I was an employer I would not ban employees from making the odd call or checking personal email, which is a good way of fostering a ‘them and us’ environment. Many employers have rules about using computers at work. I used to check Which? Convo occasionally when I was working. I was also allowed to do unpaid overtime. 🙂

I like a comment that begins “the fact is” :-). I had an MD who whenever he wanted to push his view through, began with “the reality is”. I doubt many companies give every employee a phone when it is not necessary for their work. But I’ve no experience of what happens in academia or public service.

I was so pleased when I was able to stop going around with a pager on my belt and could have a portable telephone. Now I can’t stand having a smart phone with me all the time and never use the thing. Some people get frustrated that they cannot contact me but that’s their problem, not mine.

I encourage people to call me in the evenings. If they do call during the day I say that I will ring them that evening. They quickly get the message and only call during the day if it is urgent.

Malcolm – I can’t speak for other universities or even departments but no staff in our department were provided with mobiles. There were one or two provided for staff running field trips – for safety reasons – but that was before staff had their own phones. Incidentally, the fact is that I said that many employees are provided with phones – not every employee.

I am very content with my Doro phone, I can make calls, text, use mms, take pictures and press the button on the back which automatically cascades calls to family if I need help. It has large buttons and a decent sized screen too.

I had no interest in possessing a mobile phone until it became necessary to be contactable when not at home. I now have the simplest type possible and see no need for anything more complex.

I’ve always had a little mobile for emergencies, a pay-as-you-go. It’s old, battery life is rubbish and I can seldom get a signal! The last time my car broke down I had to walk back into the office and use the phone there.
I intend getting a smart phone but a sim only. The main reason I want one is that they take good photos, and in low light levels, and much lighter than my camera.
Feel like I’m missing out a bit because of eg the AA app, finding somewhere to eat/get petrol/etc when out and about in an unfamiliar place, and access to useful stuff like Google maps.
Or maybe I’ll buy a new small mobile and a pocket-sized camera 🙂

Some phone cameras are much better than others and it’s worth looking at what your friends are using. Taking decent photos in low light levels is not the strong point of phone cameras thanks to the small lens, but maybe this is improving.

Taking good photos in low light is one area where an expensive, top end smart phone will excel, relative to a cheap one. Then again, you can buy a cheap phone and a decent camera for less money.

A phone ,camera ,a small computer you have the choice ! Buy just which of them you will find useful or make use of but why waste money on things you will never use ?

I hope I never need to use my fire extinguishers and my fire blanket, but I’m not sorry I bought them.

A phone or camera could be very useful if there is a road accident. I realise that my emergency phone does not have a camera but I’m training myself to take my smartphone when I go out in the car.

Still using my old Nokia 3330 ‘builder’s brick’. I have a (now elderly) iPhone, but I can’t use the psuedo keyboard without a stylus or read the damned thing’s puny little screen. Plus fed up with the battery going flat in hours rather than days. Granted there are ‘smart’ phones now with bigger screens, but with old age approaching, a tablet’s screen is much easier to read. These so-called ‘phablets’ fail on both counts – too small to read and too big to fit in a pocket. So the iPhone is now my ‘going away’ internet link (the tablet hardly ever leaves the house). The 3330 is my ‘normal’ phone and a 3310 currently has a French SIM in it for my fairly frequent visits to that country.

As a “7 day weekender”, my view is that when I’m out, I’m out, and do what I’ve gone out to do, and to be away from the digital communication that I do at home, so a “smart phone” is wholly superfluous. Plus I prefer to engage with the surroundings when I’m out, whatever and wherever they may be. I was doing OK with a Sony Ericsson, with depreciation down to £11 per year, and usage costs at £15, but lost it this summer, so a huge dilemma, go smart as encouraged by family or stick to my principles. The latter won. A Tesco Nokia, less than £17 for phone with £10 credit included (and first month bonus of £20). £8 remains. I used to love cold calls from phone salesmen who professed to better the £26 cost that they extracted from me. The penny eventually dropped. “No mate, not per month, it’s per year ! “

As someone who is sometimes antisocial enough to use the UK road transport network for private selfish purposes, thereby polluting the environment with needless quantities of CO2 and NOx, I do find a killer use of a smartphone to be accessing traffic information via Google Maps.

On less badly behaved days, if I’m out by train, a smartphone does make it easy to access live information about train times and so forth.

My current smartphone cost all of £40 new, so it’s not as if I have had to spend a king’s ransom to enjoy those benefits.

Jennifer Chan says:
20 December 2017

I obtained a simple mobile phone in 2012 when I was working and was required to have one. I have never upgraded it and do not intend to. I dislike telephone conversations; I find that a disembodied voice does not hold my attention. I would not ever contemplate a smartphone because I don’t need or want internet access on the move – and because I am useless with a touch screen! My mobile enables me to text, to ring people in an emergency and to take tiny photos which I use as aide memoires. My mobile is nicknamed ‘Nuisance’ because that’s what it is. When I don’t have it with me, I feel liberated!

I do not get a mobile signal from BT in my house.
Even though BT gives my post code as being in a good reception area, and of course I still pay a monthly bill. I read that BT had made a very satisfactory trial connecting mobiles to the wifi signal. It seems to have gone off the map?

I think a number of networks can offer that type of service. I’ve used the O2 version, which gives you a smartphone app, then, anywhere you can get a ‘net connection, you can use your mobile for voip calls.

Does anyone have any experience of Fairphone? It is described on its website as “the world’s first ethical, modular smartphone”. I am currently using a Nokia 3410, which does nearly everything I need it to do, and which is so old-fashioned it has become “cool” again. But I’m toying with the idea of moving to something a little bit more up-market! Any comments?

My SOS Family have created a person alert that works on a basic mobile phone for seniors , I use it on my 11 year old Nokia, this xmas I was given a smartphone, the battery only lasts a few day so ive gone back to using my Nokia.

I know a few of you said you would use a simple phone over a smartphone. If you’re considering what phone to get next you may want to have a read of this: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/02/should-you-really-spend-more-on-a-premium-smartphone/

Leonard M says:
18 March 2018

I was looking for a cheap PAYG sim for my wife’s Nokia100, and Three’s one appeared perfect with calls at only 3p/min. This is mainly for emergency use, though I can see that when she gets used to it, it may get used more often. Unfortunately, when the Three sim arrived, it didn’t work, as I discovered the phone is only 2G. Looking for an alternative, most cheap PAYG sims appear to be 4G, but I’m not sure if this means “up to 4G”, and perhaps will work on 2G too.
I then looked at changing the phone, and Which’s best buy Doro 6030, but this is labelled as “Not 3G” so assume that is 2G too. Ideally she would like a large button phone, with a decent sized screen, but is not that worried about things like a camera.
All ideas welcome

Until five weeks ago I’d never had a smartphone. I use my mobile for a small number of calls and occasional texts. The Nokia which I’ve had for several years has a camera, but I don’t know how I’d get photos from the phone to my computer. There is something about connecting to the internet, but the instructions are very brief and I’ve never managed to do it. I’m on facebook and twitter but haven’t used them more than twice. However, I decided to get a smartphone as it would occasionally be useful to be able to access email when I’m out, and I could get the camera business sorted out as well.

I bought a Motorola G5, which is well reviewed and is relatively cheap. And I’m now seriously thinking of selling it and returning to a normal phone. The email won’t load despite the advice of my ISP. (I’m not talking about gmail, which works OK, but that’s not what I normally use.) The phone wants me to swipe all the time in all possible directions and with multiple fingers. When someone calls me, you don’t just press the receiver icon, you have to swipe it sideways. I managed to discover that after I’d lost four or five calls. The Nokia I previously used showed a clear message if I’d missed an incoming call or message. This one doesn’t – there’s some obscure icon instead. Getting rid of the long history of calls you’ve made or received is a tedious procedure and took me a long time to find. Trying to log on to a free wi fi service when we were on holiday last week was slow because I had to enter several details, and it was very easy to touch a wrong letter on a qwerty keyboard, and I never managed it because I omitted to tick a box agreeing to the terms and the thing took me right back to the start and required everything to be re-entered.

There’s never in the past been a time when I really needed internet access on my phone, as opposed to occasions when it might be convenient, so I won’t miss it. What I will have is a phone that readily does the job I want.

I sympathise with your plight, Tony, having “inherited” a cast off Samsung 4. It is handy to get on the internet wherever I may be, but I do find myself phubbing – something i criticise others for. I do occasionally post comments on Convos when I’m at a loose end out and about, but with atrocious spelling as my fingers must be too fat for the keyboard and I don’t always spot the mistakes until it is too late.

I had instructions from one of my children on how to use it, fortunately, and now use it all the time instead of my 2006 Nokia telephone and messaging device. Maybe there is a degree course in smart phones?

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