Help me pick a dumbphone


My anti-boredom lightbox has become a psychic vampire. So I'm going back to a plain "feature" phone for a while, just to see what life is like outside of cyberspace. Help me pick the right one!

Now, there are a few approaches to the peak of dumbphone mountain.

1. Get a functional, no-nonsense model that does what I need—calls, text messages, battery life—and accept that to allow myself more than this is to bargain my way back to fun smartphone things.

2. Get a high-quality feature phone that limits me to more practical matters, but is sufficiently well-designed and made that I like using it within those limitations.

3: Dumb down my smartphone. This is what I'm doing now: it means removing attention-treadmill apps and disabling Mobile Safari using the "restrictions" menu option. It feels weird, but works. A pro is being able to put it to use as a simplifier (GPS, video, etc) when required; a con is paying for all that unused data.

Bear in mind that even the very dumbest dumbphones have a lot of the smartphone attention-machine things baked in anyway—especially social networking. So I'd like to avoid qwerty keyboards, too, imposing an extra level of friction and difficulty to engage beyond basic texting.


Now, I used to have a Moto F3, an e-ink candybar model that, at first blush, seems perfect: small, durable, good battery life, no apps, totally minimalist. But it has a critical flaw: only 6 characters per line on a two-line display. It's a fetish item, and barely usable for people who want to make frequent calls or write text messages. They're also getting rare and expensive.


At the other end of the spectrum, there's this Nokia (or, rather, Microsoft) 515, which remains the ne plus ultra of practical feature phones. It has gorilla glass and nice metal casing and I would totally fall in love with it. But it's expensive and has a full complement of attention-vampire apps. It seems vaguely like the feature phone equivalent of a set of leatherbound Britannicas, if you catch my drift.

Nokia's 301 is made with plainer materials and more reasonably priced, but otherwise has the same "premium" dumbphone setup. This is my top candidate, but for…

The Nokia 105/106, cheap and low-end but with amazing battery life–days of talk time, claimed, and up to a month on standby. It's still quite good-looking, too, unlike the general chintz of other sub-$30 options. This looks like a great way to meet the needs of option 1. (The newer Microsoft-era "Asha" models, and the 200 series, all seem to have touchscreens or QWERTY keyboards. The 220 comes in a nicely toxic lime green, though, so there's that.)

Samsung has about 400 million different models, similar to these Nokias, but they look relatively flimsy. They're extremely cheap, though. How do they perform?

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.59.28 AMHas anyone tried a Blu feature phone? They're inexpensive, and look a bit sturdier than the bargain-bin models from LG and Samsung.

Ebay is full of various credit card-sized models from generic manufacturers. The very sight of these releases serotonin into my Moto F3 receptors. Is is possible that they aren't completely terrible? Has anyone here had any experience with them? Here is one on Amazon posed with a bottle of Baileys to show you how classy it is.


This "gold" one resembles a 40 year-old remote control and is called "Jump and Fish."


(Update: Reader Fuzzyfungus points out that these are derivatives of the $12 "Gonkai" Phone.)

Finally, there are also rugged models from Casio and Cat to consider; the Cat B100, below, is waterproof and generally looks the most uncompromising of the set: an immortal slab of metal for people who will never want anything else. The photo is from Engadget, where Brian Heater gives it a positive write-up.