Top 6 ‘Dumb’ Phones to Beat Smartphone Addiction

What do Bill Gates, Christopher Nolan, Ed Sheeran, and Tom Cruise have in common? Besides being well-known celebrities, none of them own a phone. 

Living in 2024 without a phone is, frankly, unthinkable. From video calls to emails to social media updates to AI, what can’t these ultra powerful and smart devices do? Perhaps they’re too powerful, too distractive, and we are too susceptible to being swayed by their bells and whistles. In a world where the cause of so much trouble and addiction is directly or indirectly attributable to smartphones, it may not be in our best interest to continue being slaves to them.  

But with so much of our lives and our habits dictated by our smartphone, what is the alternative? Can we go back to the good ‘ol days? With dumb phones, you bet we can! 

First, what would be a ‘Dumb’ phone?

Any phone that lacks the features available on phones of today, like internet browsing, social media apps, games, GPS, and other ‘smart’ features, can be called a ‘dumb’ phone. These are devices that are defined more by what they can’t do than what they can. The whole idea behind these phones is to cut down on apps and features as much as possible, and to make you realize by their absence that they were never that necessary to begin with. 

So the dumber the phone, the better it is, generally speaking. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the dumbest device – which is basically a featureless brick – is the best. If you can manage without a phone, more power to you. But most users would want at least some features, even if it’s the bare minimum, to continue functioning as social beings. What that looks like will vary from one individual to the next, of course. 

With that in mind, we’ve curated a list of the best dumb phones (or basic phones) to help you curb your addiction and get you back in touch with reality.  

Beat your smartphone addiction with these 6 ‘dumb’ phones

All smart phones are alike; but dumb phones are dumb in their own way. Tolstoy is turning in his grave, and yes, this warrants an explanation. Some dumb phones have few restrictions, while others allow nothing but calls and texts. Depending on how many features you’re willing to give up, certain dumb phones will appeal more to you than others. In the list below, you’ll find devices on a wide spectrum, carefully straddling ‘smart’ and ‘dumb’ features that appeal to different groups of people. So, without further ado, here are the best dumb phones to help you get off the smartphone bandwagon.

1. Boox Palma

Without getting into too many contradictions, this is the smartest dumb phone on this list. and also perhaps the most capable e-Paper device out there. 

Image: Amazon

At 6.13 inches, the screen size is as big as your average smartphone and is pretty advanced in terms of RAM (6 GB) and storage capacity (128 GB). It runs Android and lets you install apps from the Play Store. So far so good. But where’s the minimalism?

Well, Boox Palma is basically an E-ink device. That means, even if you installed your favorite apps like Instagram, Spotify, and the rest, they won’t function the same or look as good. The E-ink screen with low refresh rate and low resolution will make sure of that. So forget watching videos on this thing, try reading a book instead, which is what E-ink devices do best. 

You could get a Kindle to read, of course. But can a Kindle play music, podcasts, and install basic apps? Heck, Palma even lets you set its volume controls to flip pages, while most Kindles lack physical buttons, period.   

Image: Amazon

If you’re desperate, you could technically watch videos on this thing, check out what your mates are up to on the socials, and all the rest. But the make up of the device discourages it, which forces you, in a good way, to accept – no – embrace minimalism. There’s even a 16 MP rear camera so you don’t completely miss out on capturing unexpected moments. And if the notifications cause you to relapse, there’s a handy ‘Notification Mute’ feature to kill all of them at once.

The only thing this device doesn’t do is make calls using SIM cards. But it does have a microphone and speaker so you could install messaging apps and make calls and send messages over Wi-Fi. 

2. Light Phone II & III

There’s an argument to be made for Light Phone II’s ultra minimalism and how it sends you back to the stone age.

Image: TheLightPhone

One could even say it’s not so much a dumb phone for those wanting to get their life back but more of a device for monks and hermits looking to make a return to society. Either way, Light Phone II is perhaps the biggest departure you’ll make from a regular smartphone. Here’s why:

Light II is half the size of the latest iPhone, has no apps that you can install, no browser or camera, not even email or a photo viewer. Instead, you get a handful of simple tools like Alarm Calculator, Notes or Voice memo, Calendar, Directions, a Podcasts tool, and a Music player (thank god!).

Image: TheLightPhone

You can make phone calls and text people, though the latter can be such an exercise in patience that you wouldn’t want to use it much – which is really the whole point. 

Like the previous entry, Light II has an E-ink screen. So expect very slow refresh rates. If you’re coming fresh off a smartphone, this phone will grind your addiction to a halt.

Image: TheLightPhone

Anything you want to add to the Light Phone, such as contacts or music, can be done via the online Light Phone user dashboard. The same will sync to your device when you’re connected to the Wi-Fi which it does support, along with Bluetooth 4.2 so you don’t have to get rid of your earbuds just yet. In fact, there’s a 3.5mm headphones jack as well so your wired earphones are good for it too. 

Light Phone II is not for those who’re on the fence about their phone usage. But if you’re committed to coming clean of your smartphone addiction, stop wasting time and get it now. At $299, Light Phone II is less than half the price of most smartphones today. 

There’s also a Light Phone III on the way, with a snappier screen and a better camera.

Image: TheLightPhone

It’s currently on pre-order sale at $399 (original price $799), but that may be a bit too much.   

3. Wisephone II

Wisephone is perhaps the most smart-seeming dumb phone. It’s as big as a regular smartphone, has decent RAM and storage (4GB and 128GB respectively), and a pretty sophisticated camera setup. 

Image: Techless

There are a few tools built-in including notes, clock, calculator, messages, phone, flashlight, camera, photos, and music, and has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (without a browser). The 6.37″ display with a 1080×1920 resolution doesn’t restrict usage much. However, with limited capabilities, there’s not much you can do. Consider this a pared down Android device, which it is, running its very own WiseOS. 

Technically, you could jailbreak and get the full blown Android experience, but that would defeat the purpose of getting it in the first place. But if you’re getting it for your kids and they’re technically adept, just know that it is possible to install apps via their APK files.  

Currently, the Wisephone II is available for pre-order at $399. Is it too much? We’ll let you decide. 

4. Punkt MP02

Punkt MP02 is just a beautiful phone. It does look like a calculator or a candy bar, to be sure.

Image: Punkt

But digital junkies paranoid about their digital safety will find their fears quelled by its encryption features and their desire for simplicity satisfied by the lack of everything else. The operating system on this dumb phone is surprisingly advanced as it encodes your Internet-based calls and texts worldwide via Wi-Fi or mobile data and ensures your conversations remain secure and private. 

Image: Punkt

Punkt MP02 is also a tough cookie and can withstand rough usage, though we wouldn’t recommend putting it under too much stress. It is a $319 phone, after all. The tactile buttons are a blast from the past, so no more doom scrolling. The device is very easy to grip and hold as well thanks to its rubbery trapezoidal back. 

Image: Punkt

Punkt MP02 is available in silver, blue, and black, so there’s enough aesthetic choices, if that is a factor.  

5. Nokia 2780 Flip

We’re in nostalgia territory now.

Image: Amazon

This is one of the rare flip phones (under $100) with a decent camera, music player, and apps such as YouTube, maps, a web browser, and more – just enough capabilities for a user in the 21st century. These features may be unusual for a dumb phone, but being a flip phone with a tiny screen tends to discourage continuous usage. 

Image: Amazon

The battery is paltry compared to smartphones but because dumb phones really don’t use much power, this will easily last you a full day. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 capabilities are welcome, and the call quality is excellent.

Nokia 2780 Flip, like most dumb Nokia devices, is lightweight and has a physical keypad (so get your T9 dialing chops back up). The outer screen displays caller IDs, which comes in handy. And, of course, being a flip phone, you get to fidget with it and flip to close and get that satisfying snap. If you were ever feeling nostalgic over flip phones and want to downgrade, well, this is it.  

6. Nokia 110 4G

One way to ensure you don’t get swayed by the latest features on a device is to go cheap, and we mean really cheap.

Image: Amazon

This $40 Nokia phone is as bare bones as it can get, and you can still get decent connectivity. Beyond phone calls, texting, a mini web browser, and space for a few hundred contacts, there’s not much else you can do on the Nokia 110 4G, and – once again – that is the entire idea. No Wi-Fi, no Bluetooth. Just a lightweight phone with a tiny 1.8-inch screen and nothing else. Okay, so there’s a 1MP camera thrown in as well, do with it what you will. But that’s how a dumb phone should be. Laughable and simple.  

Image: Amazon

Although there’s little evidence to suggest that more and more people are buying dumb phones, having these basic phones has almost become a status symbol nowadays. In this day and age, it’s only the elite who can afford to not have a phone at all, but that’s usually because they have somebody else who does on their behalf. Conventionally, the elite have been the hardest people to get in touch with. And what better way to protect your time and your attention than to ditch smartphones altogether. 

We may not be the ‘elite’ like the ones mentioned earlier. But if the best of us cannot come to grips with how to manage a phone, what chance can us mortals have? Many have tried, only to end up distracted, depleted, and ultimately addicted. But if you’ve seen through the smartphone hype and are looking to reclaim your time, your attention, and your life, start by ditching your smartphone for good. And if you must own one, be smart about it. Let your phone be dumb. 

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