Sometimes a simple cell phone is best. The Best Simple Smartphone 2019 models may come with a raft of features, powerful high definition cameras, and a ton of other features, but they also come with a massive price tag. A simple cell phone can be a great solution when you need a second line for work or business but don’t want to spend a ton of money, or if you’re shopping for someone who’s not interested in a stuffed app store or taking crystal clear selfies.
But even a simple cell phone should meet certain quality standards. You want it to excel at the core things every phone should do well: clear call quality, a legible display, and ease of use. We researched some of the best simple smartphone on the market and plucked out the very best that meet these standards but don’t cost a fortune.
best simple smartphone 2019
Nokia 3310 3G
- Classic design
- 4in colour display
All aboard the nostalgia train to the year 2000, as the classic Nokia 3310 returns. This updated version of the iconic mobile phones is one of the best-looking devices we’ve seen in many a year, with a choice of four colours (red, blue, yellow, and grey) sure to draw many eyes and remarks when you’re out and about.
It’s got physical keys and a relatively spacious 2.4in colour screen on which you can enjoy the retro-game Snake. Thanks to the recent update to 3G, there is also the ability to use Twitter, Facebook, and basic internet services, but it’s not exactly a fluid experience.
Music is available through the built-in MP3 Player and FM Radio apps, with 128GB of storage available which can be expanded by a further 32GB via the MicroSD slot. Bluetooth 2.1 also means you can hook the 3310 up to speakers wirelessly, or you can keep things old-school by using the 3.5mm headphone jack.
There’s no Wi-Fi and the Micro-SIM slot will make it hard for some users to switch to the 3310 as a backup device, but if you want a pure slice of design history, then the 3310 is a very cool little unit.
Get the Nokia 3310 3G
- Rugged build
- Hands-free speaker
- IP67 certified
If you want to take your phone onto building sites or need a device to accompany any Bear Grylls-style activities, then the Cat B25 is a tough handset designed to take a beating. Its rubber protective-coating means it can withstand drops onto hard surfaces that would shatter most smartphones, and the IP67 rating guarantees that it can survive being submerged in water for thirty mins at depths of one metre.
The 2in display is serviceable rather than spectacular, and the 2G network connection delivers texts and calls while limiting any internet use to only the most essential. One nice feature is a hands-free speaker for those times when you need your mitts for other rugged things.
Its thick rubber construction does make the B25 a bit of a chunky device, but if you’re after a phone that you can take anywhere and never have to worry about, then this is a prime candidate.
Get the Cat B25
- The Matrix phone
- 4G connection
- Gmail and Outlook compatible
Continuing the trend it began with the 3310, Nokia has recently reissued another of its classic handsets from yesteryear. The 8810 is known as either the ‘banana’ of ‘Matrix’ phone. The former is due to its gently curved shape, while the latter refers to the 1999 breakthrough movie in which Keanu Reeves uses the device for an early pivotal scene.
The design itself is a little unusual as it features a full colour 2.4in display in the top half, with the number-pad below covered by a sliding compartment, all of which is curved banana-style. To complete the motif there’s even a banana yellow model available, alongside the black livery used in the Matrix.
Under the aesthetics, you’ll find more up-to-date components than currently in the 3310, with 4G connectivity being the pick of the bunch. Sadly, the onboard storage is limited to 4GB although this can be expanded by 32GB is you insert a MicroSD card. Dual SIM slots bring the welcome addition of a nano-SIM option, making it easy to switch between modern handsets and the 8810.
One useful software is being able to sync appointments and contacts from Gmail and Outlook, plus you can use the 8810 to create a mobile hotspot through your 4G LTE connection.
It’s not quite as cute as its smaller sibling, but there’s plenty to love about the 8810 is you want a basic phone that can still get handle internet tasks. Best of all, it’s now regularly found on sale for below £50 / $50.
Buy the Nokia 8810
- Tough casing
- IP68 rating
- 25 days stand-by
Another all-purpose phone with a rugged construction is the Blackview BV1000. The rubberised grip makes it easy to hang onto, but should the device slip from your grasp then Blackview states that it can survives drops of up to 1.8 metres.
An IP68 rating means it can be submerged to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes and is practically impervious to dust, so you’ll be able to wade across rivers, drop it in the snow, or take it to the beach without giving it a second thought.
A top-mounted flashlight is accompanied by a dedicated hardware button, making it a handy torch when wandering around in the dark, plus a built-in FM radio gives you something to listen to on your journey.
The 3000mAh battery is rated to deliver up to 30 hours of talk time and an incredible 25 days on standby. Add to this 32GB of storage (expandable by up to 32GB via microSD), dual SIM slots (although sadly for Standard size), 2G connection, plus Bluetooth 3.0, and you have a durable and capable package for a very reasonable price.
Buy the Blackview BV1000
- Very cheap
- Good design
If you’re after a very basic device for texting and making or receiving calls, then you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option than the Nokia 105. This compact handset features a simple, clean design that belies its inexpensive nature.
The 1.8in display is bright and large enough to display the minimal information required for a phone of this type, and the island-style keyboard makes it easy to type out texts without fumbling over your fingers.
There’s not much in the way of storage, only 4MB which is just enough for phone numbers and contacts, and you won’t find any internet capabilities, but that’s kind of the point. It’s a phone, not a pocket computer, and as such complete its duties without fuss and all for well under £20.
Buy the Nokia 105
TTfone Lunar TT750
- Flip phone
- Big keypad
- Dock charger included
You can’t have a roundup of feature phones without including at least one flip device. The TTFone Lunar might not be the first that leaps to mind but the company has been making a name for itself in recent years with inexpensive products aimed primarily at the elderly and those with less than 20/20 vision.
This is borne out by the large print used on the keypad, making it easy to distinguish one from the other without needing a chunky handset, and a generous on-screen font size as standard. Accessibility features don’t end there, as the TT750 also boasts loud speaker volumes to ensure that text messages and calls aren’t missed, plus a programmable SOS emergency button which means the phone can double as an alert if the user has a fall or other accident.
The clamshell design makes the TT750 easy to fit into bags or pockets, and a desktop cradle dock removes the need to fiddle around with leads when you want to recharge the battery.
If you’re thinking of buying a phone for your elderly relative and want something easy-to-use, then the TT750 should be on your shopping list.
Buy the TTfone Lunar TT750
Vodafone Smart First 7
- It’s a smartphone
Vodafone makes a range of budget price smartphones, the cheapest of which is this, the Smart First 7. Never mind the slightly dodgy name, with a bright 3.5in display, Android 5.1 and a basic 2Mp camera all for less than £30 it’s quite a bargain. To achieve this price it does run an older version of Android, but it doesn’t matter on a phone with lower specs like this that isn’t intended to be a powerhouse. And it’ll run virtually all modern apps.
It is amazing that a phone this cheap can support 4G, but it does, so you’ll be able to browse the web and use basic apps. That being said, you can pretty much forget running games on it as the processor is not really up to the job, but social media and music streaming services won’t give it any problems. One thing to note, it’s exclusively for use on the Vodafone network, so don’t expect your EE, Three, or O2 SIMs to work.
Buy the Vodaphone Smart First 7
Phone Brands Compared
No phone brand is perfect, and each comes with a set of pros and cons. Samsung phones have great hardware, but sometimes have issues when it comes to Android and its own UI. Apple, by contrast, has fantastic integration between hardware and its own operating system, but its phones are notoriously expensive.
Let’s take an in-depth look at each phone brand:
The Korean brand manages to produce brilliant phones across a range of prices – something few other companies can achieve. Whether you want to splurge on a wallet-busting Galaxy Note 10 or Galaxy S20, or scrimp on a Galaxy A10, there’s something for everyone.
Samsung Galaxy S20
While there are three S20 models on sale, we think the S20 is probably the best choice. It has the same 120Hz refresh rate screen tech as the other phones in the series, as well as a lot of the same camera tech. However, at $999, it is significantly cheaper than the other S20 models — the S20 Ultra, for example, costs a whopping $1,399.
Plus, it has 5G as standard. The S20 is undoubtedly one of the best phones on sale at the moment (just don’t tell Samsung it’s better than the more expensive versions).
Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus
The S10 Plus is arguably the best phone on sale at the moment, and certainly our favorite. Its screen is brilliant, the cameras are top-drawer, and its performance is staggering. It is expensive at $999, but it’s way better value for money that some similarly-priced phones (we’re looking at you, Apple). Read our full S10 Plus review for more.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus
The Note 10 Plus is huge but brilliant phone. It has a dazzling 6.8-inch display with a small hole punch front camera. As ever with Note-series phones, it comes with a built-in stylus, but also packs four rear cameras and serious performance with a Snapdragon 855 processor and 12GB of RAM on tap. If you need a phone that could feasibly replace your laptop, this is the one to go for. Read our full Note 10 Plus review for more.
Verdict – Quality across the board means that Samsung has something for everyone
Samsung Galaxy S10 PlusArguably the best phone on sale today5In Short
- Fantastic screen
- Great-looking design
- Strong cameras
- Speedy processor
- OneUI is a huge improvement over previous Samsung skins
- Samsung can be slow to issue OS updates
- Bixby isn’t very helpful
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The one you love to hate, or indeed, love to love. Apple stands out from the crowd, being the only manufacturer on this list not to use Android. Its phones are unashamedly expensive, although that doesn’t seem to put anyone off buying one.
Not sure which iPhone to get? See our simple guide, Which iPhone Should I Buy?
Apple iPhone 11 Pro
The follow-up to the XS, the 11 Pro is (in our mind, at least) the best iPhone to buy. You get a pin-sharp 5.8-inch screen, high quality materials, and typically blistering performance. It might cost $1,000, but the 11 Pro is closer than ever to being able to justify that price. We’re big fans of its new triple rear cameras and improved front snapper, while the screen is better than ever. However, Apple is being a bit stingy offering just 64GB of storage as standard.
Apple iPhone 11
The new cheap iPhone is actually $50 cheaper than the phone it replaced. At $699, you get a 6.1-inch LCD (boo) display and the same rapid performance as the 11 Pro and Pro Max. You also get some upgraded cameras over last year’s XR and a brilliant choice of color options. Most pleasingly, though, you also get a larger, longer lasting battery compared to the XR. All told, it’s a good phone that almost everyone will be smitten with.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
The largest of the new iPhones, the Pro Max is a bit of a beast. It has a 6.5-inch AMOLED display and a very large 3,969 mAh battery. Compared to the 11 Pro, however, there aren’t too many differences beyond the larger screen and battery. As a result, we’d probably opt for the cheaper phone. That’s not to say the 11 Pro Max is bad, just that we’d rather save $100 and have a just-as-capable phone.
Verdict – Apple iPhones may be expensive, but they’re excellent across the board
iPhone XSIt’s still great but for $100 more, we’d still choose the iPhone 11 Pro4.5In Short
- Great cameras
- Incredibly powerful
- Fantastic screen
- Still expensive
- Might be a touch too big for some
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It sounds surprising, but the current crop of Google phones is only the company’s third attempt at making a phone itself. However, the search engine giant excels in software, and it shows in the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, with the powerful Google Assistant and excellent cameras making for awesome Android phones.
Google Pixel 4 XL
The Pixel 4 XL is, in our mind, a great phone. However, it’s proven to be one of the most controversial phones of 2019 with large bezels and decent, but not impressive battery life, and stingy storage space. Despite these concerns, it packs the best cameras of any current phone (despite the lack of ultra wide-angle lens) and remains as easy to use as all the previous Google phones.
Google Pixel 3a XL
The Pixel 3a XL is a new cheap version of a Google phone. You still get the same excellent camera quality, but it costs $420 less. The Pixel 3a XL isn’t the fastest phone on sale, and it loses the glass rear case found on the more expensive Pixel phones. But the Pixel 3a XL is still a remarkably good phone for just $479. Read our full Pixel 3a XL review to find out more.
Google Pixel 3a
Like the above, but smaller and even cheaper. Starting at just $399, the Pixel 3a is one of the best value phones on sale. The screen is smaller at 5.6-inches but it’s still a 1080p, OLED unit. Plus, you get the best phone camera on the market for a remarkably low price. Read our full Pixel 3a review here.
Verdict – Camera lovers and Android purists can rejoice, as Google Pixel delivers
Google Pixel 4 XLAn improvement over the Pixel 3 XL, but some problems remain4.5In Short
- Stunning camera
- Impressive screen quality with new 90Hz refresh rate
- Snappy Face Unlock tech
- Significantly better battery life than Pixel 3 XL and Pixel 4
- Stock Android interface is easy to use
- Design might not be to everyone’s taste
- Gesture controls feel a bit gimmicky at the moment
- No ultra wide-angle camera lens
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Probably the first surprise entrant on the list, OnePlus has been quietly cranking out good phones for a while. It’s most recent 7 and 7 Pro models are its most expensive ever, but they’re still pretty good value compared to a lot of flagship phones.
OnePlus 7T Pro
OnePlus is famed for cramming all manner of headline-grabbing features into its phones and it’s managed to outdo itself with the 7T Pro. It has a 6.7-inch super-sharp AMOLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate for smooth scrolling and video playback. It also packs in a Snapdragon 855+ processor and 8GB of RAM. It doesn’t end there though, with triple rear cameras, and a motorized pop-up 16Mp selfie snapper. It was also one of the first phones to use Android 10. Our only sticking point is the lack of waterproofing and the $865 price tag.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the 7T is an updated version of the 7 which launched back in June. However, OnePlus effectively ripped up the script and started again. You get a larger screen with that all-important 90Hz refresh rate. It gets a new ultra wide-angle lens to give three rear facing in total, plus it gets a larger battery (3,700 mAh vs 3,800 mAh) and even faster fast-charging.
The 7 might feel like an ugly duckling in the company of the 7T and 7T Pro. However, it’s still a top quality phone with an AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855, and dual rear cameras including a 48Mp lens. In light of the newer models, the 7 has also had a price cut. It now costs around $410, making it a seriously impressive piece of kit for the price. Read our full OnePlus 7 review for more.
Verdict – Compelling flagship-killer phones at lower prices
OnePlus 7A seriously impressive phone for the price4In Short
- Blisteringly fast
- Good screen
- Great cameras
- Faster updates than bigger manufacturers
- Cheaper than most similarly-specced rivals
- OnePlus phones are becoming more expensive
- Construction feels a little bit plasticky
- No waterproof rating
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Huawei’s had some difficult times recently. In fact, its most recent flagship phones — the Mate 30 and P40 series — were banned from being able to use Google-made apps. This means no Play Store for your favorite apps and no integration with wider Google services. As a result, we can’t really recommend these phones. Fortunately, 2018’s Mate 20 series models are still available and still have access to Google services, and they’re cheaper than ever.
Huawei Mate 20
Another fabulous cut-price Android phone. The Mate 20 comes with an unusual square arrangement for its three rear cameras, a tiny notch and a pin-sharp OLED screen. It also comes in a range of delightful colors and packs the super-speedy Kirin 980 processor.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro
The Mate 20 Pro is a real flagship rival with a Google and Samsung-rivalling price tag. It has a big 6.4-inch OLED display, runs the latest version of Android, and is available with either 6GB or 8GB Ram. You get the same triple-camera set-up at the rear, with one 40Mp, 20Mp and 8Mp lenses. It’s well worth considering if you’re in the market for an Android flagship.
Huawei P30 Pro
The P30 Pro is a true powerhouse. It has a 6.47-inch OLED display, four rear cameras, the speedy Kirin 980 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a huge 4,200 mAh battery. If you need a phone to power through games and multitasking, while also lasting all day — the P30 Pro might be for you (if you can get one).
Verdict – Excellent phones, subjected to unusual geopolitical pressures
Huawei Mate 20Lacks some top-end features but excells at the core jobs expected of a smartphoneIn Short
- Powerful processor
- Excellent battery life
- Huge screen
- LCD display isn’t as sharp as the Pro
- Might be too large for some
- Not as water or dust-proof as many phones
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You might think of Motorola as a brand relegated to the smartphone cemetry, but you’d be wrong. The brand that gave us the iconic RAZR is still knocking out some incredible mid-range phones, which are well worth taking a look at.
Moto G8 Plus
Motorola’s G-series phones have long been regarded as the best cheap phones on sale and, with the G7 Plus, the company has created another cut-price classic. It runs Android, a 6.3-inch 1080p display, triple rear cameras, and a tiny notch. It costs just $310 — yes, you read that correctly. Read our full review for more.
Motorola One Zoom
The One Zoom was launched at IFA in Berlin packing four (yes, four) rear cameras while costing just $449. That array of rear-facing lenses include a depth-sensor, a 117-degree ultra-wide angle lens, and a telephoto lens — meaning you should get great photos whatever the conditions. Find out more about the One Zoom here.
Motorola One Vision
The One Vision costs the same as the g7 Plus but is a very different phone. Firstly, it’s tall — the screen has a 21:9 aspect ratio, making it three times taller than it is wide. Secondly, it takes incredible photos with dual rear cameras (including a 48Mp lens). Thirdly, it uses Android One, a version of Android that gives you speedy updates and minimal bloatware. It’s an unusual but impressive phone.
Verdict – The cheap G-series are a solid option for those one a budget, while its Android One series keeps getting better
Motorola Moto G8 Plus ReviewOne of the best cheap Android phones gets even better4In Short
Every year, it feels like we say the same thing. The latest phones from Motorola’s G-series are great, and arguably the best value for money phones on the market. And believe it or not, 2019 is no different. The Motorola G8 Plus is a great phone, and it costs just north of $300. When a phone this good is this cheap, why would you buy anything else?GalleryClick to expand
Recently resurrected, Nokia has come back to life with a flurry of activity, launching some seriously impressive mid-range Android phones. They’re certainly not flagship killers – leave that to OnePlus – but they provide a compelling alternative to Samsung’s cheaper options.
Nokia 8.3 5G
The 8.3 is Nokia’s first 5G-enabled phone and starts from around $640 in the US — that’s cheap for a 5G device.
However, the 8.3 is more than just a 5G phone. It has a 6.8-inch display that upscales content into HDR-compatible formats for better clarity and contrast. It has four rear cameras: a 64Mp wide angle lens, a 12Mp ultrawide lens, a 2Mp macro lens for close-up shots, and a 2Mp depth sensor. Plus, it has a large 4,500 mAh battery for extra long battery life.
The 7.2 is a very impressive budget option if you’re looking for strong camera quality. Costing $349, the 7.2 comes with a 48Mp main camera, an 8Mp ultrawide lens, and a 5Mp depth sensor. Plus, these cameras use Zeiss optics for the best clarity and image quality.
The 7.2 is powered by a Snapdragon 660 processor and 4GB of RAM, meaning it should be more than fast enough for most people. The 6.3-inch Full-HD+ display means it should be perfect for streaming TV shows and movies.
The 3.2 is a remarkably cheap phone, costing just $150. It’s not perfect, with slightly sluggish performance and a finnicky face unlock system.
However, it has remarkable battery life — thanks to its efficient processor and large 4,000 mAh battery. It’s also extremely well-built, unseemingly so for a phone at this price.
If you’re looking for the perfect backup phone, the 3.2 might be the perfect fit. Find out more in our full Nokia 3.2 review.
Verdict – Buyers on a budget should definitely take a look at Nokia
Nokia 9 PureViewA left-field alternative with innovative camera set-upIn Short
- Great cameras
- Impressive pOLED screen
- Stock Android
- Powerful processor and healthy Ram figure
- Battery isn’t the biggest at 3,320 mAh
- Only IP67 is waterproof-rated, despite not having a headphone jack
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LG’s mobile division has fallen on hard times, and has failed to grab the imagination at the top end of the market. That’s not to say it doesn’t have some phones worthy of consideration, though.
LG V60 ThinQ 5G Dual Screen
LG has taken a different approach to folding phones compared to Samsung and Motorola. Instead of one screen which folds up, LG has decided to give its flagship phones two screens — no creases of reliability problems here — via a unique case attachment.
It costs $899 and, although you get the option of two screens, the rest of the spces aren’t that impressive. The primary screen has a 1080×2460 resolution — which is sharp, but not as sharp as other flagship phones. It has a large 5,000 mAh battery and uses a Snapdragon 865 processor. It gets three rear cameras including a 64Mp main lens, a 13Mp wide angle lens and a time-of-flight sensor for depth perception.
LG G8 ThinQ
The G8 ThinQ is LG’s answer to the leading flagship phones on the market. It packs a sharp 1440×3120 6.1-inch P-OLED display, a Snapdragon 855 processor for top-notch performance, and dual rear cameras. Price? At $849, it isn’t the cheapest, but it is certainly capable.
Verdict – LG is a bit of a leftfield choice, but not necessarily a bad one
LG G8 ThinQ ReviewUnusual features but a way behind the compeitionIn Short
- Interesting features such as HandID and in-display speakers
- Decent battery life and cameras
- Decent OLED display
- MicroSD carad and headphone jack support
- Fluctuating price makes it a difficult value proposition
- Not as powerful as other rivals
- Sluggish OS updates
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Sony has been stuck in a rut for a while now. However, with its new lineup of Xperia 10 phones, and the flagship Xperia 1, it’s look to change that. The phones are certainly head-turning, with overly tall displays. But are they actually any good?
Sony Xperia 10
The Xperia 10 seems like a pretty standard low- to mid-range phone. It has a Snapdragon 630 processor, dual rear cameras, and a 6-inch 1080p display. But that screen has a 21:9 aspect ratio and is, basically, just a bit too tall for one-handed use. Still, it’s good for watching films and it’ll set you back $299. Intrigued? Read our full review.
Sony Xperia 10 Plus
Like the above, but even bigger. It has a whopping 6.5-inch and it’s frankly too tall and heavy to be used with a single hand. Still, like its smaller brother, performance isn’t bad and that screen is great for watching TV shows and films, or playing games. There’s a significant price bump for that extra screen, though, as the Xperia 10 Plus costs $429.
Sony Xperia 1 II
The confusingly named Xperia 1 II is Sony’s latest flagship phone. Its main selling point is the 6.5-inch 4K 21:9 OLED display. This makes it perfect for watching movies or TV shows, as you’ll have plenty of screen real estate, as well as pin-sharp pixels.
However, you’ll pay a small fortune for that screen quality — the Xperia 1 II is expected to cost $1,300 when it goes on sale in the US.
Verdict – Sony produces decent phones at a range of prices
Sony Xperia 10 ReviewA decent mid-range phone with an unusual screen3.5In Short
- Tall screen makes watching some stuff better
- Not too expensive
- Plasticky design doesn’t feel brilliant
- Underwhelming battery life
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Phone Brands by Budget
These are the best phones you can buy, whether you have $300, $500 or over $1,000 to spend!
Best Phones Under $300 (Or $20 per month)
It’s safe to say that if you only have $300 to spend on a phone, you’re not going to be getting an iPhone. However, some brands offer great phones for budget-conscious buyers.
You should consider a phone from Motorola — anything from the G8 series would be perfect — or Nokia. Rather than looking to cut costs on the features and components, these companies produce phones that you could happily use every day. Some of the materials might not match those at the top of the market, but they have to save money somewhere.
Best Phones under $500 (Or $30 per month)
While flagship phones now cost twice as much, there are some great phones to be had for under $500.
For this budget, we’d struggle to look past the Google Pixel 3a XL. It has strong performance, guaranteed software updates, and the best camera of any phone, at any price. If you’re not keen on a Google phone, you could look at a Samsung Galaxy A50.
Best Phones under $750 (Or $40 per month)
The $500-750 phone market doesn’t have the choice that you’d perhaps expect nowadays, with the market becoming polarized towards increasingly expensive or cheap phones – but that’s not to say you won’t find some good phones.
Again, in this price range, you’ll struggle to find a better phone than the OnePlus 7. However, if you’ve currently got an iPhone, we’d probably opt for the new 11.
Best Phones around $1,000 (or $50+ per month)
If you’re lucky enough to be able to drop a grand on a phone, you’ve got plenty of options. Not all of them are as good as others, though.
Of course, we’re now really entering iPhone territory. The 11 Pro is a great phone, though we’re not sold on the 11 Pro Max. If you don’t fancy something from Apple, we’d go Google or Samsung. If you need the best cameras, get the Google Pixel 4 XL. If you need incredible all-round capabilities, get the Samsung S20.