How to buy a dumbphone – a complete guide

This is the guide on how to buy a dumbphone, aka how to buy a basic phone that has no smartphone features. Whether your buying a phone for yourself, or for somebody else, getting a right basic phone can be challenging as there are not many options on the market like in the case of smartphones. We will go through the steps of this dumbphone guide to present advice on what to do and which mistakes to avoid when buying a dumbphone. Let’s start with our steps:

Make a wishlist of features

First, you should make a wish list of features that you want in your dumbphone. Some of the possible things on your wishlist are:

  • Dumbphone with Bluetooth connection
  • Dumbphone with tethering and Hotspot
  • Dumbphone with email
  • Dubphone with Spotify or Whatsapp
  • Dumbphone good for texting
  • Very cheap dumbphone
  • Dumbphone with touchscreen
  • Dumbphone with long battery life
  • Small dumbphone
  • Dumbphone with good camera
  • Dumbphone with navigation

(Also, check out the article about best Basic phones with navigation)

Now, you have seen a list of things people wish a dumbphone had. But, you have to keep in mind one thing. Most features, like the ones above, won’t be available in one dumbphone. Most dumbphones cover only one or two features. If you need all the features, maybe you should really use a smartphone. If you still want a dumbphone, choose one or two features that are most important to you. Then try getting a dumbphone that implements those features the best.

Make a price range

Decide on how much money you want to spend on a dumbphone. Generally, the ones with better technical specs and more ruggedness are more expensive. Lots of dumbphones cost the same as a cheaper smartphone. You can always get a cheaper dumbphone initially to get used to it. Or, if you really want to buy a more expensive dumbphone, check how easy and at what price do used models resell. Thus, if you are unsatisfied with your dumbphone, you can resell it.

You may also want a bare-bones dumbphone, with no apps, internet, GPS or camera. Getting such a bare-bones phone is also much cheaper.

Investigate the market for the perfect model

Now that you have decided on the features and a price range, it’s time to find a perfect dumbphone for you. Here are some sources to find a perfect phone:

  • You can check out your local mobile carrier and what dumbphones they offer. Getting a phone directly from your local carrier ensures the phone works for calls/texting/data in your country and with that carrier.
  • You can check your local stores and websites that sell phones. In the US it will usually be Amazon, but in other countries it may be another site. Ordering a dumbphone from a reputable store ensures that the phone will probably be able to do calls/texting/data in your country, and will be compatible with local mobile carriers.
  • If you decide to purchase a dumbphone, it’s good to also check out YouTube reviews. There you can hear buyers’ experiences, see how they use their phone, check out durability (type in search “<phone model> drop test/water test etc.”) and other things. Seeing how the phone works is more useful than just reading about it.
  • Use some online sources. Some of the fanmade ones are Dumbphone Finder, a website that helps you find a perfect dumbphone. Reddit’s subreddit r/dumbphones is also good. You can ask people questions there about a potential dumbphone. Check out the 4pda site (it’s in Russian but you can use Google Translate).

Check if a phone supports networks in your area

Phones today use either GSM, 3G, 4G (often called LTE) or 5G mobile network to connect online or communicate with each other. But some countries may not support 3G or some other network anymore. So you may decide to buy a vintage dumbphone, the same one that you used when you were young. Well, you may find out that phone doesn’t work at all, due to not supporting 3G or modern frequency bands.

Check if the phone supports frequency bands in your area

A common mistake is that people order a desired dumbphone in China. Then they try to use it, but the phone can’t text, call and/or connect to the Internet. It often happens that the phone doesn’t support frequency bands in your country, but supports frequency bands in China. This happens because phones operate on certain frequency bands to communicate with the Internet and other phones via a mobile network. Therefore, it’s important to check whether the phone supports frequency bands in the area where you want to use it.

Let’s explain with an example. On their official website, we can see the technical specifications of the phone Kyocera DuraXV EXTREME. The phone supports LTE (aka 4G) bands 2, 4, 5, 12, 13. From this reliable Phone Arena article, we can see that Verizon mainly uses bands 2, 4, 13 and 66 bands for 4G cellular networks in the US. This means that Kyocera Dura XV Extreme should be able to use Verizon 4G network in the US. You can also see that on their official website that the phone is locked to Verizon.

You can use the method in the example. First, find out which bands are used by a specific carrier in your country. And then compare them with the list of bands that the phone actually supports. The phone should support most main frequency bands used by the carrier. Or at least a band that has the most coverage in your place.

In the end, let’s say that you have found your perfect phone. And you have read technical specifications of the phone to find out which frequency bands it supports. And you have also verified that the phone supports at least some frequency bands of your favorite mobile carrier in your country. Well, it may turn out that the carrier uses the band that your phone doesn’t support right in the village or town where you live. Or it may turn out that the bands your phone supports have weak signals in your town or village.

The best advice to prevent band incompatibility is to check out the experiences of others. You can always check out online if phone users in your country had troubles with using the phone.

Check if a phone is locked to a specific carrier

Some phones can also be locked to specific carriers. A phone may support frequency bands of all carriers in a certain area, but it may be enabled to only a specific carrier. That means if you insert a SIM card of the wrong carrier in a phone it may not work. Double check which carrier does the dumbphone support.

Check if you are purchasing the right phone version for your geographical region

Make sure to buy an actual right version of the phone. For example, some Chinese phone brands have a Chinese Version for the Chinese market and a Global Version for the rest of the world. Many brands can also have a North American version, European Version and more. This is to ensure compatibility with this area frequency bands and carriers. When ordering a phone, double check if you are getting the right version.

Also, when ordering a phone, find out which language menus it has. It would be awkward to get a device that supports only Chinese language in a menu because you ordered the phone in China.

Check out how the warranty works

It’s also a good idea to check out the warranty policy for a dumbphone that you want to buy. You want to know how long the warranty lasts and for what kind of damage it covers. It’s also important to know where the dumbphone will be repaired in case of damage. For example, some Chinese phones are often sent back to China for repair. It may take a long time before you get your phone back. You should also check out buyers’ experience regarding the customer service during repairs.

Check out where to buy

In the western world, good places to get a dumbphone are Amazon. You can check out user reviews of dumbphones there. On Ebay you can try to find used dumbphones. Aliexpress is also popular, especially for Chinese phones. Always check how delivery works when buying from abroad.

You can also order from the manufacturer’s website. Ordering from the manufacturers website is sometimes the simplest.

You can also order from a local store. Getting the phone from a reputable local store or webstore in your country can have certain advantages. If they are a good store, they will sell you a phone with possibly your native language support, warranty for local repair and the right version for your local area. 

It’s also similar to buying from your favorite mobile carrier. That phone will also probably work with that carrier and have native language support.