Basic mobile phone reviews

When you don't need all the bells and whistles, a basic phone provides all you need at a fraction of the cost of a smartphone.
 
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01 .Introduction

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There are now many mobile phones that can perform a myriad of tasks, such as keeping appointments, playing your music collection, taking a photo and even telling you where to go while driving. However, this versatility can sometimes hamper the elementary tasks of making and taking phone calls.

In an effort to bring some simplicity back into your life, CHOICE tested 16 models purely on how well they perform as a mobile phone. All the phones tested cost less than $300 (if you shop around), with several available for less than $100. Our free mobile phones buying guide provides  an overview to help with your buying decision.

Mobile phone brands and models tested

  • LG GW300
  • Nokia 1661
  • Nokia 2220 slide
  • Nokia 2330 Classic
  • Nokia 2700 Classic
  • Nokia 2720 Fold
  • Nokia 2730
  • Nokia 3720 Classic
  • Nokia 5030
  • Nokia 6303 Classic
  • Nokia 7230
  • Samsung B3310
  • Samsung GT-B3210
  • Sony Ericsson T715
  • Sony Ericsson U100i Yari
  • Sony Ericsson W395

 

 

 
 

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80% Nokia 6303 Classic

635Price: $319

The 6303 Classic is a good all-round option for users wanting a bar-type phone, with a simple keypad layout and excellent display. SMS performance is good and it provides a pleasing combination of a short charging time with one of the longest talk and standby times on test. However, while this phone works on all networks, you won’t get 3G performance or Next G coverage as it is a GSM-only phone.




76% Nokia 3720 Classic

Price: $269693

The 3720 GSM phone has an IP54 rating, meaning it’s designed to be shock-, dust- and water-resistant, with panels to keep out water and dust. An LED flashlight, together with a long talk and standby time, makes it a good choice for tradesmen.
It also has the lowest SAR (specific absorption rate, a measure of radiation energy absorbed into the body) figure of the phones on test.




73% Samsung GT-B3210

Price: $265713

If you like using a QWERTY-style keyboard, the GT-B3210 is a much more affordable option than a BlackBerry, and its excellent SMS score makes it a good option for users who text as much as they talk. However, the small keys make it more difficult when dialling numbers for standard phone calls. Quad-band GSM support also means you’re more likely to get reception when travelling overseas.

 

About the rest

Nokia makes more mobiles than any other company, and several of the Nokia models on test, including the 2330 Classic and 2720 Fold (clamshell type) would be suitable for the kids or as a backup if you’ve lost your phone and are waiting for the contract to end.

If you’re looking for a phone with good reception and durability for about $100, you could consider the Nokia 2220 Slide, 1661 or 5030. However, these are the only phones on test with just dual-mode GSM network support.

SMS users may appreciate the QWERTY-style keyboard of the LG GW300 or the slide-out keyboard of the Samsung B3310, while users wanting a phone that works on the NextG (850MHz) band can choose either the Sony Yari or T715.

 

What to look for in a basic mobile phone

Keypad Look for overall quality and durability with buttons that are sensibly placed.
Display Readability is an important aspect to consider with a basic mobile.
QWERTY keyboard Consider this if you text as much as you talk. Look for a keypad with ample spacing between the keys.
Camera can be useful, although the resolution for a basic phone is not a major concern unless you print your images.
Battery life needs to match the way you use your phone, particularly if you talk for extended periods between charging.
Charging the phone using the USB connection can be useful if you have a portable computer  and no mains power is available.

Instructions

Comparison table list

  • By default ALL tested products are listed. You can select up to five mobiles to view in a side by side comparison.
  • Additional columns can be viewed by using the Next/Previous buttons.

Using the filters

  • Use the filters to show only mobile phones that meet your specific requirements or which have the specific features you're interested in. Selecting filters automatically updates the Comparison table list.
  • The number shown in brackets represents the number of products displayed if you select that filter.
  • You can view additional filters by selecting the Show more filters button.  

Make a selection

 
 
Micro USB connection
Charging via USB
Bluetooth A2DP
 

Compare products

 
Table Allowing the user to select a number of products dependant on their filter options.
Items to compare

Select up to 5 items below.
Then click the compare button

Compare
 
Overall scorePrice ($)Handling score (%)Keypad score (%)Menus score (%)Display score (%)SMS score (%)Sensitivity score (%)Sound quality score (%)Manual score (%)Durability score (%)Battery score (%)Calling time (hours)Standby time (days)Charging time (minutes)Micro USB connectionCharging via USBBluetooth A2DPHandsfree modeSilent modeFM radioCamera resolution (megapixel)Memory card slotFlight modeSAR rating (W/kg)GSM bands3GNextGWeight (g)ContactBrand
                                
6303 Classic80319916575947592Nokia
3720 classic76269926572946387Nokia
GT-B3210 Corby73265814075649388Samsung
GW30072299815073767985LG
2330 classic72109686571696989Nokia
2720 fold72129637071695288Nokia
2700 classic70169666064716482Nokia
16616869716066736284Nokia
2220 slide68109526061695690Nokia
50306889676067636893Nokia
723068209496586717381Nokia
B331068199703069668079Samsung
W39568100825564715490Sony Ericsson
U100i Yari67249735074714687Sony Ericsson
2730 classic63179655064565581Nokia
T71562229716071544683Sony Ericsson
Compare

 

How we test

The overall score in the compare table incorporates an evaluation of features and aspects that are important to someone who wants a solid, affordable phone, without the bells and whistles. For this test, we score the phone on the quality of its display and menu system for making a call, the ease of creating, sending and reading an SMS, and the sound quality when talking to another person. We also score the durability, reception quality and battery life.

We don’t include a score on how good the sound is when playing music, or the quality of the photo it takes (if indeed it can take a photo). Some of these phones do have cameras and can play music, but we’d advise against replacing your iPod or compact digital camera with one.

Table notes 

Scores The overall score is made up of: Handling: 10%; Keypad: 10%;
Menus: 10%; Display: 10%; SMS: 10%; Sensitivity: 10%; Sound quality: 10%; Manual: 10%;
Durability: 10%; Battery 10%. Price Recommended retail, as of June 2010. You can get most of these phones cheaper by shopping around.

* Rounded to the nearest half-day.
** Measured in megapixels.
All phones on test can be operated in hands-free mode and have a vibration (silent) mode and an FM radio. None have a touchscreen.

If you want an all-singing, all-dancing mobile, the 3G network delivers more multimedia features than the older GSM network, and with providers such as Optus, Telstra, 3 and Vodafone on board, competition is fierce. Phones that support 3G are also compatible with local GSM mobile networks. Currently, however, the full functionality of 3G (such as video calls and access to premium content) is available only in capital cities and coastal regions with large concentrations of people.

In the past, mobile phone owners living in remote areas often opted for CDMA phones because of their wider coverage compared to GSM phones. Now, with the closure of Telstra's CDMA network, Telstra's Next G and the Optus YesG network could be the only choices for many mobile users in remote areas of Australia.

Telstra’s Next G network, not to be confused with its 3G service, operates on a different network frequency and offers the widest coverage, servicing 98% of the population, including much of the network coverage previously serviced by CDMA. View details of Telstra's mobile broadband coverage.

 

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