iPhone laying in grass

The 5 Best “Dumbphones” That Are Actually Smart

Remember a time before smartphones ruled our lives? When a phone’s purpose was for calls and texts, the battery lasted for days, and Snake was the height of mobile entertainment. LOL neither do I.

But maybe there’s some merit to a less capable phone.

Why I’m Ditching My Smartphone

I’ll be honest for a second: I still get embarrassed to show people my Screen Time metrics. For the sake of journalism, I will admit it’s above 6/hrs a day (I work in tech, okay?). But spending so much time dubs me as “chronically online” and chronically exhausted. I fully know I have an addiction to my phone. Ick.

Yet, ditching the Internet completely brings its own set of problems. Last year, Anthony tried to quit the smartphone race by using a flip phone and even with his strong determination, couldn’t make it more than a week.

He said that it’s because so much of our lives have now become dependent on our smartphones. The phone he was using had 0 internet capability and ultimately what started as a peaceful unplugging became a cumbersome and frustrating practice. These days it’s pretty difficult to go cold turkey on smartphones.

These things, along with a few others, have transcended as “features” on a phone and now can be recognized as universal “tools.”

I keep asking myself what the perfect “middle” choice would be between a pen and paper and the smartest of smartphones. Enter the ‘dumbphone’ renaissance — modern devices that aim to marry the essential functions of a cellphone with sleek design and 21st-century tech.

I want to recognize I work at a tech startup, specifically catered towards phones. And trust me, I love my job. I used to sit and watch Apple Keynotes and Samsung product reviews as if they were each a new Marvel movie. Yet with the current product offerings, it can all feel pretty… boring. Put down your torches, you know what I mean.

Below I set out to round up some of the top phones looking to bridge the gap between dumb and smart.

Dumb Phone Roundup

The 5 Best "Dumbphones" That Are Actually Smart

1. Light Phone – $299

The Bare Necessities

Jumping right into it (and right off the grid), we have the Light Phone (known actually as the Light Phone II). It’s like if you had a Kindle that you left in the dryer for too long (which is a roundabout way of saying it’s t i n y).

Off the bat, this is the digital minimalist’s phone. No cameras. No Spotify or Apple Music. An E-Ink display that looks beautiful no matter the lighting but lacks the response rate we’re used to on an LED screen. Don’t worry though, it is backlit for when you’re in a

All you have access to on this phone is calling, texting, a calculator, a music player, a directions app, and a calendar.

Who Needs It and Why?

If you’re looking to be less conspicuous in your tech usage or simply yearning for a digital detox, the Light Phone fits the bill. It makes a compelling argument for being your second phone, perfect for weekends, holidays, or any digital sabbatical you’ve been planning.


  • Incredible battery life (1-2 days of light usage—no pun intended)
  • Minimalist design with a focus on utility
  • Decent set of tools


  • Small screen may not be suitable for all users
  • Pricier than some alternatives
  • No camera

This does seem like the obvious choice and is the first one I would choose to use in my own day-to-day life. To me, it’s the definition of a true middleman between smart and dumb. Living in New York City, I always need directions and music for my commute. Plus it pairs with my favorite wireless headphones.

In their FAQ, Light mentions that Spotify could hopefully one day be available to users but that Spotify would need to approve their feature request (which doesn’t seem like it’s happening anytime soon). However, this opens a larger conversation to some of the abilities Light could do.

Overall, I’m pretty into this device.

2. Mindphone – $279

The 5 Best "Dumbphones" That Are Actually Smart

A Kosher option that could one day work for all.

The Mindphone is less about what it offers and more about what it doesn’t. It’s a phone designed with truly no access to the Internet. You actually can’t even connect it to your computer. Talk about “off the grid.”

Essentially, it’s a hybrid phone that marries touchscreen functionality with a physical T9 keyboard. After spending a couple of days messing around with it, I have some thoughts.

This is a great V1. It runs an Android skin that’s relatively responsive. For $279, I do feel like it’s an awesome bang for your buck… or it could be eventually.

These were designed with the Hasidic Jewish community in mind. Part of their religious practice is no Internet use. Additionally, the T9 keyboard I mentioned has traditional Hebrew characters alongside the English characters. If that’s your jam, then this phone is for you.

However, if that’s not your thing, I have some good news. Ari is planning on creating a broader version that doesn’t include the Hebrew keys and may have some more capabilities (Transit? Spotify? Fingers crossed!).


  • No access to Internet (a truly disconnected experience!)
  • Sturdy construction
  • Good battery life


  • Can feel a bit elementary
  • Niche market appeal

A strong use case I could also see for this would be for younger kids that still want to feel like they have a smartphone. Since it combines the touchscreen functionality with a physical keyboard, it’s a great introductory phone so parents could keep in contact with their children.

Another pro? US Mobile’s partnered with the Mind Phone to offer a Light Plan. Unlimited talk and text, from $6/month. Doesn’t get easier than that.

3. Palm Phone – $215

Palm dumb phone

The Companion Device

The palm-sized Palm Phone was designed to be just that — a true complement to your smartphone. It’s all about balance, offering the versatility to be your primary (or secondary) device. Whether for workouts, hiking, or nights out, it’s perfect for those moments you need to pack light. Palm puts the smartphone experience into a more targeted set of features without compromising on the fundamentals.

Are Two Phones Better Than One?

The Palm Phone received mixed reviews at launch, with some praising its innovation and others questioning its necessity. However, its smaller form factor, decent camera, and ability to offload your smartphone’s distractions have found it a niche following.

Personally, I feel like the Palm is probably unnecessary for most people. I already carry my smartphone everywhere; why would I need a smaller version? But if you’re someone who enjoys disconnecting while still being fully reachable, the Palm Phone may be worth looking into.

Scroll email, listen to Spotify, use Maps, and browse the Internet on a veeeeery small device. It runs Android and has an app store.

Essentially, you’re buying a second Android phone that has all of the same capabilities as your current smartphone just on a smaller scale.


  • Compact and very easy to carry
  • Syncs with your smartphone’s current number and apps
  • Decent camera, a browser, and all of the tools you love on your current smartphone.


  • Limited screen real estate
  • Poor battery life
  • Some adjustments needed in app usage

Ultimately, I waffle back and forth on the Palm. As much as I believe in my self-control, I have to be a realist here: I think I would eventually download all of my favorite apps and just deal with them being shrunken. I would like this device for its practicality, though. I would feel good leaving my larger smartphone at home because I could navigate, call an Uber, stream Spotify, send emails, log my Strava runs, text my friends… so everything I do with my iPhone. Do you see what I mean?

4. Wisephone II – $350

Wisephone II dumb phone

Meet the Wisephone II.

I don’t want to dive too much into this option because it’s only available for pre-order, but I do think this could be the future of what we’re talking about here. An entirely new OS seems intriguing to me and with a strong camera system, Maps functionality, and more, I think this perfectly blends smartphone and dumbphone, especially for city-livers.

See the current “toolkit” below:

The 5 Best "Dumbphones" That Are Actually Smart

To me, the one missing thing currently is Tap to Pay functionality. But that’s just for my daily toolkit and probably wouldn’t be a dealbreaker for many. I realize this just means I have to start carrying my wallet with me, but with my attention span, that’s asking a lot.

You can purchase for preorder today, with devices hopefully shipping in early summer 2024.

5. Punkt MP02 – $379

Punkt MP02 dumb phone

Masters of Simplicity

The Punkt MP02 sits at the intersection of form and function. It’s a no-nonsense device with a robust build, designed to do the things you want a phone to do — call, text, Wi-Fi tethering — without the noise. Punkt’s focus is on craftsmanship and utility, and it shows in every aspect of the MP02.

Bridging the Tech Age Gap

For the digital non-natives and weary tech warriors, the MP02 provides a bridge. It rejects the idea that you must adopt every new piece of tech and instead asks, “What do you really need?” In its answer, you’ll find Punkt.


  • High-quality feel and build
  • Full message encryption through Signal
  • Wi-Fi Hotspot tethering available to use with other devices


  • Pricey for the functionality
  • Old school design

I like this device, but I don’t love it. It definitely leans more towards the “dumb side” which works for some. While I haven’t played with this phone in person, I think I’d be annoyed by the learning curve of button placement. It doesn’t feel very intuitive, but maybe that’s the point: relearning to be more mindful with a familiar but new interface. Or maybe my thinking is too wishful. Who knows!


These middle of the road devices may not replace your smartphone completely, but they do offer a compelling argument for a place in your life… right? I might be saying that just to justify buying another gadget until the next iPhone launch.

While I haven’t played with all of these devices, I do feel I gravitate more towards the Light phone or the Wisephone most. If you’ve used any of these leave a comment down below and share your experience!

At the core of it, these devices represent a counter-culture to the constant upgrade cycle that smartphone giants have conditioned us to expect. And with devices like this having a share of the market, we begin to have larger conversations about phone “addiction,” doom-scrolling, and what connecting intentionally looks like.