If you haven’t thought about dumb phones in a long while, I can’t blame you, but chances are you’re missing out on a really great emergency tool that’s been right at the back of your memory this entire time.
Smart phones are amazing. They’re an enhancement to everyday life. I can’t imagine no longer having the ability to open up Google Maps, figure out where I took a wrong turn, correct my mistake and get back on the right path to where I need to go. I can’t imagine not having amazing, free apps like WhatsApp that help me stay connected with people, not only just in my own country, but all over the world for literally not a cent. And I definitely can’t imagine life without being able to quickly and easily jump on this small device, check my email and browse through a couple interesting articles online before I doze off in bed.
No, I don’t want to go back to life without a smartphone. But that didn’t stop me from going out and buying a new dumb phone either.
Nokia 105 Mobile Dumb Phone – Amazon
What’s the Point of a Backup Phone Anyway?
I’m sure as a prepper you don’t need much convincing to get a backup phone, and a lot of these explanations for why you might want to have a backup phone around you probably already would’ve came up with yourself, but it’s better for me to lay out all the benefits to having a backup phone anyway, so here we go –
1. Use as a temporary replacement phone in case your phone breaks.
Just pop your SIM card out of your broken phone and into your back up and you can continue on communicating almost like nothing happened.
Yes, I know you probably won’t want your backup phone as your main phone ever. Even if you use another smartphone as your backup phone, chances are your backup phone will be incredibly sub par to what you’d buy as a main phone. But it’s still good to have something else to be able to use until you can replace a broken phone. If you have your backup phone in the car’s glove compartment at all times, you can still make texts to your wife who otherwise might be worried sick calling you at home to let her know your phone broke.
2. Use as a temporary replacement phone in case your phone’s battery dies & you can’t recharge.
There will be times when you can’t charge your phone and you need to use it. That’s also what a backup phone is for.
Obviously, if you’ve got a car, a micro usb phone charger cable, and one of these, you can easily charge your phone no matter where you and your car happen to be. Or if you carry around a micro usb cable + a power bank like this one, you can also be okay on electricity for quite a long time. But in case of completely inaccessibility to a power socket or a charger – it’s good to have a charged backup phone in case.
3. Use as a temporary replacement phone in case you lose your phone.
Unfortunately, you cant pop your old SIM card into your backup phone to use right away in case you lose your phone, but if you get a new SIM card from your provider and you have contacts backed up to your backup phone, well you’ll actually be okay until you can get yourself a new phone. Better than losing all your contacts and having to dole out the money for a brand new phone right away.
4. Use as a backup emergency service call device.***
Did you know that you don’t even need to have a SIM card in a cell phone to call emergency services? That’s right – even if you don’t ever put a SIM card in your backup phone, it’s still useful as a device specifically for calling emergency services if you need them. This alone is the most important reason to get yourself a backup phone.
Fine, But Why a Dumb Phone Backup & Not a Smartphone Backup
It’s been long enough now that, chances are, you already have a backup phone somewhere in your house. It’s your old smartphone, and it’s probably lying around in a dresser drawer right now perfectly viable as a backup phone that can be used for any of the aforementioned purposes.
What the heck is the point of buying a dumb phone if you’ve already got a smartphone lying around? I’ve got a few really good reasons for you.
1. Dumb phones have substantially longer battery life.
Yes, your old smartphone can last a few days without being charged. Whoopdido.
A dumb phone can last a week – or even a month – without being charged.
Are you really going to be charging a backup phone religiously? You going to remember to do it often enough?
You’re probably going to want a dumb phone as a backup phone.
2. Dumb phones often have better reception.
I know it sounds weird, but dumb phones, depending on the model in question, often have better reception than smart phones. And while this may not be a big deal to you when you’re in the city, getting excellent coverage in your office downtown – you may care if you’re out in the wilderness, and in places with shoddy reception in general. Yes, you still might not get reception on a dumb phone out in the middle of nowhere, but I’d rather take my chances with a dumb phone than a smartphone – because then I know for sure if there’s no reception with a dumb phone, there wasn’t going to be a shot in hell I’d get reception with any other phone.
Okay, But Why Bother With New Dumb Phones & Not Use Old Ones
I, like any person who’s gone through the 2000s over the age of 15, have already got access around 5 old dumb phones from the early 2000s. They’re currently lying in a shoe box at my parents’ house. Why on earth would I bother to make a purchase and buy a new dumb phone, when I could just use one of these old suckers and not have to spend a dime instead?
The short and long of it; technology has improved. Battery life has gotten better. So. Much. Better.
And yes, you might be thinking, “But my dumb phone used to last 5-6 days in 2003; my smart phone doesn’t even make it through the day sometimes; AND my dumb phone was smaller. How could battery life have gotten better?” – but you’re comparing apples to oranges here.
Your dumb phone didn’t have all the bells and whistles your smartphone does – that touch screen, gorgeous display, the size of that touch screen, and the fact that it probably draws you to use it for a lot longer than you ever used to use a dumb phone back in the day. You didn’t play many videos on your dumb phone. How many do you think you play on your smartphone? How much more music? How many websites do you visit? Yeah it’s used a heck of a lot more – and for some pretty intensive tasks that your old smartphone was never used for.
The batteries on smart phones are much better than the batteries of millennium edition dumb phones used to be – you’re just using up that juice way more than you’d use up the battery life of a dumb phone.
So take that technological boost of really great batteries we’ve got in modern days and put it in a dumb phone and what do you end up with?
30 days of standby time.
So yes, for the battery life improvements alone, I’d say it’s probably worth getting a new dumb phone instead of using an old one.
And of course take into account that as time goes on and technology gets better, prices drop…
For under $30.
I don’t think I need to say anything more.
Recommended Dumb Phones
If you’re going to grab a dumb phone or two for emergency purposes, here are some we recommend based on long standby time, price, trustworthiness of the company they’re made by, and other advantages we’ve written up in the descriptions below the recommended phones:
- Nokia 105 Mobile Dumb Phone
30 day standby life. We’ve got two of these; one for each of us.
- BLU Tank II Mobile Dumb Phone
Again, 30 day stand by life. This one can even take 2 SIM cards, in case that might be helpful for you.
- Sprint Kyocera Rugged Dumb Phone
If you want a dumb backup phone that is basically a tank, this is probably your best option.
- Caterpillar B25 Rugged Dumb Phone
Not quite a tank, but a tactical dumb phone nonetheless. Still high quality, and a bit cheaper than the last option.
- LG B220 Mobile Dumb Phone
The most affordable option in the bunch. And can’t go wrong with LG.
Do You Have a Backup Phone? Is it a Dumb Phone?
Let me know if you’ve got a backup phone yourself.
Where do you keep it? Is it a smart phone or a dumb phone?
How often do you charge your backup phone? How long does it last on standby?
Drop a line below in the comments!
I do have one, and it’s a Philips E103. It’s responsive at best and while calling it still lets me send an SMS and has a great standby time. Brightness is adjustable too and accepts micro sd cards up to 32 Gb capacity. Also has a dual sim function.
Other than that it’s still basic and lasts for days even if I use it for calls daily. Charges fast too with a micro usb port.
It’s pretty light but durable, also has a flashlight in case of emergencies plus an FM radio, Not sure if I could switch it to AM though, it could be useful for emergency news broadcasts.
Thomas Xavier says
Exactly! The best thing about them really is the battery life- especially compared to smartphones!
Check if cell towers are still servicing those old lines. I had an old 2g phone that worked well, but the service to the cell towers fell behind because of service to newer 3g and above. Consequently, the phone refused to take / receive calls about a 1/3 of the time. I upgraded to a 3g and now I’m golden.
Just make sure the phone still works with present is all I’m saying. Good article !
Elise Xavier says
Definitely! Thanks for sharing your experience – I’m sure it would’ve been terrible to realize this if/when you really needed the phone!
Some more points to consider:
– SIM cards sizes: the newer smartphones uses the smaller ones (e.g. micro or nano SIM) but the older dumbphones the full sized one, you will need an adapter to be backward compatible.
– Connectors for power and data: before the regulation about the mandatory compatibility with micro USB (native or with adapter) there were many different, not compatible types, from e.g. Nokia, Samsung, Sony-Ericsson, etc which makes it harder to find and borrow a charger for an older dumbphone (+ my old rugged Samsung uses a specific connector for the audio too..)
– Most (all?) of the dumbphones have a FM radio receiver (using a wired headset as an antenna or in some cases it is built in the case), which can be usefull too. (Many new smartphones lacks this feature.)
Elise Xavier says
All good points, which is why I think it is better to get one new dumb phone and be done with it. My old Sony Ericsson has a terribly silly little charger – if I ever lost or broke it I’d be out of luck as no one else around me would ever have the same one and I’d have to search eBay for a working charger with no other really viable options.
Thanks for pointing these things out! Helpful!
Another good use for dumb phones, those with card slots, allow you to store .PDF files, documents, manuals, maps – for bug out resources – more of a poor mans lap top file reader which is FAR more hearty than a real lap top or tablet.
Elise Xavier says
Oh yes for sure a good idea to keep some pdfs on there. Especially short instruct-able ones that get straight to the point.
I’ve never used a ‘smart phone’. Don’t want to. Too easy to track. A ‘dumb phone’ for me…as-well-as a few “burners”, if needed…
Elise Xavier says
Well, and you’re probably saving considerably on your phone bills as well.
I think at this point, the government will find a way to track you no matter how hard you try. Pretty frustrating..
Virginia Nicols says
A step even further back is to get a simple plug-into-the-wall land line. In a big emergency (here in So Cal), cell towers could be out, power will surely be out thus disabling rove-a-phones. (This has happened several times.) But the old-fashioned land lines keep working! $10 or so at Walmart.
Be aware that nowadays more and more phone companies are transferring the landline calls from a local switching center via the IP network (Internet) too, in this case probably it will be out too.
Elise Xavier says
Yup, couldn’t agree more with both of you. I love those old land lines, but they definitely do seem to be being replaced pretty quickly. Maybe it’s cheaper for the phone companies.
I had a smart phone for about a month until my terrier put his teeth through the screen, I went back to using my trusty old bumb Nokia and still use it as my main phone. If it’s not broke why fix it? Only costs me €15 a month, and, like Maura, there’s a garmin in the car if I need it..
Elise Xavier says
Oh my goodness O_O; That’s some serious bad luck with your first smart phone, though!!
While I personally can’t live without my smart phone, all the more power to you if you can!
I have a dumb phone. It is my only phone. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it takes pictures. I refuse to pay all of that money on a smart phone and the monthly charges. Besides, if you really need to google map, somebody around you will have a smart phone and be happy to help you. But what about in the car, alone, lost? I have a Garmin. it was cheap, can be updated, and plugs into the car.
Elise Xavier says
Whatever works! I can’t live without my smart phone, but I noticed I don’t use it out as much as I thought, so I’m downgrading to a very cheap plan, as luckily they’re available here.
I like to have the option because I sometimes get anxious not being able to find my own way, Google Maps is *so* helpful in a pinch, but that pinch rarely occurs so there’s no reason to pay full price, which is why the downgrade.
But yes, if you can make cheaper work for you, I’d definitely say save those $$$. A little saving goes a long way.
Good suggestions based upon your life style.
1. I have a smart phone, new in the box, and do not have a service. Why? Because I don’t talk on a phone when I drive, I am not far from an office/home phone very often. I also don’t want to pay $40 a month. I can also work the non-Sims phone from a free internet connection, at least that is what it seems.
2. I put in a new home telephone system over the week-end with 5 units at home for under $100. I had a learning curve of a few hours over a couple of days. I don’t want to go through a learning curve every few years.
3. My back up phones are old fashioned dial phones for when the modern technology takes a dump.
4. Despite the requirement that a cell phone be able to dial in an emergency, I dumped my 7 year old Verizon phone that did not have a removable Sims card. If there is an emergency in my area because shtf, the local police, fire and ambulance services will not come. The last time we had a major riot, the local sheriff’s substation was closed as tight as a drum and no calls were accepted from the public because resources were sent elsewhere.
Elise Xavier says
Yes, it obviously depends on the kind of emergency you have. Calling for help obviously works much better if it’s a personal emergency and not a SHTF situation where lots of people need help. Personal medical emergency though, this set up you have of even just a back up phone with no SIM would really come in handy.
Yes I do have a dumb phone (Nokia 105 with 2 sim) and I put prepaid cards in it so I have the 3 cellphone providers (in Belgium). I also programmed my smartphone if it loses signal to switch tje signal to the dumb phone (this way I am always reachable)
Elise Xavier says
Very nice, makes perfect sense!
Stanley S Czajkowski says
It’s actually a really good and realistic idea. I have a dumb phone in my bug out bag, and 1 on my night stand. If if these phones are not activated, which it obviously won’t be, you call 911 from ANY PHONE in case of an emergency.
Elise Xavier says