A feature phone is a type of mobile phone that sits between a smartphone and a basic mobile phone. In other words, it’s not as advanced and feature-rich as a smartphone and, at the same time, not as rudimentary in functionality as a standard mobile device. The pricing is also somewhere between a smartphone and basic phone. As far as functionalities and features go, a feature phone can make calls and send text messages. It also comes with a color screen (touch or non-touch), camera, media player, basic web browsing capabilities, etc. that a standard phone doesn’t offer.

Nokia 3310 (2017). Image credit: Flickr
Nokia 3310 (2017). Image credit: Flickr

A feature phone typically comes with pre-installed apps, with no scope for installing new applications. Essentially, a feature phone has everything a smartphone has, but those features aren’t as enhanced or cutting-edge as the ones on smartphones. Also, a feature phone invariably has a physical keypad, which almost all smartphones are devoid of, except for a few Blackberry phones.  

Differentiating a Feature Phone from a Smartphone

Probably, the thing that differentiates a feature phone from a smartphone the most is the operating system. Unlike a smartphone, a feature phone doesn’t run third-party OS software, such as Android or Windows Phone, and some of them may even not run third-party apps. Invariably, the manufacturer has its own software on-board and the OS cannot be found on phones made by other manufacturers.

Besides the aforementioned software and hardware features, a feature phone usually has a unique design pattern. The phone is boxy and compact. A keypad is almost a given, along with certain unique design traits such as flip and slide functionality. Smartphones are usually rectangular and symmetrical in design. Features phone could have an outlandish or more non-conventional shape and design.

Advantages

The following are some advantages of a feature phone:

  • High-quality build, trendy looks and style (flip phones) at an affordable price.
  • A lot more durable than smartphones, thanks to the smaller screen real estate and thicker profiles.
  • Much longer battery life (may span days) when compared to smartphones. The longer endurance could be attributed to the less demanding hardware (screen size and resolution, processor, etc.), and lesser apps running in the background.
  • Fairly inexpensive compared to mid-range and high-end smartphones. However, budget smartphones may not have a lot between them and feature phones as far as pricing goes. Feature phones by luxury phone makers such as Vertu, Gresso, and Bellperre are usually a lot more expensive.   

Disadvantages

A feature phone has a few drawbacks too. Those include:

  • Mobile data options and the overall Internet experience on a feature phone is not desirable. For instance, most feature phones limit their mobile Internet capabilities to 2G and 3G.
  • Feature phone cameras are mediocre at best.
  • Still not as feature-packed as a smartphone. For instance, no push email, Full HD video recording, sensors (proximity, barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer), fast charging/wireless charging, virtual assistant, etc.
  • Popular apps are available but they are generally stripped-down variants of the original apps designed for much capable hardware.
  • As aforementioned, a feature phone doesn’t have an online marketplace, which means apps cannot be downloaded.
  • Watching videos or gaming on a feature phone is definitely not the best experience ever.

Moreover, the growing market of smartphones and the various price points they come at are making feature phones less relevant than they used to be.

Who is a Feature Phone For?

A feature phone is for people who want a good balance between price and features and aren’t really particular about their phone’s camera, processing speed and power, etc. People who don’t have the budget for a smartphone and find a standard cell phone underwhelming usually prefer feature phones. Generally, kids and seniors use a feature phone, and also people who are buying their first mobile phone. And people who keep two mobile phones usually use a feature phone as their secondary phone.