It’s no longer just seniors who want easy-to-use phones without too many apps and options. Practical clamshell cell phones, which were hugely popular 25 years ago, are gaining popularity again today.
And the best part is that well-known services like WhatsApp, Google Maps and even YouTube have found their way to such mobile phones that can open and close.
Advantages of today’s clamshell phones
long battery life, what today’s smartphones can only dream of is one of the greatest assets of today’s clamshell phones. The Gigaset GL7 lasted more than 10 days in our test, and some other phones even lasted up to 28 days. But there are other benefits that certainly not only retirees appreciate.
Buttons instead of touchscreen: The elderly and people with disabilities prefer knots that they can feel. For example, if there is no feeling in the fingertips. Real and large keys make it easier to write longer texts. This way you stay in touch with your family.
Robust: Due to their construction, clamshell phones protect the screen. If they fall down, the screen is not immediately broken. After all, it is protected by the folding function.
Two screens: Some clamshell phones have a second screen on the top. It informs you about new notifications, WhatsApp messages or the time without having to open the phone.
Reduced to the essentials: In the past, calling and messaging functions were sufficient on clamshell telephones. Today’s clamshell phones are clearly designed and easy to use. This makes it easier and more understandable for laymen to get started.
Modern: Reduced to the essentials, but not from “yesterday”. The number of clamshell phones with WhatsApp is constantly increasing. You can also use the following on many devices:
- Google Maps: Probably the best known navigation software for on the go.
- YouTube: You can also watch videos on clamshell phones.
- Emails: With a simple e-mail program you can access your e-mails on the go.
- facebook: This social network is especially popular with older users. This way you stay in touch with friends.
- browser: Thanks to an internet browser, you can access most websites at any time.
Current technology: Clamshell phones now have important standards such as Bluetooth to listen to music wirelessly or to connect to hearing aids. You can usually use two SIM cards and access the internet quickly via LTE.
Additional features for seniors: SOS emergency call button, speed dial options for important phone numbers, extra large and backlit keys – many clamshell phones are explicitly aimed at seniors and offer a corresponding added value that is not available in this form with regular smartphones.
Disadvantages of current clamshell phones
While today’s smartphones are faster and smoother to use, they are also much more expensive. Here, a clamshell phone with WhatsApp and Google Maps may be the better choice. However, they have some drawbacks:
Performance: Manufacturers rely on very energy-efficient, but also relatively weak processors and very little memory. Menus seem a bit slow, service is delayed. If this doesn’t bother you, the phone will reward you with a long battery life.
Clumsy operation: Based on the classic T9 input help (usually without dictionary) of the past, typing with the buttons on the clamshell phone, especially with messengers like WhatsApp, takes some getting used to and slow compared to a smartphone. But with a little practice, navigation and controls are no obstacle.
Weak cameras: Outdated cameras with 2 megapixels and less – this is not uncommon for clamshell phones. And unhappy. As if seniors and less experienced phone users don’t want to take good pictures too. Too bad: a selfie camera, for example for video calling on WhatsApp, usually does not exist.
Process: While glass and not infrequently aluminum are used in smartphones, clamshell phones are often “plastic bombers”. Plastic dominates, which provides stability but also looks a bit cheap.
shows: The Emporia Touchsmart.2 has a 1.54 inch external screen with a resolution of 240 x 240 pixels. The display on the inside is 3.25 inches and has a resolution of 480 x 854 pixels. Smartphone screens have a much higher resolution and are larger. Although the low resolutions allow good readability for the visually impaired, this is no longer up to date.
The right operating system for the clamshell phone with WhatsApp
If you want a clamshell phone especially for WhatsApp, before you buy it, you should pay attention to the operating system of the phone:
KaiOS: The operating system for so-called Smart Feature Phones is installed on many clamshell phones. If you select such a device, WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Google Maps are already included. Even a small AppStore is integrated, which offers a few games and applications. In the past we already published an article about the best apps for KaiOS in the trend blog. Good to know: KaiOS is designed for button operation, so you can get used to it quickly.
Android: Older clamshell phones from Emporia, for example, use Android, Google’s operating system. The huge range of apps from the Google Play Store is nice here. So if you want to use a messenger other than WhatsApp or if you want to get even more out of your phone, a clamshell phone with Android is the first choice.
S30+: The operating system is mainly found on Nokia clamshell phones. If you want a phone for WhatsApp, we don’t recommend this software. Messenger is not available for S30+. There are no noteworthy apps anyway.
Classic clamshell phone with messenger and more: Gigaset GL7 in the test
A current clamshell phone with WhatsApp functionality is “Made in Germany”. With the GL7, the Bocholt-based company Gigaset offers an attractive representative for just over 100 euros. Our test showed that this is a good representative for many situations in life.
Interesting about the GL7 is the all-round carefree package from Gigaset: there is even a special button to start WhatsApp. There is no faster way to achieve the goal of communicating with loved ones. The phone speed dial keys for the three most important numbers are practical. And all the buttons are large and illuminated, which makes operation much easier.
The KaiOS operating system used is our favorite among clamshell phones when it comes to user-friendly and easy navigation without major detours. Relevant for seniors and people with disabilities: the SOS button on the back. When pressed in an emergency, the phone automatically dials up to five previously defined numbers in succession. Until someone picks it up.
Because of the price, there are a few aspects that Gigaset could change in perhaps even more expensive models: without a front camera there is no video calling with WhatsApp – too bad. The plastic parts also dominate the GL7. Low-resolution displays and a weak camera make it clear that the device is aimed at those who mainly want to remain reachable and communicate occasionally.
Conclusion: good clamshell phone with WhatsApp and more
The Gigaset GL7 is a textbook example of a contemporary clamshell phone with WhatsApp and internet functions. If you only need Google Maps now and then, if you want to keep in touch with your family via WhatsApp or if you rarely watch a video on YouTube, you can get everything here for around 100 euros in the form of a foldable phone with buttons.
Despite the plastic, the finish is good, the folding mechanism is stable and thanks to KaiOS every menu is clear. The additional features that are suitable for seniors are not only useful for older people.
The battery life of more than 10 days is a real highlight. But you have to keep in mind that this is not a smartphone, but a mobile phone that is reminiscent of the 90s in look and feel. And that doesn’t feel bad at all.
|✅Battery can be replaced||❌ Weak camera|
|✅ Speed Dial Buttons and Emergency Button||❌ Controls that take some getting used to|
|✅ Useful apps pre-installed||❌ Rarely any problems with WLAN|
|✅ USB-C for charging||❌ Robust, but a lot of plastic|
|✅ Including charging station & headphones|
Alternatives to the Gigaset GL7 with WhatsApp: Nokia 2760, Nokia 2720, Alcatel Go Flip 4, Emporia Touchsmart.2,
Clamshell phone inspiration: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4
Samsung illustrates the influence that clamshell phones still have today with the new Galaxy Z Flip 4. Here too, the typical mechanism is used to fold two high-resolution screens together.
The Z Flip 4 isn’t just in a different league when it comes to price: here you get the latest hardware and a current version of Google’s Android operating system. For less experienced users, the smartphone it ultimately is is probably too big.
On the other hand, if you appreciate subtle retro charm through its clamshell look, up-to-date technology and see yourself as a discerning user, the Z Flip 4 could be just what you’re looking for. And of course WhatsApp also runs on this. However, you have to do without real buttons in favor of the touchscreen.