Cell phones: institutional edition
January 3, 2017 6:28 PM   Subscribe

The institution I work for allows cell phones as long as they are pre-paid and have no camera, internet capability or voice recording. Does such a thing (still) exist?

I work for a locked residential facility that allows clients to have cell phones as long as they follow strict usage rules and the phones meet the above criteria. The problem is no current phones seem to. Even the $9.99 special at K-Mart has a camera. Is there anything, available in the US, that meets them?

If, as I suspect, there are none, can you help me prove it so I can get my workplace to change this policy?
(The policy change I'd like to see is to allow staff to disable the cameras, so if you have suggestions for phones that meet the above except for the camera that'd be helpful, too.)
posted by arrmatie to Technology (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I purchased a $25 burner phone recently from AT&T that meets those specs. It has no camera and is pre-paid on gophone, AT&T's prepaid plan, which has some low-rate plans. ($25/month for unlimited texting and 250 minutes talk time, or prepaid for 10 cents per text and per minute)
posted by shortyJBot at 6:31 PM on January 3, 2017

Response by poster: Do you have a name/model?
posted by arrmatie at 6:32 PM on January 3, 2017

Try looking at phones for kids like the Firefly. This site lists some basic cell phone options that either don't have Internet access or easily restrict it (parental controls).
posted by lovelygirl at 6:34 PM on January 3, 2017

"Basic phones" seems to be the phrase you want.
posted by Michele in California at 6:36 PM on January 3, 2017

You might look for emergency phones.
posted by 26.2 at 6:59 PM on January 3, 2017

How strict are they about enforcing the policy? I used to work at a facility that made credit cards, and for obvious reasons, phones with cameras were frowned upon. We were supposed to leave them either in our cars or in a coat room thing before security. But nobody actually did. The most common reason was because iPods had turned into iPhones, and so people needed them to listen to music (which was permitted). Management didn't actually care (probably because they did the same thing). As long as you had headphones on, and your phone was in your pocket, you were ok.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:17 PM on January 3, 2017

Response by poster: I am staff at this facility, the phones are for clients. Please assume the policies exist for good reasons.
posted by arrmatie at 7:23 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Phones with limited capabilities will always be a thing. Maybe not for people in locked residential facilities specifically, but millions of people work in places where full smartphones aren't allowed, like intelligence agencies or data centers, and they still want to be able to contact their families.

I have a Motorola F3. It's a pretty great phone with a broad cult following. In case that one's too weird, there's the Nokia 105. There are even Android smartphones that are specifically designed without cameras, but they're pretty hard to find and expensive.

One problem is that the 2G bands are going away in the next couple years, and many of these phones have no 3G capability because why would they. But I'm sure someone will fill that niche when it happens.
posted by miyabo at 7:44 PM on January 3, 2017

I just ordered a Nokia 105 basic phone for $22. It doesn't have all the features you don't want, except maybe voice recording, don't know about that.
posted by Joe Chip at 7:44 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you can find a Nokia 105 that works in the us, that will meet your requirements. Or you could try the Samsung 157a, which also might.
posted by mgrrl at 7:54 PM on January 3, 2017

Best answer: Nokia 105 is great and doesn't do voice recording. The 157a does have a voice memo feature, so that's a no go. But the Nokia 105 isn't going to be sold by any US carrier, whether online or in a store. It's essentially a weird niche greyish market phone, so good luck getting official support for it.

But: the Huawei H110C on Tracfone is totally barebones and $9.99.
posted by holgate at 8:21 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure the 105 will work with AT&T since they still support 2G from what I can determine on their website. Will report back.
posted by Joe Chip at 9:11 PM on January 3, 2017

DealExtreme offers 'card' phones like this one, and also this 'senior phone'. Both seem to fit your requirements.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:04 AM on January 4, 2017

I'm pretty sure the 105 will work with AT&T since they still support 2G from what I can determine on their website.

AT&T started shutting down their 2G network on December 31.
posted by zamboni at 5:37 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I work in a field with some pretty tough security requirements, and it really isn't uncommon for people to just break or remove the camera from their basic tracfones.
posted by General Malaise at 5:48 AM on January 4, 2017

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