The 10 Best Retro Phones
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in March of 2016. It may be hard to believe, but not so long ago telephones had to be plugged into the wall in order to function. With all of our modern conveniences, you have to admit there's something charming about the way things used to be. So, if you want to add a touch of historical flair or whimsy to your home or office, try one of these striking retro phones and get ready to take a trip down memory lane. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 28, 2020:
Not only for decorative purposes, all of these retro-inspired phones are compatible with universal landlines, and often include modern functions such as illuminated keypads, hands-free calling, and even caller ID.
In this update, we made two new additions to the ranking. The Irisvo Old Fashioned is a 1940s replica with a functional rotary dial, and similar to the Pyle Antique Country and the Crosley Kettle Classic, it features a real mechanical bell that gives it an authentic ringing sound. It also has a couple of more modern features with its hands-free calling and redial functions.
Our second addition is the elegant Opis 1921 Model D. This wall-mounted option is made from solid wood with a brass receiver and an authentic cloth covered cable. It includes several adapters for use throughout Europe and supports DTMF tone dialing.
March 19, 2019:
The TelPal Corded Old Fashion was added due to its popularity, high performance, and variety of designs. Virtually all of the products in this list are compatible with standard phone jacks, though the Collectibles Buy Candlestick, which was added to replace the Crosley Candlestick, requires a dedicated line to function. The products chosen represent everything from super-retro rotary models to mid-century candy-colored options, hopefully providing a broad enough selection to accommodate most decor preferences.
Why Go Retro?
Some technologies are hard to pin down to a single decade, however.
It's hard to say whether this is a recent development, starting perhaps in the 1990s, but it seems as though our culture's sense of retro fashion trends tends to reach back about three decades from the present moment for inspiration. The grunge styles of the early and mid 1990s may very well have been one of the last original movements in fashion to grace our closets and homes. In the late 1990s, it seemed like everybody was reaching back to the late 1960s and early 1970s for plaid shirts with a western tilt and bootcut jeans, which were little more than modern versions of the bell bottom.
As the first decade of the second millennium got going, it seemed as though fashion left behind the 1970s in favor of the bright colors and infectious dance beats of the 1980s. And today, among a generation of kids who weren't alive in the 1990s, the fashion, and even some of the technology from that decade has begun a resurgence in the zeitgeist.
Some technologies are hard to pin down to a single decade, however. Vinyl records, for example, began regaining popularity in the late 1990s, and are still rather popular today. That popularity has little to do with whether they were manufactured more in the 1960s or the 1970s; their particular retro-style has become somewhat timeless.
The same could perhaps be said about the retro phones on our list. At a certain point in the relatively near future, any phone that actually plugs into a wall jack will qualify as retro, as cellular communications become the sole means by which we stay in touch. As a result of this trend, depending on how old you are, the fact that some of the phones on our list qualify as retro might bear you some offense. After all, there are models on the market calling themselves retro telephones that you may very well have used when you were young. Does that make you an old fogey? Well, let's just say you're only as old as you feel and leave it at that.
But if the trend is moving toward cellular communication and away from these old fashioned devices, why bother investing in one in the first place? The primary reason would have to be style. The phones on this list make a statement and set your usage pattern apart from that of your peers, whether you're plugging your retro phone into the wall or allowing it to connect to your cell phone. The secondary reason, and perhaps the most compelling reason for you to invest in a retro phone is simply nostalgia. We've become so anesthetized to our communications experience that there exists in it little to no emotional value. But when you pick up that handset receiver from your childhood, or you speak into an old-fashioned telephone from before you were even alive, it serves as a reminder of days gone by, as well as a way, perhaps, to feel young again.
Choosing A Retro Phone
When you're in the market for something like a retro phone, there's a good chance that your decision will be based primarily on aesthetics. There's no shame in this, so don't beat yourself up if you find a phone you like the look of and choose to buy it regardless of its other features. If you are at all curious about those features, however, they can help ensure that you end up with a phone that not only looks good, but that functions effectively in your home, as well.
When you're in the market for something like a retro phone, there's a good chance that your decision will be based primarily on aesthetics.
A lot of the Retro phones on the market are designed to work like any landline phone would work. They plug into a phone jack in your home and allow you to receive and make phone calls on that landline whenever and to whomever you please. The obvious problem with these models is that an increasing number of people are choosing not to pay for a phone line in their home, and to rely exclusively on their cell phones and internet connections instead. That could make your retro phone a wonderful piece of wall art, but it wouldn't be very functional.
The good news is that there are some models on the market that are designed to interface with your smartphone, as well, though these are somewhat more rare.
Beyond connectivity, keep an eye out for things like the length of the cord that attaches your handset to the phone itself. We've become rather used to the ability to wander a great distance while talking on our cell phones, and if you take too forceful of a step while tethered to your retro phone, you might accidentally yank it off the wall.
Other Hot Retro Accessories
If you are all about retro accessories for your home, there are plenty of things you can do to spruce your place up without having to spend a fortune for the privilege. A good retro phone is just the first step in this direction.
To compliment it, you'll want to get your hands on a few other retro devices.
To compliment it, you'll want to get your hands on a few other retro devices. One of the most functional and enjoyable throwbacks you can invest in is a good record player, especially one that has a vintage look. Accompanied by a large and impressive record collection, your vintage vinyl station will be the centerpiece of your retro home.
The living room isn’t the only place you can take the style, either. Your kitchen presents ample opportunities for some throwback fun. Things like retro toasters, mixers, and timers can all add a little bit of that back-in-the-day flair to your space.
Just make sure you keep certain important items in your house up to date, like your television, security system, and toilet. After all, no self-respecting criminal wants to successfully break into your house just to find out you have a piece of junk for a TV and then get splashed with water when using the bathroom before hitting the road.