Two phones ago I had a Samsung Gleam on Verizon. It was super thin, the buttons were plenty big for my large thumbs. I could view new texts on the outside display without even opening the phone.
Unfortunately, it was buggy. I lost all of my contacts twice. Near the end of its lifespan, it was crashing and glitching out pretty frequently (my sister and girlfriend had the same phone, the same thing happened to both of theirs).
I replaced it with a Chocolate Touch, which was terrible. I now have an LG Accolade (battery life is great, form factor is terrible) and my contact is coming up.
I have a smartphone through work, so I have no need to pay for a second smartphone for myself. But I still want a personal phone to keep business and personal stuff separate. My choices for non-smartphones on Verizon is poor, nothing that I've seen is as good as the Gleam.
So is there something new available that is small, shows texts without opening the phone, but isn't super buggy?
I see that Samsung released the J400 after the Gleam, it appears to have the same form factor as the Gleam. Could I simply buy one of those and activate it?
Trying to find a non-smartphone test days is almost too tricky. Motorola Barrage, maybe? I'd check reviews or see if you can find a live demo (not very likely) to make sure you see text on the external display.
If not that, I'd be sorely tempted to just get a sub-$100 smartphone with as little data as possible on it, such as an iPhone 4 or an Xperia Play.