Here at The Senior List, we think a smartphone is a wonderful investment for any senior who would like to stay connected to friends, family, and the outside world. They’re a great way to take and share photos, connect on social media, look for local information, and much more.
For anyone looking to keep in touch and have an easy way to call, text, surf the web, or share updates with family and friends, a smartphone is a great choice.
What Should Seniors Look For In A Smartphone?
Everybody has different smartphone needs. Here are some things we recommend considering:
- Ease of use. There are several smartphones on the market designed especially with seniors in mind, and they usually feature large buttons or displays.
- Camera. For some people the camera is a big consideration. If you love taking photographs, a model with a high quality camera is a must.
- Speakers. If you plan to make a lot of calls or stream a lot of media, good quality speakers are essential.
- Battery. Most smartphone batteries are adequate for daily use, but if you like to stream shows, play games, or use a lot of apps, you’ll want a model with a robust battery.
- Cost. Both the cost of the unit and the cost of the long term plan are important considerations. Consider your budget and how much you want to allocate to a monthly phone plan. Be sure to check the terms of the plan before signing up.
- Emergency buttons. Many smartphones for seniors include emergency buttons that you can press to make a call in an emergency. This is a great feature for additional peace of mind.
The Best Smartphones For Seniors
The Senior List has done the research to help make your decision easier. Here is our roundup of the best smartphones for seniors in 2017:
A round up of senior-friendly smartphones wouldn’t be complete without the popular Jitterbug Smart. The Jitterbug Smart features a bright, clear 5.5” display with a simplified menu that lets you find frequently used features, fast.
Jitterbug Smart offers a feature-packed phone that is easy to use, but where it really comes into its own is with its emergency features.
Jitterbug users never have to worry about missed medication, thanks to Medcoach which sends prescription and pill reminders. Jitterbug also comes with Urgent Care, which connects users to registered nurses and doctors who can answer any medical questions. Finally, 5Star is a medical alert service that connects to live help agents no matter what time of the day or night.
Cost: $149.99, plus monthly plan and activation
Smartphones for seniors make it easy to keep in touch, while also providing peace of mind and emergency help when needed. That’s why we recommend choosing a phone that was designed specifically with seniors in mind. With four such user-friendly and feature-packed options on the market, you should be able to find one that's right for you.
Doro 824 SmartEasy
We love the Doro 824 SmartEasy from Consumer Cellular. This lovely little phone was designed to be uncluttered and easy to use, and it shows. There’s a clear 5” display that has large icons and text. The operating system is straightforward, with easy access to commonly used features.
Doro gives you peace of mind, too. The phone features a button that can be preprogrammed with a number of your choice. In an emergency, just hit that button to make a call. There are also buttons for easy access to the home screen, recently used applications, and to skip back a screen.
We especially love the Doro Manager app. Trusted family members or friends can download the app and use it to remotely help their senior loved one manage their phone.
Cost: $100, plus selected phone plan. Discounts for AARP members.
Snapfon’s smartphone for seniors was designed to be simple to use. Its big buttons and numbers make it easy to see, while the hearing-aid compatible design and enhanced volume make it easy to hear, too.
Snapfon also offers an emergency button you can hold down to be connected to an agent who will place a call to a chosen contact or the emergency services on your behalf.
We especially love Snapfon’s low battery warning feature. Users can set the phone to text a nearby friend, relative or caregiver if their battery gets low.
Cost: Two for $79.99, plus selected phone plan on Amazon. 30 day money back guarantee.
Blu’s Joy phone was designed for seniors, yet looks as modern as any regular smartphone, thanks to a smooth leather pattern battery cover and streamlined body.
Joy features large buttons and numbers, and a clear full color 2.4” display. The emergency button on the back can be used to connect to police, medical or firefighters with just one press.
Joy has plenty of features such as a camera and media player that make it easy to enjoy content or take and share photos, still with an eye on ease of use.
Cost: $34.99. This phone seems to be currently out of stock at retailers with promises to have more soon. We will update this post once we see it back in stock.
Top 10 Questions to Ask About Senior Friendly Cell Phones
Since our early coverage of senior friendly cell phones, there have been many new additions and improvements to the market of cell phones for the elderly. Phones have become sleeker, have longer lasting batteries and come with additional features that weren't available with early models.
Does the phone have an easily accessible emergency call button? Many of the Senior Friendly Cell Phones do have a panic button located somewhere on the device. The bigger question…Is it intuitive/easy to find and understand?
What is the expected battery life? No one likes a fast-draining battery that has to be charged multiple times a day, especially when it's being used as a safety device. You should expect at least a full day of “normal use” on a single charge. Also, make sure the charging cord easily plugs into the phone without much effort. Additionally, you might want to purchase an extra charging cord (mine always seem to wander off).
Is the keypad easy to use with large, contrasting (white on black) keys? Other considerations for the keypad; Is it backlit? Are the keys easy to depress? Is the keypad simple and uncomplicated?
Is the phone a good ergonomic fit in the hand? Older hands may have trouble if a phone (or any object) is too big, and some have trouble with smaller phones. This is an entirely personal choice. Your loved one won't carry it (let alone use it) if they can't handle it comfortably. Would a flip phone or smartphone be preferable?
What networks (carriers) are supported? Sometimes it's better to start with the carrier of choice (and this may come down to what network coverage is available in your area), and work on the existing choices. Some phones come with their own carrier network. There are advantages and disadvantages to this model, but generally speaking if the phone is used with normal talk rates, the monthly plans won't break the bank. If it were up to me, I'd first start with my own carrier (everyone in our family uses the same one, primarily to take advantage of “friends and family” plans). If I didn't find a senior friendly phone that worked on our network, I'd look at phones/features independent of my own preferred carrier.
Are the volume settings loud enough in case someone is hard of hearing? Most of the senior friendly cell phones we have looked at over the years tout loud ring tones, a loud speaker phone option, and the ability to amplify the normal conversation when the phone is on the ear. This is always a good thing to test out before a purchase with the user to which options sound the best.
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Does this phone have built in fall detection technology? While there are very few phones today that offer fall detection built in to the phone, if a smartphone is chosen, there are many apps that can detect a fall (assuming the phone is on person when the fall occurs). In addition, there are more medical alert systems offering mobile (GPS) options.
What is my total monthly cost for this phone, and the associated plan I'm choosing? This is more closely related to the usage plan you're choosing from the carrier of the phone. If you're purchasing insurance, factor that in too (usually another $5-$10 per month). Also, find out ahead of time what happens if you go over allotted minutes.
Are there other services included in my choice of phone or monthly plan? Specific questions: Is texting included? Are concierge services included (Great Call senior friendly cell phones offers this feature)? Is quick or speed dial available? How about texting and photos?
Can family members send pictures to this phone? I've been amazed at how my parents have adapted to text messaging (specifically sending and receiving photos). Once they begin to receive photos of the grandkids, they'll be hooked. Be prepared to provide some training and practice sessions if this is a new feature for a loved one.
As seniors increasingly embrace cell phones, the market will continue to grow for the best cell phones for older adults and in turn, the features and enhancements will only improve. We cover lots of topics like this, see other posts about mobile phones here.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in Nov, 2010 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.