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Most of us don’t know a 5G phone from a kiloamp capacitor. “5G” is just what commercials say to imply that a phone is good, but do you really need 5G service?
In today’s fast-paced world, 5G comes with a lot of benefits. Basically, 5G means “fifth generation,” referring to the standard in global wireless connection speeds. Prior generations were labeled 4G, 3G, and so on. If your phone can connect to a 5G network, your connections will be clearer, your upload and download speeds will be faster, and your whole cell phone experience will be smoother — particularly if you use your phone to stream videos and FaceTime with friends.
Even if you have a 5G plan, however, you can’t connect to a 5G network without a compatible phone, which is why we researched the best ones seniors should consider buying in 2023.
FYI: If you’re not concerned about ultra-fast data speeds, you can definitely find more affordable devices. To see our favorites, check out our rundown of the best phones for seniors.
With the iPhone SE, you can get access to all of Apple’s app content, such as iMessage, Apple Music, and everything else in the app store, for half the price of bigger iPhones. If you listen to a lot of music or play a lot of games, this phone is a great choice.
We liked the 4.7-inch screen, but it isn’t quite bright enough to see in broad daylight. The pictures and videos we took were high quality, even though the phone doesn’t have night mode.
Its call quality is clear, and the integration of voice commands allows you to call your contacts, browse the internet, and play music using only your voice. The phone’s back is made of a durable glass plate, which you usually only see in higher-end phones.
If $430 is in your price range, this is the best 5G phone you can buy. The iPhone SE is also compatible with T-Mobile’s senior plans, which offer unlimited 5G for as low as $27.50 per line. To learn more about these plans, read our T-Mobile senior plan review.
At $249, the Moto G 5G is our pick for the best 5G Android you can buy. The 6.5-inch screen is very visible, but it can’t compete with Apple devices for image clarity despite having a sharper screen than previous Moto G models.
The phone has a nice speaker, still has a physical headphone jack, and comes rated for decent water resistance. You can use it in the rain, even if it can’t be dunked in water. The phone’s performance was also great, with videos and games running with minimal buffering and a 13.5-hour battery that ensures it won’t cut out on you or your grandkids in the middle of playing.
The thing we liked the least was the on-screen keyboard, which has a habit of double-tapping letters and numbers. It may take some getting used to, but the Moto G is still good value.
The ZMax 5G is our pick for the best 5G phone under $200. With a 6.74-inch, 1600-by-720 display, you’ll have no trouble using this Android phone in any viewing conditions. It features expandable storage, Bluetooth 5.0, and even M4/T4 hearing aid compatibility.
The phone has about a day of battery life, too, so it’s equally great for people who want to use their phone all day and those who save it for emergencies. The phone is made of plastic to cut costs, but the ZMax feels so great to hold, you’d never know it was so cheap.
On the downside, the speaker could be louder and the 8MP camera is somewhat low quality compared to the cameras on the iPhone. If this is as much as you want to spend on a smartphone and you don’t mind foregoing Apple’s apps, however, the ZMax could be your ideal pick.
When it comes to affordable data, Consumer Cellular is one of our favorite options, offering unlimited plans that can cost less than $30 per line. To learn more about this provider, read our Consumer Cellular review.
The iPhone 14 is our pick for a premium 5G Apple device, even over the alternatives that cost over $1,000. At $799.99, it’s not the most expensive phone out there, but it’s where the value peaks on Apple’s devices.
The vibrant 6.1-inch screen is industry-leading quality, while the A15 Bionic CPU will let you play games and watch movies from Apple’s apps to your heart’s content. The battery life is only around nine to 10 hours, but the 48MP camera is one of the best in the business. Even if you don’t know what 48MP means, just know that it’s a lot — everything from action shots of your grandkids playing to low-light photos will look amazing.
There aren’t many downsides outside of the price. The screen has a 60Hz refresh rate, which means it’s not quite as responsive as some displays in its price range. It also doesn’t have a SIM card slot, which could make a difference for international travelers.
For premium picks within Apple’s range of devices, however, the iPhone 14 is the one to beat.
When purchased from Verizon, the phone also comes with one of our favorite overall cellular networks. To learn about the company’s discounts for seniors, read our rundown of Verizon’s senior plans.
The Galaxy S23 is your best bet for a premium non-Apple 5G phone. The $799.99 Galaxy competes directly with the iPhone 14 for our premium options, and we honestly don’t think you could go wrong with either one.
The S23’s camera isn’t quite as good as Apple’s, but the smaller form factor makes it way more pocket-friendly. The 6.1-inch screen is no slouch either, letting you take full advantage of the phone’s Gen 2 Snapdragon 8 processor for all your gaming and multitasking needs during the phone’s 13-hour battery life.
We also love the device’s build, which seems great for smaller hands like your tech-savvy grandkids’. But don’t worry about them breaking it! Samsung went all out with an aluminum body plated with Gorilla Glass on both sides for durability. It’s also rated IP68 for water resistance, which means it can be submerged for a half-hour without worry.
A 5G connection can make a huge difference in call clarity, video streaming quality, and the overall consistency of your phone’s performance. Remember that not all areas have reliable 5G service, so check your network’s coverage before shelling out for a compatible phone.
Some flip phones are 5G-enabled, such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip series. In our experience, however, smartphone designs take full advantage of the features you get by paying extra for 5G connectivity, such as faster download speeds and better videos.