Simple Phones for Every Age
Everyone needs to be connected. Seniors, who may be isolated from their families or have specific health needs, shouldn’t be left out. While the smartphone industry, by and large, isn’t thinking about the particular needs of the senior market, if you pay attention you can find carriers, phones, and services that are tailored to folks who’d prefer a streamlined, easy-to-use, simple phone experience.
Being a senior citizen, in this case, isn’t about chronological age. It’s about a set of preferences, faculties, and, in some cases, lifestyle. Those in the “senior market” may have declining eyesight and hearing, may not feel like keeping up with the latest tech features, or
Our list includes some voice phones, some general-purpose smartphones, and one smartphone with a physical keyboard. The BlackBerry Key2 LE, Galaxy Note 9, iPhone XR, and Moto G7 Power are all available unlocked, so they can be paired with any compatible carrier; the others are typically sold in carrier-specific versions.
Two wireless carriers specialize in the senior market: GreatCall, which markets its phones as Jitterbug, and Consumer Cellular. GreatCall uses the Verizon network, and Consumer Cellular uses the AT&T and T-Mobile networks. Of the two, GreatCall has more specialized features for those who need health monitoring: an urgent response button, 24/7 access to nurses, and connected medical alert devices.
GreatCall’s Jitterbug Flip is a simple (yet solid) flip phone that currently works on Verizon’s 3G
Consumer Cellular has a marketing arrangement with AARP and doesn’t offer specialized services, but has received high marks in the past for customer service. The carrier has won our Readers’ Choice award four years running, largely on the strength of its customer service rating. The company’s Doro 7050 is a future-proof, 4G voice phone that gets excellent coverage. Consumer Cellular also offers our two high-end smartphone choices: the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and the Apple iPhone XR. In both cases, we picked phones with large screens and solid call quality, so you don’t have to squint to use them.
Senior Phones on Standard Carriers
Many seniors want voice-only devices, and the major wireless carriers still have some simple phones. You need to be smart about which simple phones you pick up, though, because of major changes coming in the carriers’ networks. All four of the major carriers have focused their energies on building 4G LTE networks. Although they’ve pledged to keep their existing networks up until at least 2019, the smart choice is to go with a voice phone that supports voice over 4G LTE. There are other benefits, as well. 4G LTE basic phones often have HD Voice, or high-quality voice calling, when calling other people on the same network (or between Verizon and AT&T). Those higher-quality calls can be easier on old ears.
Seniors looking for smartphones may prefer large, affordable devices with lower-resolution screens, so icons and touch targets are larger and easier to hit. There, we like the Moto G6 series, which is available in various forms on various carriers. Those phones all feature big screens, affordable prices, and solid battery life.
Samsung phones also have an Easy Mode with fewer obvious options, that’s available on phones from the low-cost J3 up to the high-end Galaxy S10 and Note 9.
Prepaid Carriers for Senior Phones
Seniors on fixed incomes may want to check out our story on The Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans You Never Heard Of, which features a lot of low-cost virtual carriers—prepaid carriers that use the major carriers’ networks, but tend to charge a lot less per month for basic service than the major carriers do. If you’re looking for limited, voice-only plans, you can get them on a range of carrier networks for around $ 10 per month.
Those plans usually require that you bring your own unlocked, compatible phone. That may involve buying a used phone from eBay, for instance. There are not currently any good, unlocked voice phones that support 4G voice calling, but you can use smartphones on voice-only plans as well; they just won’t be able to reach the internet without Wi-Fi.
For advice on how to pick the right carrier for you, head over to our story on the Fastest Mobile Networks.
Best Senior Phone Reviews Featured in This Roundup:
Pros: Big battery. Lots of storage. Excellent S Pen stylus. Class-leading processor and modem.
Cons: Expensive. Heavy.
Bottom Line: The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is an attractive pen-enabled phablet with a fast processor, a terrific modem, and a huge battery.
Pros: Combines 3G and 4G for maximum voice coverage. HD voice calling. Great keypad. Very simple UI. Bold fonts. Inexpensive.
Cons: No contact or calendar syncing. Poor camera. Doesn’t take advantage of OS’s potential.
Bottom Line: The Doro 7050 for Consumer Cellular is a rare affordable-yet-future-proof LTE voice phone. Its capabilities are very basic, but it’ll stay connected for years to come.
Pros: Simple menu. Big, bright display with large text. Backlit keypad. Dedicated 5Star Urgent Response button. Good call quality. Excellent battery life.
Cons: No internet or email access. No microSD card slot. Additional services cost extra.
Bottom Line: The Jitterbug Flip for GreatCall is a fantastic phone for seniors or anyone who needs a super-simple device, thanks to its easy-to-navigate menu, highly visible display, and dedicated 5Star Urgent Response button.
Pros: Excellent battery life. Solid performance. Sleek design. Ships with Android 9.0 Pie.
Cons: Not waterproof. Mediocre camera. No NFC.
Bottom Line: The Motorola Moto G7 Power offers excellent performance, two-day battery life, and an attractive design for a budget-friendly price.
Pros: Ultra-rugged build. Excellent call quality. Three-year warranty.
Cons: Weak vibration feature. Lackluster camera.
Bottom Line: The Sonim XP3 is a terrific rugged flip phone for anyone who doesn’t want a smartphone.
Pros: Solid keyboard. Speed Key lets you quickly access apps and features. Excellent productivity and privacy software.
Cons: Keyboard lacks capacitive touch. Mediocre cameras.
Bottom Line: The BlackBerry Key2 LE is a productivity powerhouse that offers better value for your money than its pricier sibling.
Pros: Available in gorgeous colors. Super-fast processor. Bright screen.
Cons: Wireless performance isn’t up to par with XS models.
Bottom Line: The Apple iPhone XR is the fashion-forward model of this year’s iPhones, but it trades top-notch performance for a colorful design.
Pros: Bright external display. Long battery life. HD Voice, Wi-Fi calling, and hotspot mode.
Cons: Poor camera. No video recording or playback. No global roaming.
Bottom Line: The Kyocera Cadence LTE is a perfectly competent no-frills voice phone for Verizon Wireless.