The best cell phone for seniors varies based on the functionality you desire. Some seniors will want the latest technology, while others will want a basic flip phone with call & text functionality & not much else.
Everyone needs to be connected. Seniors, who may be isolated from their families or have specific health needs, shouldn’t be left out. The smartphone industry, by and large, isn’t thinking about the particular needs of the senior market, but if you pay attention you can find carriers, phones, and services that will give you a streamlined, simple, and accommodating phone experience.
Being in what phone manufacturers think of as the “senior market” isn’t about chronological age so much as faculties, preferences, and lifestyle. These phones accommodate reduced eyesight and hearing, aren’t overloaded with the latest features, and are priced affordably.
Two wireless carriers specialize in the senior market: GreatCall, which used to be home to the Jitterbug brand, 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.
Now owned by Best Buy, GreatCall recently updated its flip phone. The new model, the Lively Flip, supports Alexa voice commands. GreatCall was in hibernation for about a year, with company activity only popping up again this September. The Lively Flip has a special set of services for seniors: It lets you order Lyft rides by speaking to an operator rather than using an app, it has a panic button, and it lets younger relatives monitor the use of that panic button to make sure whomever pressed it is safe.
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 the Readers’ Choice award seven years running, largely on the strength of its customer service rating.
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. Verizon will turn off its old 2G/3G network at the end of 2020, AT&T will turn its off in February 2022, and T-Mobile will likely follow suit. So go with a voice phone that supports voice over 4G LTE, also known as VoLTE.
There are other benefits, as well. 4G LTE basic phones have HD Voice, or high-quality voice calling, when calling other people on HD Voice-capable mobile phones. Those higher-quality calls can be easier on old ears. As for 5G, you won’t need to worry about it for years as long as you have a capable 4G LTE phone.
The major carriers have senior discount plans for smartphone users. T-Mobile has special plans for people over age 55. They charge $70/month for two lines of their mid-level unlimited plan, a $50/month (!) discount over what two lines would cost for younger folks. AT&T and Verizon have much more limited offers: They each charge $80/month for two lines, a $40 savings, but that discount is only available in Florida.
On large, affordable devices with lower-resolution screens, icons and touch targets are larger and easier to hit. On that front, we like the Moto G Power, which is available in various forms on various carriers. It has a big screen, affordable prices, and solid battery life.
Samsung phones also have an Easy mode with fewer obvious options. It’s available on handsets from the low-cost A01 up to the high-end Galaxy S20 and Note series. Folks who still remember using pen and paper will enjoy taking notes with the Notes’ S Pen stylus. Samsung smartphones are available on every major carrier.
Prepaid Carriers for Senior Phones
Seniors on fixed incomes may want to check out 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. 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.
Jitterbug Smart2 (No Contract) Smartphone
- Large touchscreen makes it even easier to read. The 13.0 Megapixel built-in camera
- Simple menu organized in a single list with large letters and icons
- Easy-to-use smartphone with exclusive features that are only available on the GreatCall.
Jitterbug Flip Cell Phone
- Big buttons and large, legible numbers make dialing effortless; simple “Yes” and “No”
- Activate with GreatCall and keep your current phone number. Choose a plan
- Powerful speaker ensures every conversation will be loud and clear.
BLU Advance A4 2019 – Unlocked Dual Sim, 16GB
- Unlocked Dual SIM smartphone, Android 8.1 Oreo (Go Edition)
- Vivid 4.0” Touchscreen Display
- 5MP Main Camera with flash + 2MP Selfie Camera