Us young punks love our fancy mobile phones. We text, we visit websites, and we view video—all on a device that uses small text and is fragile if dropped. The HTC SuperMan FullThrottle XIV may be lusted after by those of us with great vision, but recommending it to someone over 60 usually isn’t the best idea.
So what are the best cell phones for senior citizens? There aren’t many, but some do stand out from the crowd.
1. BLU Tank 3
If you’re comfortable using a prepaid plan, check out the BLU Tank 3. It’s hands down the best phone for seniors needing simplicity and battery life, at the expense of functionality. You won’t get the latest tech in smartphones — but you will get reliability and flexibility. The Tank 3 handles navigation, email, calls, and more.
It can run for up to 30-days on standby and provides around 72 hours of standard usage. For wireless connectivity, the phone comes unlocked. You just need a SIM card from a prepaid provider. Prepaid plans run for around $3 to $30 per month. The only real downside is that the Tank doesn’t offer full smartphone features. But hey, it’s at least a super-cheap phone.
Of all the phones that I researched for this article, this is the only one that’s explicitly made with seniors in mind. Visiting the website shows that its tag line is “the cell phone for seniors” so obviously the designers knew there was a market for this kind of device.
The most obvious distinguishing characteristic is the huge buttons on the face of the phone. They’re large, easy to read and easy to activate. This, combined with a simple large-print LCD screen and high earpiece volume, make the Snapfon Ez an obvious choice.
There’s more to it than big buttons, however. It also includes an SOS button which can be used to automatically connect with an emergency phone number. This makes the Snapfon a particularly good choice for seniors that have difficulty with movement. Rather than trying to reach an emergency phone, help can be contacted by pressing a single button.
Snapfon is a GSM world phone, so it will work with most carriers. There’s also a plan available direct through the phone’s manufacturer. Though the plan lacks features like mobile data, the phone only supports voice and text communication, so the plan fits well with the device.
3. Doro 410
Another phone that is built with seniors in mind, the Doro 410 is a somewhat smaller, sleeker device than the Snapfon Ez One. It uses a flip-phone design and has smooth edges that make it easier to slip in and out of a pocket or bag. In other words, it looks like a fairly normal phone.
That doesn’t mean you lose functionality. The keys are larger than normal and the small display is configured to display large text. An emergency SOS button similar to the Snapfon’s is included, although it’s not as large and easy to use.
The Doro 410 also includes Bluetooth, a feature not found on the Snapfon. This could be a boon to seniors who want something easy to use but also want to talk with both hands free.
Although it is technically a GSM world phone, it ships locked to the Consumer Cellular network, which is apparently associated with AT&T. You can potentially unlock it, but doing so may take some effort.
The Jitterbug is Samsung’s entry into the easy-to-use phone market. It’s been around for some time and generally received good reviews over its life. While the exterior features a jelly-bean like design, flipping it open reveals an interior that has large buttons and an LCD with big, high-contrast text.
Jitterbug’s most unusual feature is its close tie-in with the carrier, named GreatCall. The company boasts that Jitterbug users can call GreatCall and use them as a personal operator. If you want to enter a calendar event, you don’t have to do it yourself—you can call the operator, tell them the information, and they’ll enter the event for you.
Other features include Bluetooth, voice dialing and an SOS-like feature that uses a keypad combination rather than an SOS button. Overall, this phone is not as easy to use as the others, but it’s also more stylish and has features the others don’t.
You’ll need to sign up with GreatCall, which offers plans for as little as $14.99 or as much as $79.99 (for the unlimited talk + text plan and access to all GreatCall apps).
5. Nokia 220
Though not designed for seniors, the Nokia 220 has many features that will appeal to them. It’s a simple, basic phone with an easy to use layout. It doesn’t have large keys or a display that only uses large text, but this also means that if offers more functionality. Unlike the pure-breed senior phones we’ve already discussed, this one has an okay camera, can use apps and can even access the internet if you pay for a mobile data package.
The Nokia 220 also nails the basics. It gets good reception. It is relatively loud and call quality is excellent. Bluetooth works well and basic text messaging is easy to use and understand. In other words, the Nokia 220 is a good phone—a much better one, in fact, than many smartphones costing two or three times as much.
It’s a GSM phone, so it will work with a number of carriers worldwide. It’s a great phone for people who are not tech-savvy but are otherwise mobile and don’t need oversized buttons or text to properly use a phone.
The Pixel XL is Google’s “phablet”—a bit bigger than a phone, a bit smaller than a tablet. It’s not designed with seniors in mind, but then again, not all seniors are technophobes. If you‘re a senior who wants to check out smartphones the Pixel XL is a good pick.
The Pixel’s distinguishing feature is its 5.5″ display. This makes the phone much larger than others, which in turn makes the display easier to read when the user zooms in on text. The fact the display is a bright AMOLED helps—a lot of smartphones cause problems for older users because reflections destroy the perceived contrast of a glossy display. The Pixel can’t escape this problem entirely, but it handles it better than most.