How to Pick the Perfect Simple Phone for Parents or Grandparents

Ben Stegner 15-12-2016

The young rule the digital age. It’s fascinating to watch children born in the last few years take to a tablet like it’s nothing At What Age Should Kids Be Exposed to Technology? [You Told Us] New and emerging technology has always been associated with the younger generations. Older people tend to be set in their ways, leaving those under a certain age to discover gadgets and gizmos as they arrive... Read More , and most folks in their 20s and below know how to work a smartphone with little help. However, this isn’t always true for those of older generations.


Some people still use a basic (“dumb”) phone 4 Good Reasons To Get an Emergency Burner Phone Your smartphone has tons of features, and that's a great thing. Sometimes, you just need a basic phone to keep around for emergencies. Let's look at why. Read More  either because they don’t want a smartphone or don’t know how to work one. If you have family members who aren’t tech-savvy but need a smartphone, we’ll show you some of the best smartphones to start them out on. In addition, we’ll review ways to set up any phone to be more usable for the elderly.

Note that years ago, we covered the best cell phones for seniors The 8 Best Cell Phones for Senior Citizens If you need a senior-friendly mobile device, here are some of the best cell phones for senior citizens. Read More , but those are basic phones without smart capabilities. If you’re buying for someone who doesn’t need a phone, perhaps a senior-friendly tablet The 3 Best Tablets for Senior Citizens Tablets for senior citizens can be hard to find? We've got you covered with the top three choices for all kinds of senior citizens. Read More would be better.

Simple Smartphones

Let’s look at the phones on the market that are specifically designed for those who aren’t tech-savvy.

Jitterbug Smart

Jitterbug has long been the premier name in basic cell phones for seniors, and its new offering brings that legacy into the smartphone market. The Jitterbug Smart costs just $150, and it’s specifically designed for easy use.

The screen is 5.5″, the same size as the iPhone 7 Plus (our review iPhone 7 Plus Review This year's iPhone 7 models break with convention. For the first time ever Apple has opted for the same general design three years in a row, while introducing some divisive, but long-overdue features. Read More ). It organizes apps into a basic list, so there’s no chance to accidentally hide apps or move them around. Jitterbug also has a library of videos on using your smartphone that you can review at any time.


Of course, the specs on this phone aren’t anything phenomenal. A paltry 8 GB of internal storage How to Free Up Storage Space on Your Android Device Ran out of Android storage space? Here's how to free up storage on Android by uninstalling big apps, removing content, and more. Read More means you won’t have space for many big apps, but it does support microSD cards Your Next Phone Needs a MicroSD Card Slot -- Here's Why Some popular phones don't have microSD card slots -- but a lot still do, and you need one! Read More for extra space. It connects to 4G LTE for the fastest mobile data and includes a front-facing camera for chatting with loved ones.

What makes the Jitterbug Smart a great buy for the elderly is the no-contract plan The Best Unlocked, Off-Contract Smartphones Available Buying unlocked phones can save you lots of money, but with so many options out there, which unlocked phone is the best? Read More that comes with it. If you like, you can opt for three different levels of the “Health & Safety Package.” These cost extra but include services like 24/7 access to nurses, medication reminders 3 Free Android Apps That Help To Remind You To Take Pills On Time The days of simple diagnoses and simpler one-pill that cures all is long gone. These days it’s a cocktail of pills that addresses every illness one is unfortunate to encounter. The geekiest option is of... Read More , and brain games Get Smarter With Android: 5 Apps For Improving Memory, Math Skills, And More "You won't always have a calculator on you!" That's what my math teachers told me all through high school. Little did they know we'd all be carrying around miniature computers in our pockets within the... Read More . Note that there are some apps that will perform these services for free. Of course, these aren’t required, but subscribing to one also reduces the cost of monthly minutes.

Even if you forgo the safety plan, you can choose how much talk, text, and data you want. The cheapest options are $15 for 200 minutes, $3 for 300 texts, and $2.50 for 40 MB of data. Chatty types can purchase unlimited talk and text for $50/month, with 100 MB of data included. This allows those who want to text but not call to only spend money on what they’ll use. Any overages cost a standard price.

Overall, the Jitterbug Smart is a decent phone built specifically for seniors at a fair price. It allows for the use of smart features without being overwhelming.


Doro 824 SmartEasy

The Doro 824 SmartEasy, offered by Consumer Cellular, provides a similar experience to the Jitterbug. Its screen is 5″, a great choice for smaller hands while still being large enough to provide a clear picture. It has the standard budget specs of 8 GB of internal storage (with space for a microSD card), 4G LTE connectivity What the Heck Do 4G+, 4GX, XLTE, LTE-A, and VoLTE Mean? The names of our Internet speeds and services can undoubtedly be confusing. Read More , and basic cameras on either side of the device.

What sets the SmartEasy apart is the My Doro Manager app [No Longer Available], included on each phone. This allows the owner to get remote help from trusted contacts. If you’ve been tech support for family 7 Ways to Ensure Your Loved Ones' PC Will Never Need Fixing Are you tech support for your family or friends? Do you receive frantic calls because they've installed malware or somehow managed to break their computer and they need you to fix it? This can be... Read More before, you know how difficult it is to help over the phone when you can’t see. With this app, those quick questions are much easier to solve. The phone also features an emergency button on the back to call specific contacts.

The device costs $200, which you can pay outright or pay $50 at checkout and $25 per month on your bill for the next six months. Plans range from $15/month for 250 minutes to $50/month for unlimited minutes. If you prefer, you can pay $10/month and be billed for only what you use ($0.25 per minute). Should you go over your plan, Consumer Cellular automatically bumps up your plan so you get the best deal.

Texts and data are optional. The cheapest option is $2.50/month for 300 texts and 30 MB of data, while $20/month gets unlimited texts and 1.5 GB of data. All plans fall under Consumer Cellular’s standard The 10 Cheapest Mobile Phone Plans in the US Right Now [Cheat Sheet Included] There are plenty of cheap mobile phone plans available if you know where to look. Read More , which means no contracts. You can also add a family member onto your plan Are Family Cell Phone Plans Cheaper Than MVNOs? [Cheat Sheet Included] Have you ever tried to figure out how to save money on your family’s cell phone bill? We're here to help. Read More for only $10/month.


The Doro is a bit more expensive than the Jitterbug, but it also provides a smaller screen for those who don’t want a huge device. Having remote access built-in is great, but you can also achieve that with other methods as we’ll see below. Both plans are fairly similar, but you might be able to save a few dollars per month depending on how much you use calls versus texts and data.

Any Recent Samsung Phone

The above phones are specifically made for seniors and don’t feature a “normal” mode of operation. Samsung doesn’t make any phones targeted at the elderly, but they do include a mode in nearly all of their devices called Easy Mode 10 Lesser-Known Galaxy S7 Features You Need To Know About The Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are filled to the brim with exciting features, but it can be a hassle to find and understand them all. Let's break down the best of them. Read More that’s perfect for seniors.

Samsung makes a variety of phones for any need — whether you want a big screen or small, high-end or low-end — so you can get the device that’s just right for your loved ones. As a bonus, most mid to high-end Samsung devices boast a sharper screen and more internal storage than the two phones above.

To activate Easy Mode, open Settings on your phone and scroll down to Easy Mode. You’ll see a note about what Easy Mode does, then you can turn it on. Easy Mode makes the phone much more streamlined, with bigger fonts, less navigation options, and shortcuts for trusted contacts. This abstracts much of Android’s more confusing elements away from someone who doesn’t need them.


Easy Mode is available on the premium Samsung Galaxy S7 (our review Galaxy S7 Edge Review and Giveaway Samsung's back again with some new smartphones: the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. It's still a premium device with uniquely curved edges, but should you consider upgrading? Read More ), but an older S6 or even S5 would likely be fine for your loved one. A Galaxy Note 5 or 4 provides a larger screen (without the explosiveness of a Note 7 5 Non-Exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Alternatives Looking to avoid a fireball in your home? You may need some Samsung Galaxy Note 7 alternatives. We've rounded up five of the best Note 7 alternatives which range in cost from $360 to $610. Read More ), and it’s worth checking out Samsung’s other phones, like the J3, for something a bit cheaper.

Other Senior-Friendly Tools

Perhaps you don’t want to buy one of the three phones above or plan on giving a spare phone to someone 8 Creative Ideas To Recycle Your Mobile Phone Without Throwing It Out Recycle mobile phones. I wish that should be the catchphrase for all of us to live by. While researching this article, I came across quite a few official mobile industry websites of consumer rich countries... Read More . You still have plenty of options for making Android more accessible on any device.

We’ve shown you how to capitalize on Android’s accessibility features Accessibility on Android: Make Your Device Easier to Use Android includes features to make sure that everyone can enjoy their phone. Even if you aren't disabled, the Accessibility menu holds some neat tricks to look into. Read More to make your device easier to use. As a part of that, if your family member has trouble typing on a touch screen, you’re able to control Android completely by voice How to Control Your Android Device Entirely With Your Voice Here's how to control your Android phone with your voice. Google's Voice Access app makes it easy to use voice commands. Read More .

Further, there are apps that can completely change the look of the phone Larger Icons and Keyboards for a Phone Mom Would Love: Android Can Make the Elderly Tech Savvy The elderly often feel intimidated by new technology. Smartphones in particular did not catch on among the retired compared to the Facebook generation. And for good reason: Tiny screens and keyboards seem designed for addicting... Read More , similar to Samsung’s Easy Mode. Using a simple launcher The 6 Best Simple Android Launchers for Parents and Grandparents Are your parents or grandparents confused by their new Android phone? A simple Android launcher can make things easier! Read More replaces tiny icons with big pictures and text that keep navigation easy 4 Basic Android Homescreen Replacements For New Smartphone Users For those new to the smartphone world, these homescreen replacements make things simple! Read More , such as Wiser Launcher Android Too Complicated? This Launcher Will Simplify Your Life You may think Android isn't for everyone. You sometimes hear others say "it's too complicated", or "It might be good for techies, but not for me". We have good news. Read More .

Set Up for Success

Once you’ve selected the right phone/tools, it’s important to go over a few things with your parent or grandparent to make sure they understand everything about their new phone. Have them read through parts one New To Android? Make Your Smartphone Work For You, Not Against Do you have a smartphone that you just can't seem to figure out? Learn the basics and start conquering your Android phone now! Read More and two of our Android beginner’s guide New To Android? Part Two: Master Using Your Phone Part two of the Android guide for absolute beginners. Get a grip on the basics of using your smartphone! Read More to pick up on the basics. If you like, you can even show them what not to do with a new Android phone 9 Things Not to Do When Getting Your First Android Phone These common pitfalls should be avoided for the optimal Android experience. Read More and apps to avoid installing Do Not Install These 10 Popular Android Apps These Android apps are extremely popular, but they also compromise your security and privacy. If you have them installed, you'll want to uninstall them after reading this. Read More .

Before you send them off on their way with the phone, take some time to set it up and make it easy to use. Set them up with a Google account if they don’t have one, and be sure to secure it How to Secure Your Gmail Account in 6 Easy Steps Having your Gmail account hacked could be devastating. Don't let that happen! Learn how to secure your Gmail account right now. Read More . Remove any bloatware apps How to Remove Bloatware on Android Without Rooting Did your phone come with a bunch of crappy apps pre-installed? Let us show you how to get rid of them the easy way. Read More that came on the phone and be sure to install a backup app How to Back Up Your Android Device Properly Here's how to completely back up your Android device by protecting your photos, SMS, contacts, and everything else. Read More so they don’t lose any data.

Turn off notifications for annoying apps How to Disable Notifications From Any App in Android Here's how to turn off notifications in Android, plus how to fine-tune the notifications you do want. Read More so they aren’t bothered. Add their most important contacts and make them favorites for easy access. Install some of the best Android apps The Best Android Apps on the Google Play Store for 2019 Looking for the best Android apps for your phone or tablet? Here's our comprehensive list of the best apps for Android. Read More , like Textra to replace the crummy default SMS app Text Better With These Alternative SMS Apps for Android Don't like your default SMS app? Try a new one! Read More .

Install a remote access app on their phone so you can get to it anytime. A good choice is TeamViewer: you’ll have to install TeamViewer QuickSupport on the receiving device, and TeamViewer for Remote Control on your device.

Before you’re done, take some pictures of their device. Note the locations of buttons in case you have to guide them through some actions over the phone. Take screenshots The 5 Best Ways to Take a Screenshot on Any Android Phone We show you how to take a screenshot on Android. Choose between default shortcuts and apps to capture your Android phone. Read More of their home screen and app menus so if remote access fails, you have some idea of what their screen looks like. Consider writing down the steps to perform certain critical actions so they can follow those the first few times.

Chances are they’ll need a bit of help 20 Common Android Problems Solved This comprehensive Android troubleshooting guide will help you solve the most common Android phone problems. Read More before they master using their phone. Taking some time to go through the above steps ensures you have an easier time supporting the phone in the future.

Ready to Buy Your Loved One a Phone?

While it does take some consideration, buying a smartphone for those without technical experience doesn’t have to be a pain. Whether you opt for a special senior-optimized phone or a normal phone with compatibility apps, there’s a solution perfect for your needs. Cap the setup off with remote access tools and guides for the new user, and your grandparents will be well on their way to being smartphone masters.

Thinking that a new computer might be a better choice than a phone? Check out why Chromebooks are the perfect computer for seniors 5 Reasons Chromebooks are the Perfect Computer For an Elderly Person It's your granddad's birthday — but what should you buy him? You could get him socks (again), some gardening equipment, or perhaps a large bottle of whisky… Or you could buy him a Chromebook. Read More .

Do you have non-tech-savvy loved ones in your life who are looking for a smartphone? Let us know if these tips helped you, and share your favorite senior-friendly devices and apps in the comments!

Image Credits: Cherries/Shutterstock

Related topics: Android Customization, Buying Tips.

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