Though many seniors have remained uninitiated where consumer technologies like smartphones are concerned, Pew Research Center has found that about 80 percent of people 65 and older own at least some form of cellular phone. While there are plenty of great flip phones available for seniors who do not wish to use smart technology, there are also easy-to-use smartphones available that come with some extremely helpful senior assistance features. Below, you’ll find our picks for the best devices for seniors of 2019, including a few flip phones. We’ve also included an ultimate guide to phones for seniors.

In the following device comparisons, we have noted the simplicity level of each device by sharing whether it’s best for people who are total smartphone beginners or for people with a moderate understanding of smart technologies. However, device shoppers should also consider how likely they or their loved ones are to be motivated to learn how to use smart technologies or a new style of device. In the article linked above, Pew Research Center explains that the motivation to learn new technologies is most often demonstrated by seniors who have had more education or those who come from the middle class or a higher income bracket.

Companies that Make Devices for Seniors

While numerous manufacturers offer devices that may be used by older adults, there are two cellular companies that specifically cater to seniors. Before we get into the best cell phones of 2019 for seniors, it’s important to get an overview of the companies that service the devices: GreatCall (maker of the Jitterbug phone) and Consumer Cellular.

Choosing a device manufactured or serviced by one of these providers can make for an easier learning experience for older adults who are less familiar with cellular phones and simplifies the process of accessing senior-friendly features and apps. Both GreatCall and Consumer Cellular supply renowned customer service, highly competitive pricing, and devices and service plans designed with seniors in mind. However, each provider takes a different approach to serving its customers.

The main differences between these providers are that GreatCall focuses on supporting emergency and caregiver-oriented services while Consumer Cellular is notable for its lower monthly costs, larger inventory of available devices, and AARP member discounts. The following section consists of a quick profile of each provider, but if you want to delve right into our device comparisons, click or scroll down to The Best Cell Phones for Seniors in 2019.

GreatCall

GreatCall, maker of the Jitterbug line of phones, is the only cellular service provider in the country that offers an integrated, proprietary medical alert system with its devices. The company only offers two phones — the Jitterbug Flip and the Jitterbug Smart2 — but both phones come pre-installed with GreatCall’s software made just for seniors, as well as a host of highly practical, senior-oriented apps and hardware features. GreatCall uses the Verizon network and its devices are made in part by Samsung.

While GreatCall’s phones are very beneficial for seniors and easy to set up, the company has received some criticism for the pricing of its service plans, though its prices are comparatively low-cost for lower-volume users. GreatCall offers the additional monthly purchase of a Health & Safety Package to go with its talk and text plans (or talk, text, and data) and the company provides discounts on service plans for customers who also purchase a Health & Safety Package. Health & Safety Packages include services like the 5Star Urgent Response medical alert program, the GreatCall Link app which connects users with their caregivers, and other options specialized for seniors.

Access to 5Star Urgent Response is included with the lowest-priced Health & Safety Package which is offered at $20 per month. What GreatCall consumers will not receive unless they purchase the highest-tier package at $34.99 per month is device insurance to replace a lost or damaged phone.

Talk and text plans available from GreatCall are low-cost compared with many offered by general service providers, and with the discounts offered to Health & Safety Package users, talk plans are priced from $5 for 100 minutes to $15 for 1,500 minutes. Talk, text, and data can all be purchased as individually priced options, but GreatCall offers unlimited talk and text for just $20 per month and unlimited talk, text, and data for $40 per month for users who purchase a Health & Safety Package. GreatCall offers up to 2.5 gigabytes of data per month at an a-la-carte price of $15, and they charge $0.10 per megabyte to users who exceed their data allowance.

GreatCall’s Overall Pricing

  • The most inclusive service plan that GreatCall consumers can purchase would include the unlimited talk, text, and data plan with GreatCall’s highest-tier Health & Safety Package for a monthly total of about $75 plus taxes and fees.
  • Users who do not take advantage of GreatCall’s suite of Health & Safety features will pay $40 for unlimited talk and text or $60 for unlimited talk, text and data (though more limited a-la-carte options are available for each).
  • Startup costs include a device purchase price of between $99.99 for the Flip or $149.99 for the Smart2.
  • New service plans with GreatCall require a $35 activation charge and a $10 handling fee.

For a complete list of GreatCall’s service plans, Health & Safety Packages and pricing, visit GreatCall.com.

GreatCall’s Health and Safety Features

  • 5Star Urgent Response (medical alert)
  • Pre-installed, mind-stimulating games for seniors
  • Urgent Care (speak with medical professionals 24/7 or order prescriptions)
  • GreatCall Link (caregiver connectivity feature)
  • Personal Operator (functions just as traditional phone operators)
  • Device Replacement (for lost, broken or stolen phones)

Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular is considered one of the best cell service providers in the industry for its award-winning customer service and low prices. This company also has a marketing arrangement with the AARP that provides 5 percent monthly discounts on bills and 30 percent discounts on device accessories for paying members of the AARP. Other major highlights of this carrier are that it is 100 percent U.S.-based and offers no-contract plans at some very competitive prices.

Unlike GreatCall, Consumer Cellular does not manufacture its own phones. Rather, it offers a large selection of flip and smartphones, most of which can be found in the stores of the big four service providers, including the newest Apple and Samsung devices. Customers can also bring their own devices over to the Consumer Cellular network from another carrier. Consumer Cellular uses AT&T’s towers and networks to provide its service, so people in most areas across the country can use its  services.

Consumer Cellular’s prices tend to be lower than those offered by GreatCall, though this is largely due to the fact that Consumer Cellular does not offer health and safety assistance features for seniors. However, this provider’s lower prices are also a result of the fact that it does not charge an activation fee for service and that it offers a less complicated pricing structure with no overage fees. Though Consumer Cellular’s plan offerings are more basic than GreatCall’s, with this carrier, what you see truly is what you get.

Consumer Cellular’s Overall Pricing

  • There is no charge for a customer’s first line, but a second line can be added for $15 per month
  • Talk minutes are priced at $15 for 250 minutes or unlimited minutes for $20 per month.
  • Text and Internet access plans are bundled together as both use data; customers have five options for the amount of data they use from 250 megabytes to 20 gigabytes. GreatCall users are limited to a maximum of 2 gigabytes.
  • 250 megabytes of data costs $5 per month, 2 gigabytes is $10 per month, 5 gigabytes is $20, 10 gigabytes is $30 per month and 20 gigabytes costs $40 per month.
  • Unlike GreatCall, Consumer Cellular customers who use more than their monthly data or talk allowance are not charged per-minute or per-megabyte fees; Consumer Cellular bumps the overaged plan up to the next pricing tier instead.

The Best Cell Phones for Seniors in 2019

Devices Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price Offered with GreatCall or Consumer Cellular Service Plans for Seniors Assistive Features for Seniors Why We Recommend It
The Jitterbug Flip from GreatCall $99.99 Yes — GreatCall
  • 5Star Urgent Response
  • Daily check-in calls to monitor health
  • Urgent Care to speak with doctors and nurses
  • GreatCall Link caregiver app
  • Personal operator to provide assistance on demand
  • Simple yes/no navigation
  • Ample assistive features
  • Medical alert
  • Large buttons
  • Brightened screen
  • Amplified audio
  • Magnifier
  • Voice dial
The Jitterbug Smart2 from GreatCall $149.99 Yes — GreatCall
  • 5Star Urgent Response
  • Daily check-in calls to monitor health
  • Urgent Care to speak with doctors and nurses
  • GreatCall Link caregiver app
  • Personal operator to provide assistance on demand
  • Highly simplified navigation
  • Modern smartphone specifications at a low price
  • Brightened HD screen
  • Ample assistive features
  • Download limited number of apps and games
The Doro 7050 from Consumer Cellular $49.99 Yes — Consumer Cellular
  • Programmable speed dial button for emergency contacts
  • Enhanced audio
  • Magnifier
  • Responsive, color-contrasted keypad
  • AARP member discounts
  • Bright screen
  • Physical keypad and navigation keys
  • Very affordable
  • Highly tactile keys with color contrast
  • AARP member discounts
  • More capable than the most basic flip phones
The Blackberry Key2 LE $449.99 No
  • Text size adjustment
  • Voice commands and voice dial
  • BlackBerry Remember app
  • Screen Reader and other visual aids
  • Downloads senior-friendly apps
  • Physical keys
  • Preinstalled with Google Maps
  • Preinstalled with Google Calendar reminders
  • Rubberized and textured
  • Textured side buttons
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Large font virtual keys
  • Very bright, high-definition screen with good contrast
  • Smart functionality with a physical keypad
  • Mid-range smartphone pricing buys high quality
  • High-definition screen
  • App shortcut button for easy navigation
The Motorola Moto G7 Power $249.99 No
  • Text size adjustment
  • Voice commands and voice dial
  • Talk Back voice readouts of display, notifications and dialed numbers
  • Universal Inbox compiles all message types in one place
  • Downloads senior-friendly apps
  • Preinstalled with Google Maps
  • Preinstalled with Google Calendar reminders
  • Textured side buttons
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Very bright screen with good contrast and color reproduction
  • Battery life of up to 2 days or more on a single charge
  • Very long battery life
  • Impressive hardware at an unusually competitive price
  • Option to download senior assistance apps with plenty of storage
  • Works on all carrier networks
The Apple iPhone 7 from Consumer Cellular $300 Yes — Consumer Cellular
  • Text size adjustment
  • Voice commands and voice dial
  • Voice assistant (Siri) eases navigation and usage
  • Fingerprint sensor for password-free security
  • HD Retina screen has excellent color, contrast and brightness
  • Less reflective screen is easier to see
  • High-contrast setting
  • Currently supported Apple device with cutting edge hardware
  • Very bright and very clear Retina HD screen
  • Access to Apple ecosystem
  • Competitively priced by Consumer Cellular at $300
  • Modern accessibility settings
The Sonim XP3 $240 No
  • Voice dialing and voice commands
  • Multiple call-screening options
  • Withstands drops and water exposure
  • Can support talk and text only plans
  • Users can lock apps
  • Simple navigation and app set
  • High-volume speaker and ringer
  • Programmable side-button to launch apps quickly
  • Very loud speaker and ringer
  • Extremely durable and waterproof
  • Apps and features normally unavailable with flip phones

The Jitterbug Flip from GreatCall

Why We Recommend It

Simple yes/no navigation
Ample assistive features
Medical alert
Large buttons
Brightened screen
Amplified audio
Magnifier
Voice dial

User Interface and Operating System GreatCall custom user interface
Relevant Features for Seniors

5Star Urgent Response
Daily check-in calls to monitor health
Urgent Care to speak with doctors and nurses
GreatCall Link caregiver app with sophisticated GPS features
Personal Operator to provide assistance 24/7
GreatCall Rides allows users to call Personal Operator to order rideshare/

Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating M4/T4
Physical Keypad Yes
Weight 4.7 ounces
Screen Size 3.2 inches
Screen Definition 480 x 320
Average Battery Life Up to 10 hours of talk time and several days of standby
Applicable Carriers GreatCall via Verizon
Available Colors Red and Charcoal
Suggested Retail Price $99.99

Best Flip Phone for More Dependent Seniors

Currently, one of the most desirable cellphones on the market for seniors of advanced age, GreatCall’s Jitterbug Flip comes at a suggested retail price of $99.99, though it’s sometimes available from GreatCall at a discount. Both of GreatCall’s cell phones, the Flip and the Smart2, come with an advanced suite of senior-focused features, but what impresses us most about the Jitterbug Flip is its dependability and ease of use.

The Flip’s battery can last through ten continuous hours of call connection and provides several days of power in standby. Navigation of the phone’s menus is made simple with its physical Yes and No buttons and the Flip’s call quality, volume, and large, backlit buttons are optimized to suit people with diminished hearing and eyesight. Though this handset does not offer much in the way of Internet connectivity, it provides a GPS locator so that users can easily be found after using the Flip’s large 5Start Urgent Response button to call for emergency services and so that caregivers can locate the phone remotely using the GreatCall Link app.

The drawbacks of the Jitterbug Flip stem mainly from the fact that this device is so simplified. Some users may find it oversimplified to the point of frustration as otherwise basic functions, such as call blocking and the ability to change screen brightness, are unavailable on the Flip.

The Jitterbug Flip’s Relevant Features for Seniors

The Jitterbug Flip phone provides an extensive list of assistive features intended especially for seniors, including:

  • Integrated caregiver app with sophisticated GPS features
  • Prominent 5Star Urgent Assistance button
  • Personal Operator can look up phone numbers and order rideshares
  • Pre-installed brain games help to promote memory retention
  • Large physical buttons with backlighting
  • Magnifier that uses the phone’s camera
  • Large-font screen text
  • Hearing aid compatibility of M4/T4

Device Features and Highlights

The Jitterbug Flip has a more simplified design than a smartphone, and as a result, it cannot offer Internet connectivity or apps and games. However, the following basic hardware features make the Jitterbug Flip a great device for people who desire the simplest kind of flip phone.

  • GPS location
  • Loud high-volume settings
  • Exceptionally bright screens
  • Ten-hours of talk on a single charge
  • Several days of standby on a single charge
  • Side-mounted flashlight button
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • Durable flip design
  • Voice dialing
  • Lid-mounted mini-screen showing time and basic notifications
  • Standard audio jack

The Jitterbug Flip’s Specifications

  • Carriers: GreatCall via Verizon
  • Screen size: 3.2 inches
  • Screen resolution: 480 x 320
  • Weight: 4.7 ounces
  • Connectivity: GPS, Bluetooth 4.1, HD calling, 3G and 4G
  • Camera: 2 megapixels, rear-facing
  • Battery life: 10 hours talk, several days standby
  • Available on-device storage: 1 gigabyte
  • MSRP: $99.99

The Jitterbug Smart2 from GreatCall

Best Smartphone for Assistive Features

Why We Recommend It

Highly simplified navigation
Modern smartphone specifications at a low price
Brightened HD screen
Ample assistive features
Download limited number of apps and games

User Interface and Operating System GreatCall custom user interface overlaying Android 7.0 (Nougat) operating system
Relevant Features for Seniors

5Star Urgent Response
Daily check-in calls to monitor health
Urgent Care to speak with doctors and nurses
GreatCall Link caregiver app with sophisticated GPS features
Personal Operator to provide assistance 24/7
GreatCall Rides allows users to call Personal Operator to order rideshare

Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating M4/T4
Physical Keypad No
Weight 5.6 ounces
Screen Size 5.5 inches
Screen Definition 720 x 1280
Average Battery Life Up to 10 hours of talk time and several days of standby
Applicable Carriers GreatCall via Verizon
Available Colors Burgundy and Black
Suggested Retail Price $149.99

The Smart2 from GreatCall is the company’s large-screen smartphone, offering the same exceptional range of assistive features for the elderly as GreatCall’s flip phone, the Jitterbug Flip. While the Flip is ideal for people who have no or low competency for advanced consumer devices, the Smart2 is better suited for those who desire smartphone functionality but with a simplified interface and a slightly more limited feature set than your average Android or Apple smartphone.

Because the Smart2 uses an Android 7.0 operating system, this phone can be downloaded with close to 8.9 gigabytes of apps from the Google Play store. But the Smart2 is not a “pure” Android phone. GreatCall has customized the Smart2’s operating system to provide a homescreen with large, prominently featured apps that provide the basic functions of a smartphone (email, calendar, calling) as well as GreatCall’s Relevant Features for Seniors, like 5Star Urgent Assistance and the GreatCall Link app for caregivers.

The Jitterbug Smart2’s Relevant Features for Seniors

The Smart2 does not have physical buttons like the Jitterbug Flip, other than the usual power and volume buttons which are positioned on the right-hand edge of the device. GreatCall’s 5Star Urgent Assistance function is located on-screen, right next to the virtual “home” and “back” navigation buttons, and the company’s other features for seniors can be accessed as apps through a simple tile-style navigation system. The Smart2 also differs from the Flip in that the screen’s brightness can be adjusted, making this phone more suitable for low-light settings, and in that it’s a more capable device for taking pictures and video.

The Jitterbug Smart2’s features for seniors are largely the same as the assistive feature set available on the Jitterbug Flip.

  • Integrated caregiver app with GPS location
  • Virtual 5Star Urgent Assistance button
  • Large-print apps and menu items featured on home screen
  • Magnifier that uses the phone’s camera
  • Large-font screen text
  • Brighter-than-average screen
  • Hearing aid compatibility of M4/T4
  • Plans available with talk and text only

Device Features and Highlights

The Smart2 is a very capable device for seniors, but it can also be ideal as a low-cost and easy-to-use device for people who desire a simpler smartphone experience than other mass market devices can provide. This device offers the following features for general users. 

  • Expandable memory
  • HD calling using 4G LTE for better call quality
  • Voice dialing
  • Front and rear cameras with improved resolution
  • Flashlight
  • Download apps from Google Play store
  • Ten hours talk on single charge
  • GPS location
  • Takes video in 1080p resolution

The Jitterbug Smart2’s Specifications

  • Carriers: GreatCall via Verizon
  • Operating system: GreatCall custom OS overlaid on Android 7.0 (Nougat)
  • Screen size: 5.5 inches
  • Screen resolution: 1280 x 720
  • Phone Size: 6 x 3 inches, 0.33 inches thick
  • Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Connectivity: 4G LTE, HD calling, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS
  • Ports: Standard audio, micro USB charging, micro SD slot
  • Processor speed: 1.5 gigahertz
  • RAM: 4 gigabytes
  • Front-facing camera: 5 megapixels
  • Rear camera: 13 megapixels
  • Available integrated storage: 8.9 gigabytes
  • Battery life: 10 hours of talk, several days of standby
  • Available colors:
  • MSRP: $149.99

The Doro 7050 from Consumer Cellular

Best Budget Flip Phone for Seniors

Why We Recommend It

Physical keypad and navigation keys
Very affordable
Highly tactile keys with color contrast
AARP member discounts
More capable than the most basic flip phones

User Interface and Operating System KaiOS
Relevant Features for Seniors

Programmable speed dial button for emergency contacts
Enhanced audio
Magnifier
Responsive, color-contrasted keypad
AARP member discounts
Bright screen

Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating M4/T4
Physical Keypad Yes
Weight 4.4 ounces
Screen Size 2.8 inches
Screen Definition 320 x 240
Average Battery Life Up to 10 hours of talk time and several days of standby
Applicable Carriers Consumer Cellular via AT&T
Available Colors Red and Charcoal
Suggested Retail Price $49.99

The Doro 7050 from Consumer Cellular is a talk-and-text-only flip phone well-suited for use by people who like a very simple device without many apps or Internet features. The Doro 7050 is exclusively sold by Consumer Cellular and is much like the Jitterbug Flip in terms of its hardware. However, this phone retails at a much lower price than GreatCall’s Jitterbug Flip and comes with Consumer Cellular’s more affordable service plans. The Doro 7050 also differs from the Flip in that its keypad — a highlight of using this device — is more tactile and features black, backlit and widely separated keys on a light-colored background, making the Doro easier to dial without accidentally hitting the wrong key.

Another thing that sets the Doro 7050 apart from other flip phones for seniors is that it manages to provide a simple navigation and usage experience without being oversimplified. This device provides enough versatility to, for example, allow users to eliminate solicitous calls by whitelisting numbers already in their contacts list. Doro 7050 users can also choose from a range of ringtones and enjoy slightly more adaptable menu navigation buttons than those that come with other, more simplified phones for seniors (such as the Jitterbug Flip’s ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ navigation keys). 

On the negative side, this phone does not provide medical alert services or integrated caregiver apps for seniors like the GreatCall phones covered thus far, and unlike most cellphones, the Doro 7050 does not allow users to sync their contacts and calendar events when coming to the Doro from a different device.

The Doro 7050’s Relevant Features for Seniors

While the Doro 7050 doesn’t offer the senior-friendly features that a GreatCall phone can provide, the result is that it comes with lower monthly fees and retails at a much lower price than a Jitterbug phone. That being said, the 7050 offers a host of design elements conceived with seniors in mind, including the following.

  • Programmable ‘Assistance’ button speed-dials emergency contacts
  • Enhance Volume feature increases audio by 7 decibels
  • Magnifier that uses the phone’s camera
  • Easy-to-see keypad with responsive tactility
  • AARP member monthly discounts of 10 percent
  • AARP member accessories discount of 30 percent
  • Bright and easy-to-see screen
  • Hearing aid compatibility of M4/T4

Device Features and Highlights

The Doro 7050 is a great phone for seniors but it’s also well-suited to users who desire a simplified, yet adaptable flip phone. The device’s MSRP of $49.99 and Consumer Cellular’s relatively inexpensive talk and text plans make this device a good all-around option for a cheap and simple phone.

General features of the Doro 7050 that users young and old will appreciate include:

  • HD calling over 4G LTE for better call quality
  • Flashlight
  • Lid-mounted mini-screen displays time and notifications when phone is closed
  • 2 megapixel rear-facing camera with built-in flash
  • Durable design
  • Ten hours of talk on a single charge
  • Days of battery life in standby

The Doro 7050’s Specifications

  • Carriers: Consumer Cellular via AT&T
  • Screen size: 2.8 inches
  • Screen resolution: 320 x 240
  • Weight: 4.4 ounces
  • Connectivity: GPS, Bluetooth 4.1, HD calling over 4G LTE, GPS
  • Camera: 2 megapixels, rear-facing
  • Battery life: 10 hours talk, several days standby
  • Expandable memory: Yes
  • Available colors: Burgundy and black
  • MSRP: $49.99

The BlackBerry Key2 LE

Best Smartphone with a Physical Keypad

Why We Recommend It

Smart functionality with a physical keypad
Mid-range smartphone pricing buys high quality
High-definition screen
App shortcut button for easy navigation
Plenty of room for downloaded senior assistance apps

User Interface and Operating System BlackBerry custom user interface overlaying Android 8.1 (Oreo) operating system
Relevant Features for Seniors

Text size adjustment
Voice commands and voice dial
BlackBerry Remember app
Screen Reader and other visual aids
Downloads senior-friendly apps
Physical keys
Preinstalled with Google Maps
Preinstalled with Google Calendar reminders
Rubberized and textured
Textured side buttons
Fingerprint sensor
Large font virtual keys
Very bright, high-definition screen with good contrast

Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating M4/T3
Physical Keypad Yes
Weight 5.5 ounces
Screen Size 4.5 inches
Screen Definition 1080 x 1620 (HD)
Average Battery Life 10 hours+
Applicable Carriers Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile (less reliable in rural areas on T-Mobile)
Available Colors Champagne, Slate and Atomic (red)
Suggested Retail Price $449.99

The BlackBerry Key2 LE is a sharp-looking device that combines smartphone functionality with a physical keypad. It retails at $449.99 — a price that many modern smartphone users would consider modest. The Key2 LE should be considered by any senior who wants the freedom to use apps and versatile Internet features without the need for virtual keys or an all-glass face on their device. This makes the Key2 LE a great phone for users with a moderate understanding of smart consumer technologies.
The Key2 LE makes a great entry-level device for people who are intimidated by the learning curve that buying a smartphone can present. Most of the Key2 LE’s customization options are limited to improving device security or enabling (or disabling) keyboard features, and though this device does not offer specialized features intended specifically for more mature users, it provides ample means of keeping usage simple without sacrificing practical smartphone capabilities or hardware quality.

Potential drawbacks of the Key2 LE include the fact that it cannot be used on the Sprint network and may be unsuitable for T-Mobile customers who live in rural areas. However, this device can be purchased either unlocked (not tied to a specific carrier) or from a carrier that can offer monthly service discounts and device payment plans for new customers who purchase one of their phones.

The BlackBerry Key2 LE’s Relevant Features for Seniors

Neither of our featured service providers for seniors offers this phone for sale, but a previously purchased BlackBerry Key2 LE can be used with a low-cost Consumer Cellular plan thanks to that provider’s Bring Your Own Device policy.

Assistive features that will benefit seniors who purchase the BlackBerry Key2 LE include:

  • Downloads senior-friendly functionality apps from the Google Play store
  • Android OS allows downloads that completely change user interface
  • Physical keys more tactile and more predictable than on-screen buttons
  • Google Maps navigation with the option to save frequent destinations
  • Rubberized and textured back for more secure grip
  • Textured side-mounted buttons are easy to find
  • Fingerprint sensor in space bar for password-free unlocking
  • Virtual keyboard for large-font dialing
  • Very bright, high-definition screen with good contrast
  • Hearing aid compatibility of M4/T3

Device Features and Highlights

The Key2 LE is a quality, mid-range smartphone suitable for most users, offering a feature set that makes operating this device simple, intuitive, and enjoyable. Seniors and younger users will appreciate the following benefits of the Key2 LE.

  • Large, expandable memory
  • Quick Charge 3.0 fully charges battery in about an hour and a half
  • Speed Key opens app shortcuts
  • Exceptional device security features
  • Battery life of 10+ hours
  • Shoots high-resolution 4K video

The BlackBerry Key2 LE’s Specifications

  • Carriers: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile (less reliable in rural areas on T-Mobile)
  • Operating system: BlackBerry custom user interface overlaid on Android 8.1 (Oreo) operating system
  • Screen size: 4.5 inches
  • Screen resolution: 1620 x 1080
  • Phone Size: 5.9 x 2.83 inches, 0.33 inches thick
  • Weight: 5.5 ounces
  • Connectivity: 4G LTE, HD calling, Bluetooth 5, GPS, near field communication
  • Ports: Standard audio, USB-C charging, micro SD slot
  • Processor speed: 1.8 gigahertz
  • RAM: 4 gigabytes
  • Front-facing camera: 8 megapixels
  • Rear camera: 13 and 5 megapixel array with 4K video
  • Available integrated storage: 13 gigabytes
  • Battery life: 10 hours of talk, several days of standby
  • Available colors: Slate, Champagne and Atomic (red)
  • MSRP: $449.99

The Motorola Moto G7 Power

Best Smartphone Under $250

Why We Recommend It

Very long battery life
Impressive hardware at an unusually competitive price
Option to download senior assistance apps with plenty of storage
Works on all carrier networks

User Interface and Operating System Android 9 (Pie) operating system + user interface (added Motorola apps and settings)
Relevant Features for Seniors

Text size adjustment
Voice commands and voice dial
Talk Back voice readouts of display, notifications and dialed numbers
Universal Inbox compiles all message types in one place
Downloads senior-friendly apps
Preinstalled with Google Maps
Preinstalled with Google Calendar reminders
Textured side buttons
Fingerprint sensor
Very bright screen with good contrast and color reproduction
Battery life of up to 2 days or more on a single charge
Talk Back voice readouts of display, notifications and dialed numbers
Universal Inbox compiles all message types in one place
Downloads senior-friendly apps
Preinstalled with Google Maps
Preinstalled with Google Calendar reminders
Textured side buttons
Fingerprint sensor
Very bright screen with good contrast and color reproduction
Battery life of up to 2 days or more on a single charge

Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating M4/T3
Physical Keypad No
Weight 7.8 ounces
Screen Size 6.2 inches
Screen Definition 1520 x 720
Average Battery Life 2 days
Applicable Carriers Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile
Available Colors Blue
Suggested Retail Price $249.99

The Moto G7 Power bears that name because of its massive, two-day battery capacity, but what has made this smartphone a reviewer favorite of 2019 is that it’s possibly the best smartphone you can buy for $250 or less. Most Android handsets of this quality retail at between $400 and $600. This makes the Moto G7 Power an ideal phone for retirees who are moderately comfortable using smart devices, as does the fact that its Android 9.0 operating system and ample storage can accommodate a comprehensive suite of apps that seniors and caregivers may find helpful.

The G7 Power ships unlocked, meaning that it can be used on the buyer’s carrier of choice, and this device also gives users more freedom to choose their ideal carrier as it can be used on any of the four major service providers, including those available in rural areas. Because the G7 Power functions with the use of a wider array of bands than most other budget phones, most users can expect exemplary call and connection quality — even T-Mobile customers who live in rural settings.

The only real drawback of owning the Moto G7 Power is that both its body and screen are made of high-strength Gorilla glass. A glass body can be a magnet for fingerprints, which can make the device look dirty, and drops can be riskier with this device than other, plastic or metal cellphones. If the G7 Power’s impressive capability and streamlined design appeal to you, definitely consider accessorizing this device with a shock-proof case.

The Moto G7 Power’s Relevant Features for Seniors

Though the Moto G7 Power is not available for sale from either of the two featured service providers for seniors discussed above, this device’s ability to be used with any carrier gives consumers a wide range of cost options when shopping for a service plan, including Consumer Cellular’s low-cost plans for seniors and AARP members. The phone offers Motorola’s accessibility settings for people with diminished sight and hearing. The Moto G7 Power’s smartphone functionality and large storage space also make this phone ideal for downloading senior and caregiver assistance apps

The features of the Moto G7 Power that we think will be of the most benefit to seniors include:

  • Text size adjustment
  • Voice commands and voice dialing
  • Talk Back voice reading of displayed text and number dialing
  • Universal Inbox compiles texts, IMs, email and more
  • Fingerprint sensor for password-free security
  • Textured volume and power buttons are easier to find
  • Bright screen suitable for direct sunlight and reduced vision
  • Exceptional battery life keeps it charged for emergencies
  • Can download senior assistance apps from Google Play store
  • Android OS allows downloads that completely change user interface
  • Good volume for a single-speaker phone at 88 to 90 decibels
  • Hearing aid compatibility of M4/T3

Device Features and Highlights

While it can be a great option for seniors, the Moto G7 Power is one of the most versatile cellular phones on our list of the best devices of 2019 for users of all ages. The following are some of the outstanding features and benefits of this device.

  • Good quality LCD screen with excellent contrast
  • Snappy download and upload speeds
  • Capable processor offers smooth usage
  • Sleek design
  • Highly affordable smartphone
  • Well-balanced and easy to hold
  • Motorola settings and gestures improve on Android 9 user experience

The Moto G7 Power’s Specifications

  • Carriers: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile
  • Operating system: Android 9.0 (Pie)
  • Screen size: 6.2 inches
  • Screen resolution: 1520 x 720
  • Phone Size: 6.28 x 2.99 inches, .37 inches thick
  • Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2 LE, 4G LTE, HD calling
  • Ports: USB-C charging, standard audio, micro SD
  • Processor speed: 1.8 gigahertz
  • RAM: 3 GB
  • Front-facing camera: 8 megapixels
  • Rear camera: 12 megapixels
  • Available integrated storage: 18 GB
  • Battery life: 2 days
  • Available colors: Blue
  • MSRP: $249.99

The Apple iPhone 7 from Consumer Cellular

Best Smartphone for Apple Enthusiasts on a Budget

Why We Recommend It

Currently supported Apple device with cutting edge hardware
Very bright and very clear Retina HD screen
Access to Apple ecosystem
Competitively priced by Consumer Cellular at $300
Modern accessibility settings
Siri voice assistant

User Interface and Operating System Current Apple OS
Relevant Features for Seniors

Text size adjustment
Voice commands and voice dial
Voice assistant (Siri) eases navigation and usage
Fingerprint sensor for password-free security
HD Retina screen has excellent color, contrast and brightness
Less reflective screen is easier to see
High-contrast setting
Hearing aids made for iPhone compatibility are available

Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating M3/T4
Physical Keypad No
Weight 4.87 ounces
Screen Size 4.7 inches
Screen Definition 1334 x 750 Retina HD
Average Battery Life 5 to 12+ hours (heavily dependent on usage habits)
Applicable Carriers Consumer Cellular via AT&T
Available Colors Rose Gold and Black (Gold and Silver available from other retailers)
Suggested Retail Price $300

Consumer Cellular offers a broad range of Apple’s iPhones, but we chose Consumer Cellular’s iPhone 7 offering (from Apple’s previous generation of iPhones) because it comes with a relatively low price and a still-impressive feature set as well as low-cost coverage from Consumer Cellular. Also, because this device was released somewhat recently in 2016, the iPhone 7 should continue to receive support and software updates from Apple well into the future. This device offers a user experience that can be adapted for use by seniors who have a moderate understanding of smartphones, but because Apple does not offer app downloads that can significantly simplify the user interface, seniors with a beginner’s understanding of smartphones may be at a disadvantage with an iPhone.

The iPhone 7 offers password-free unlocking with a user’s saved fingerprint, one of the industry’s most beautiful and clear displays, and accessibility settings that can make an iPhone suitable for people with diminished physical capacities. Because the iPhone 7 retails at an MSRP of $300, it’s a more accessible option for retirees on a budget. It is also one of the highest-quality smartphones you can buy at this price point.

As mentioned above, the drawback of Apple’s strictly proprietary operating system is that the user interface of an iPhone cannot be altered using apps to adapt the phone to its user beyond the manufacturer’s available settings. Android phones, such as the Moto G7 Power and the BlackBerry Key2 LE listed previously, can be downloaded with launcher apps that simplify an Android phone’s user interface, giving Android-based phones greater adaptability to the needs of seniors in different age groups. 

Though you won’t find this kind of customizability on an Apple device, iPhones still offer a comprehensive list of accessibility settings for users with visual and hearing impairment. Many users also value the simplicity of Apple’s more standardized functioning as well as the more predictable build quality of Apple devices. However, it should be noted that the iPhone 7 has been a polarizing model among Apple consumers as it does not have a headphone jack. Instead, headphones must be inserted into the phone’s USB-C charging port, for which Apple provides a small adapter with the purchase of the iPhone 7.

The iPhone 7’s Relevant Features for Seniors

The iPhone 7 is currently available from Consumer Cellular, which means that it comes with award-winning customer service, low-cost service plans and monthly discounts for members of the AARP. Seniors and people with diminished memory, vision or hearing may also appreciate the following features of Apple’s iPhone 7.

  • Text size adjustment
  • Voice commands and voice dialing
  • Voice assistant (Siri) eases phone navigation and use
  • Fingerprint sensor for password-free security
  • High-definition screen with exceptional contrast and color vibrance (Retina HD)
  • High-contrast setting
  • Brighter and less reflective screen than most smartphones
  • Hearing aid compatibility of M3/T4
  • Hearing aids that are made for Apple compatibility are available

Device Features and Highlights

The iPhone is an incredibly popular device among young people due to its always-appealing design and its access to Apple’s ecosystem of proprietary apps, like iTunes, iBooks and the App Store. Users in any age group can find features to appreciate on the iPhone 7, such as the following.

  • Water resistant
  • Lightning fast processor offers speeds of up to 2.33 gigahertz
  • Quick charge battery uses Apple Lightning
  • Plus model available with larger screen, storage and battery
  • Takes 4K video at 30 frames per second

The iPhone 7’s Specifications

  • Carriers: Consumer Cellular via AT&T
  • Operating system: Apple iOS
  • Screen size: 4.7 inches
  • Screen resolution: 1334 x 750 Retina HD
  • Phone Size: 5.44 x 2.64 inches, 0.28 inches thick
  • Weight: 4.87 ounces
  • Connectivity: 4G LTE, GPS, Bluetooth 4.2
  • Ports: Apple Lightning charging doubles as audio port with included adapter
  • Processor speed: 2.33 gigahertz
  • Front-facing camera: 7 megapixels
  • Rear camera: 12 megapixels
  • Total integrated storage: 32 GB
  • Expandable memory: No
  • Battery life: 5 to 12+ hours (heavily dependent on usage habits)
  • MSRP: $649.00

The Sonim XP3

Why We Recommend It

Very loud speaker and ringer
Extremely durable and waterproof
Apps and features normally unavailable with flip phones
droid 8.1 (Oreo) with custom user interface
Voice dialing and voice commands

User Interface and Operating System Multiple call-screening options
Relevant Features for Seniors

Withstands drops and water exposure
Can support talk and text only plans
Users can lock apps
Simple navigation and app set
High-volume speaker and ringer
Programmable side-button to launch apps quickly

Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating M3/T4
Physical Keypad Yes
Weight 6.88 ounces
Screen Size 2.6 inches
Screen Definition 320 x 240
Average Battery Life 7 hours talk, 2 days standby
Applicable Carriers AT&T, Sprint
Available Colors Black
Suggested Retail Price $240

Best Flip Phone for Durability and Internet Connectivity

Sonim’s XP3 also boasts a loud ringer and high-quality call connections, and unlike many other flip phones marketed to seniors, it supports extra-clear HD calling over 4G LTE. Call quality is further aided by the wide array of carrier bands the Sonim XP3 can use. This phone’s adaptability to a broad range of bands means that Sprint or AT&T customers who live in rural areas will have clear, consistent calling. The Sonim also offers more connectivity than the majority of other flip phones, providing cloud sharing and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

The XP3 from Sonim is the most rugged flip phone on our list and the only one that comes with a three-year warranty. Often carried by people who work in extreme or hazardous environments, this device is listed as IP68 waterproof and ruggedized up to industrial standards. The Sonim XP3 is a solid option for beginners and those who want a simple flip phone that can take years of drops and hard abuse.

This device has all of the benefits of a simplified flip phone, but it comes with slightly more capable apps and design features that, among other things, make the XP3 ideal for teams working in professional capacities. The only drawbacks of the Sonim XP3 are its weak call vibration (though it has a very loud ringer) and its somewhat limited battery life that supports about seven hours of talk and two to three days on standby.

The Sonim XP3’s Relevant Features for Seniors

The Sonim XP3 is available to AT&T and Sprint customers, which means that this device can be used on Consumer Cellular’s exceptional, AT&T-based network even though Consumer Cellular does not sell the Sonim XP3. Thanks to their Bring Your Own Device policy, new customers can bring this device over to the Consumer Cellular network to receive their cost benefits for seniors and AARP members.

Features of the Sonim XP3 that will be of greatest assistance to seniors include:

  • Programmable button that can quickly launch selected apps
  • High-volume speaker and ringer
  • Simple navigation and app set
  • Easily supports talk and text only plans
  • Withstands drops like no other device
  • Multiple call-screening options to reduce solicitations
  • Voice dialing and voice commands
  • Hearing aid compatibility of M3/T4
  • Flashlight uses rear camera flash

Device Features and Highlights

The XP3 has been used for years by professionals working in even the harshest conditions, such as firefighters and EMTs. Though it is a relatively simple device, the Sonim XP3 offers renowned dependability and at least basic smart functionality. The Basic Highlights and features of this device include:

  • Two or more days of battery in standby
  • Choose ringers for specific contacts
  • Highly waterproof at an IP68 rating
  • Apps include basic web browser
  • Sonim Scout app provides app locking, warranty registration and other tools
  • Can play MP3 or AAC files
  • Takes video at 720p

The Sonim CP3’s Specifications

  • Carriers: AT&T, Sprint
  • Operating system: Android 8.1
  • Processing speed: 1 gigahertz
  • Expandable memory: Yes
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte
  • Dimensions: 4.4 x 2.28 inches, 1.06 inches thick
  • Screen size: 2.6 inches
  • Screen resolution: 320 x 240
  • Weight: 6.88 ounces
  • Connectivity: 4G LTE, FM radio, Wi-Fi hotspot, cloud sharing, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS
  • Camera: 5 megapixels, rear-facing
  • Battery life: 7 hours of talk, two days on standby
  • Available on-device storage: 4.98 gigabyte
  • MSRP: $240.00

What Type of Mobile Device Is Right for You?

With more innovative technology coming onto the market every year, finding a device that will suit your needs and lifestyle can be a little confusing. To clarify what kinds of phones will be ideal for seniors with different needs and competency levels, read on to find out more about the basic types of consumer technologies that we have included in our list of the best devices for seniors.

Traditional Mobile Phones (Flip Phones)

While it’s difficult these days to find a candy bar-style phone with a physical keypad and limited functionality, flip phones are still in demand. Most flip phones available today appear to be relatively unchanged from the old flip-style Nokias and StarTACs that many people carried 20 to 30 years ago. Those devices were durable, simple machines with digital (rather than virtual) screens, and they did little more than make calls. Even after text messaging became popular, most flip phones stayed behind the curve, opting instead to keep things traditional.

What has changed for the flip phone is that most now support texting and provide a more graphical screen that can display a very basic set of applications, such as a text app, a calendar, a calculator and a dialer. Many also now come with a programmable button that can be set up by the user to dial an emergency contact or launch a specific app without the need to navigate the phone’s menu. Though all of the flip phones on our list can use 4G LTE data to support HD calling and GPS, these features typically do not result in monthly data charges to the user, so most flip phones can be paired with talk-and-text-only service plans.

Flip phones are generally sufficient for these uses:

  • Making calls
  • Texting
  • Using basic apps like calendars and calculators
  • Using caregiver apps to track the phone over GPS
  • Limited Internet browser use

Smartphones

Smartphones come in a broad array of styles, though almost all of them feature an all-glass face without a physical keypad, and also feature a more clearly defined display than most flip phones offer. These devices can support talk-and-text-only service plans for users who appreciate the virtual, on-screen navigation of a smartphone but who do not use Internet functionality. In most cases, however, the cost of smartphones will be higher than traditionally styled devices because they are capable of delivering a user experience that integrates a variety of online features, like the ability to download games and other apps, or even to download a completely different user interface to suit the owner’s needs and preferences.

Smartphones are also usually faster than flip phones, as their broader range of capabilities is increasingly tailored to consumers who subject their phones to heavier usage and thus need more processing power. Flip phone users may find that navigating their device’s apps and menus can take a little longer, especially if they have multiple applications open at the same time.

Smartphones can be used for these applications:

  • Making calls and texting
  • Having video calls with friends and family
  • Taking higher-quality pictures and video
  • Using social media and Internet browsers
  • Downloading apps and games
  • Utilizing more sophisticated caregiver apps
  • Using downloadable launchers to simplify the user interface (on Android devices)

Understanding Assistive Features for Seniors

To help more mature technology users stay connected to a support system of caregivers, family, and medical professionals, cell phone companies sometimes integrate assistive features intended just for them into modern devices. These features come in the form of apps, settings, and hardware functions.

Most phones that are not made specifically for seniors don’t come with these kinds of features pre-installed or built into the hardware. However, smartphones furnished with a monthly data plan can download a nearly limitless array of apps and software that can make life easier and safer for senior citizens. Read below to learn about the most commonly found mobile device features for older users.

  • Caregiver Support Apps: Caregiver apps can offer the ability to help a caregiver set up a phone remotely to download contacts and adjust the phone’s settings, but their most important function is often to make sure a loved one will get the help they need in an emergency. Most caregiver apps allow a device owner’s phone to be tracked via GPS so that the individual can be found if they become lost. Some caregiver apps such as GreatCall Link, which comes pre-installed with Jitterbug phones, have more specialized functions. For example, GreatCall Link allows caregivers to make sure their loved one’s phone remains charged and that they are remembering to attend important events, like doctor visits.  
  • Medical Alert Integration: Most consumer devices do not come with integrated medical alert applications, so it’s usually the case that apps like this must be downloaded by the user. GreatCall’s Jitterbug phones — the only cellular phones with integrated medical alert — feature a large 5Star Assistance button. 5Star Urgent Response services require a monthly service fee of $19.99. However, medical alert programs will always come with requisite fees and charges. Users who download medical alert applications from any source should first ensure that the call center tasked with providing the service is effective and has the user’s full information on file.
  • SOS Buttons: Many phones now come with a virtual or physical button devoted SOS button. Most phones that come with an SOS button allow the user to simultaneously contact multiple emergency contacts and reach emergency services with the single push of a button. Some, however, may also function as an alert button that, when pressed, will set off a loud alarm and use the phone’s camera flash to alert people nearby that the device’s owner is in a situation where they feel endangered.
  • Hearing Aid Compatibility: People who use hearing aids should look for devices that have a good hearing aid compatibility rating. These days, devices are required to have a baseline compatibility with hearing aids so that users do not experience feedback and other issues during conversations. Ratings are given based on how well a device can be used in combination with a hearing aid on both its microphone and telecoil listening modes, and ratings for both are assessed on a four-point scale, from at least M2/T2 (M for microphone compatibility and T for telecoil) up to M4/T4. Though the hearing aid industry’s lowest acceptable compatibility rating is M2/T2, many of the consumer devices on this list have the maximum M4/T4 compatibility rating.
  • Hearing and Visual Aids: All modern smartphones provide settings to enable hearing and visually impaired users to take advantage of communications technology. These features are most commonly found as a menu item within a device’s settings app, often listed as ‘Accessibility Settings’. They frequently include a gesture-controlled screen magnifier, heightened contrast, text-to-speech readouts, and enlarged text across all device menus and screens. Other features that you might find on certain devices include things like speaking keypads that call out each number as it is dialed, audio amplification settings and magnifiers that use a phone’s video camera to show an enlarged image of a physical object on the device’s screen. Most smartphones also give users access to an app store where a vast array of assistance apps can be downloaded.
  • Voice Command Features: Voice interaction with consumer devices has been a big step forward for seniors struggling to stay connected with family and friends in the digital age. It makes navigating complicated devices command-based and, for simple functions like opening apps or making calls, nearly instantaneous. While voice recognition technologies are still in development, they are coming a long way fast, and seniors have become a part of voice technology innovation. Devices that are based on the Android operating system, as well as Google-based devices are compatible with Google Voice, whereas Apple uses Siri and Windows devices use Cortana. Users who have other devices which they’d like to integrate with their phone may benefit from buying another of the same basic type of device so that the same voice assistant can be used seamlessly. Other voice technologies, like text-to-speech (to make the phone read text aloud), can usually be found among a device’s Accessibility Settings, and voice typing (to compose text or dial phone numbers) is usually engaged using a button on a device’s virtual or physical keypad.

Who Should Consider a Cell Phone?

Image of Senior Couple using phone.

With the huge variety of consumer tech devices on the market, there truly is something for everybody, but finding the right device for yourself or a loved one can be a difficult choice to make. To make your device shopping experience a little easier, here we’ll cover what kinds of device features may be best suited to seniors in particular circumstances. 

Independent Seniors and People with Disabilities

Living independently in one’s family home is increasingly popular among seniors, and there are now technological advancements that can help to make aging in place a safer, more secure experience. Even for people who must have the aid of a caregiver at least some of the time, remaining independent is now more within reach than ever thanks to preventative and emergency device features for seniors.

Seniors who fall into this category should look for a device with the following features:

  • Medical Alert: The only cell phones that currently ship with medical alert capabilities are GreatCall’s Jitterbug phones, which feature a large 5Star Assistance button that subscribers can use to reach an accredited call center. Users who download or utilize medical alert applications from any device manufacturer or app developer should first ensure that the call center tasked with providing the service is an effective emergency response center, and that it has the user’s full information on file. In some cases, it may be preferable that alerts are sent directly to 911 services rather than through a medical alert call center. For people who are at significant risk of needing emergency services, it may be best to buy a smartwatch with integrated Google GPS technology, with which 911 can be reached easily and directly. For users who are less likely to find themselves in an emergency situation, it may be sufficient to set up their phone so that emergency contacts can be reached without deeply navigating the device’s user interface. This can often be done with the use of a user-programmable button or speed-dial apps placed on a device’s homescreen.
  • Smartphone Functionality: Seniors who still have the drive and capacity to learn a new device may be better equipped to stay connected with younger family members, and thus may desire a more capable device. Some modern flip phones can support limited smart functionality, such as Wi-Fi calling and video chat. However, flip devices typically operate more slowly and do not allow app downloads for games and online banking, and accessing social media may not be an option. 
  • SOS Functions: An SOS button that can set off a loud alarm and contact emergency services and caregivers is a very useful new innovation for seniors who are living independently. These can typically alert family members when used to dial 911 and can also be useful for active seniors who find themselves in a situation where they feel unsafe. 

Seniors Experiencing Forgetfulness

For people who may be in the early to moderate stages of dementia, having a device around that can remind them to carry out vital functions or just to remember where they are is often incredibly useful. For users who may not remember to carry their device with them, most devices now come with a voice assistant that can be set up to give reminders audibly over a speaker so that it can be heard around the home. 

Seniors who fall into this category should look for a device with the following features:

  • Event Reminders: Calendar apps are integrated into all modern consumer devices, and these can be set to provide reminders on a recurring basis at a frequency of the user’s choosing. The volume and ring tone of an event reminder can be set up by the user or a caregiver, so for people who may come to rely on their reminder apps, a louder phone is ideal. Devices made particularly for seniors may offer more capable reminder applications.
  • SOS Buttons: As mentioned above, SOS buttons and apps are an easily accessible means of setting off an alarm and/or calling emergency services and a user’s emergency contacts simultaneously. If you or a loved one should ever forget where you are when you’re in public, sounding the alarm with an SOS button can significantly cut your chances of becoming more lost or endangered.
  • Caregiver Apps: A caregiver app may be the most useful feature that modern devices can offer for users whose memory has diminished. These applications generally offer caregivers the ability to remotely locate their loved one’s device using its GPS tracker, and also to allow caregivers to log into the phone. The exact features available with caregiver apps will vary with the brand and operating system of the device you buy, but most of these apps can allow caregivers to input event reminders, set up features and the user interface, lock certain apps and make sure that the one they care for has been remembering to get to important appointments. 
  • Navigation Apps: Many seniors are still quite active when their memory begins to weaken. Some may still drive themselves around or bike and walk frequently. With navigation apps such as Google Maps, a user’s most frequented destinations can be saved and directions can be downloaded for offline use, and these apps make it easy to pinpoint your current location as well. 

Seniors at Risk of Becoming Isolated

Isolation has always been a serious senior health and wellness issue. A modern contributor to senior isolation is the increasingly common trend of younger friends and family engaging digitally rather than in person or by making voice calls. While only about one third of seniors have any interest in using social media apps like Snapchat or Facebook, having the ability to stay involved with a support system of loved ones and caregivers becomes much easier with a smartphone.

Seniors who fall into this category should look for a device with the following features:

  • Caregiver and Wellness Apps: While caregiver apps offer lots of options to remotely monitor your loved one’s safety, some of these apps, and also wellness apps made for seniors, can include more social components. For example, GreatCall’s Jitterbug phones offer GreatCall Link and other proprietary apps which provide a place for a device user to express how they are feeling each day so that caregivers can check in and monitor their loved one’s sense of wellbeing. Jitterbug users can also use their phone and GreatCall’s services to reach a personal operator or receive calls from medical professionals.
  • Front-Facing Camera: Video calling is often integrated into pre-installed phone calling apps for smartphones, and it’s a function that young children and teens use quite often to communicate. For device users who wish to interact with young family members using video to make calls or to record content to send to loved ones, a device with a front-facing camera located near the display is ideal. While most smartphones will come with both a front and rear camera, most flip phones only have a rear-facing lens. 
  • Smartphone Functionality: Features like the GrandPad’s ability to automatically import media that friends and family post on social media sites make it easy for seniors to stay involved with the day-to-day lives of their families. Especially for seniors who have difficulty leaving the house, being able to get online to communicate or just to see what your loved ones have been up to can be very rewarding. As we stated above, most flip phones do not support Internet browsing or downloaded apps and games. 

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Cell Phone for Seniors

1. Determine the level of simplicity that the device user will require.

Users who desire a completely bare-bones cell phone are not without options, but many seniors may find a talk-and-text-only flip phone a little too simple to suit their everyday needs. Even users who do not frequently use the Internet may want to play Candy Crush once in a while or download pictures of their grandchildren from social media sites. 

For these consumers, a slightly more capable smartphone, such as the Jitterbug Smart2, can be purchased nearly ready to use, requiring minimal effort to set up. Other devices that are simplified for use by seniors are set up with the help of a representative who will guide the whole process over the phone and even remotely install a user’s contacts and photos for them.  

There is also the option to buy a mass market smartphone, like the iPhone 7 or the Android-based Moto G7 Power, and then program it to be as simple or complex as the user needs it to be. When purchasing this kind of device, however, it’s best to remember that the process of programming a smartphone’s user interface can become complicated and time consuming if a lot of changes are needed to simplify the device for use by a senior who has a low competency for consumer technology. 

Caregivers and seniors should be aware of what kinds of apps, interface and accessibility settings they require in a phone before buying a device that could take hours or days to customize to suit those needs. Compared to the Jitterbug Smart2, the GrandPad from Consumer Cellular, or even Apple’s iPhones, smart devices based on the Android operating system have more capacity for customization and, as a result, can be more complicated to program.

2. Look for devices that are compatible with your chosen cell service provider.

Cell service across the country is provided by the ‘big four’ service providers, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, and also their subsidiaries, like Cricket Wireless (using AT&T’s networks) and Metro (by T-Mobile) among others. Our two featured cell service providers for seniors, GreatCall and Consumer Cellular, utilize the Verizon and AT&T networks, respectively. 

The four main carriers all have widespread national coverage, though one or two may have more solid coverage in your area and offer better call quality. Finding your best provider may require asking around about which is a local favorite or just trying a few carriers before you find your best option. Whichever carrier you choose, the device you purchase must be compatible with their network for the carrier to offer you service. 

Though all providers sell a variety of devices that are tied to their own service plans, many devices, such as the Moto G7 Power covered above, can be purchased ‘unlocked’, which means that they are not restricted to use with one particular provider. Owners of unlocked phones can usually shop for service plans from any provider, as long as the nearly outmoded CDMA carrier device restrictions do not apply. 

CDMA technology is usually only a problem with older phones, but it can effectively restrict device owners to using either Verizon/Sprint (the CDMA carriers) or AT&T/T-Mobile. However, CDMA may not be an issue for many consumers as purchasing a ‘locked’ device directly from a service provider’s stores can come with carrier-specific perks, such as long-term payment plans for devices and monthly discounts on service.

3. Ensure that your loved one’s device is future-proof.

Though most seniors today have little interest in cutting edge consumer tech, future proof devices can benefit seniors who require even a small amount of Internet data for things like GPS, or who are becoming hard of hearing. The four North American cellular carriers are now in the process of turning off support for 3G Internet data to make room for future 5G LTE usage. 

Beginning in 2019, phones that are only compatible with 2G or 3G Internet connections will see a significant reduction in their ability to support smart functionality. Another advancement of 2019 is that cell carriers are now beginning to offer HD calling that uses 4G LTE rather than cellular data to support call connections. Users will likely still be able to use the same basic calling apps that they have always used on their mobile devices, but the connection strength and audio quality of their calls will be much improved by the switch to 4G LTE.

4. Understand all the costs and fees of your device and service plan.

Low-cost service plans are available from the four large carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile) as well as from providers who use those companies’ networks as GreatCall and Consumer Cellular do. But most, if not all of the time, low-cost plans are most advantageous for low-volume users who do not require unlimited talk and text with lots of data. 

Even plans that are advertised for seniors and low-income people can approach the average cost of cell service if a selected plan provides for high usage. This is why it’s important to very carefully review all of the price points being offered by any carrier, and all of their caveats. Also note that many new contracts come with added one-time costs, as most carriers require an activation fee. And, of course, keep in mind that taxes and fees on monthly bills are not usually included in advertised prices for usage. These will include carrier fees as well as various state and local taxes.

Other costs can add up when carriers offer payment plans on devices that allow customers to pay a small amount of their device’s cost on each monthly bill. Remember, however, that early termination of a contract will usually result in not only a sizeable early termination fee but will also require the consumer to pay off the remaining balance for their device in one or two final payments. 

Yet another cost to look out for can show up on your bill near your contract’s end. Most carriers will offer a discount on monthly payments until the end of a ‘promotional period’ that usually lasts until the end of the initial contract’s term, after which point your payments can go up unless you call in or go to a store to begin a new contract with new promotional discounts. 

When shopping for low-cost cellular plans, don’t hesitate to go online, break out your calculator and take some notes on what you find. Pay special attention to any temporary discounts you are offered, and when calculating the base rates for your plan, tack on about $15 to $25 per month to cover device insurance, device purchase costs and taxes/fees.

Tips for Caregivers

Image of Caregiver with Patient

Learn how to use caregiver apps.

For seniors, part of finding a ‘future-proof’ device includes finding one that will support the increasing needs of old age. Even if a loved one doesn’t need much oversight today, it’s prudent to think of features that may assist them if they begin to lose their memory or other ability to function down the road. Caregiver apps can be extremely helpful in that regard.

Caregiver apps can provide a means to log into a consenting friend or family member’s device to help them perform basic functions with the phone, such as entering emergency contacts or adjusting settings. But often, that is just the tip of the iceberg for what caregiver apps can do. Most can provide the means to locate a senior via GPS if they are lost and can help them stay connected to emergency services and caregivers if they find themselves in an emergency situation. Many also come with emergency medical identification features that can aid medical professionals who need to be quickly informed of a device owner’s needs and conditions.

When setting up a new phone, a first priority should be ensuring that all the most helpful features of a caregiver app are set up as well, and if no caregiver apps come pre-installed on the device, caregivers should look into downloading one from their device’s app store. Caregivers should ensure that all medical information is filled out and filed away where it can be easily accessed by a device administrator or medical professional. And just as importantly, caregivers should ensure that they have easy access to their loved one’s phone and create memorable passwords for quick access should the need arise. It’s also wise to get used to using caregiver app features so that they remain useful under current and future circumstances.

Help your loved one make their device effective and easy to use.

Setting up a new phone can be more or less complicated depending on which device you purchase, though in many cases, some assistance with setup may be needed for a senior to get the most use out of their device. Taking the time to fully set up all of a phone’s most beneficial features and helping your loved one to learn to use them is best to do right after purchasing a device. This way, the user will be less likely to become uncertain of their ability to depend on their new technology, and they’ll be more likely to use the device and all of its unique benefits.

Device setup can encompass a broad range of administrative tweaks which can take hours or multiple days to attend to, so the best way to begin the setup process is often to focus on your loved one’s most pressing and immediate needs. Caregiver apps should definitely be part of this process, as stated above, but beyond that, there are some basic things you can do to make your loved one’s first impressions of their device as positive as possible.

The following are a few basic steps to take when first setting up a loved one’s device.

  • Enter medical information in caregiver and medical alert apps
  • Set up fingerprint ID authentication for unlocking and app access
  • Program voice assistants to understand your loved one’s spoken commands
  • Set up voice dialing and specific voice commands
  • Turn on location services so the phone can be found remotely
  • Set the text size and ringer volume
  • Turn on and set up Easy Mode and other visual/hearing assistance settings
  • Save their most frequented locations in their GPS app
  • Set up speed dial and input contacts
  • Set up SOS buttons or emergency alert features
  • Simplify their homescreen to contain only apps they are most likely to use
  • Set up programmable buttons to perform their most useful functions
  • Save any passwords they may need to remember in a password manager
  • Disable Auto Correct and other advanced keyboard settings
  • Download Android launcher apps to simplify the user interface

For further insights on how to set up a phone for an elderly loved one, you’ll find a few great resources online, such as this blog post from FonePaw about how to set up an iPhone for a senior.

Set up reminders for things they may forget.

Most phones — even flip phones — will have a calendar or related app in which you can set regular or one-off reminders for certain events. Caregiver apps can also include event reminders, providing caregivers with the ability to remotely program reminders and use GPS to make sure their loved one gets to their important appointments. Reminders can be set up as recurring events, so they can function as medication cues as well as alarms to remind the user of birthdays, doctor’s appointments and other important dates. It may also be a good idea to use your loved one’s device to set up auto-pay of their bills via Google Pay or Apple Pay. This can be a more effective means than simple reminders for making sure the lights stay on.

Make sure the device is easy to find if it’s lost.

Smart devices now come with a ‘find my phone’ feature to help users locate their devices using another device, such as a desktop computer or smartphone. Apple’s Find My iPhone app and Google’s Find My Device app for Android phones can locate a lost device by pinpointing its location or by saving the location of the phone whenever its battery becomes critically low. However, some users may not have another device with which to use Find My Device, or they may require a simpler and more exact means of finding their device after misplacing it around the house. In these instances, a GPS tag device with a simple alarm can be very helpful. There are many small devices on the market, such as Tile, that can be fixed to a phone’s case without adding significant bulk or weight, and which can give off an alarm sound at the push of a button or be located by GPS using another device.

Finding Cell Phones for Low-Income Seniors

Lifeline

The FCC provides a program called Lifeline that offers a $9.25 discount on phone service or a standalone broadband connection for people living on a low income in every state, territory, commonwealth, and tribal land. Qualifying tribal subscribers can receive an additional $25 service discount. The program’s participating providers are all mass market cell service providers, and some may also offer free or heavily discounted plans and devices.

Free Phones and Service Plans

Some participating Lifeline service providers and device retailers provide free smartphones and free, low-volume service plans to individuals who are eligible for Lifeline. This is a less openly advertised part of the Lifeline program, and it seems the list of participating companies changes quite frequently. To find providers who may offer free devices and services in your area, visit USAC.org, and contact the local providers you find there to find out if they provide free options. Many will at least provide extremely low-cost prepaid plans.

Eligibility

Lifeline is operated by the Universal Service Administrative Company (the USAC), which determines individual eligibility using the National Eligibility Verifier. To qualify for Lifeline, you must meet at least one of the following requirements.

  • Income at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (to determine whether your income is equal to or less than 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, multiply the guideline amount that applies to you in the chart linked above by 1.35 and compare to your total annual income)
  • Medicaid participation
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participation (Food Stamps)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) participation
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8) participation

Tribal assistance programs that automatically qualify participants for Lifeline discounts include:

  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribally Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met)

To locate a Lifeline Program service provider near you, visit USAC.org and enter your zip code or city/state, or call USAC’s toll-free number (888) 641-8722. For program rules, visit FCC.gov.

State and Local Phone Bill Assistance

State and local assistance with a monthly phone bill may be available from local organizations or state institutions serving your area. These resources can be located by contacting your nearest Area Agencies on Aging office. The AAA consists of a nationwide network of senior resource centers located in every state, and these function as sources of information and services for low-income seniors seeking assistance.

To find your nearest AAA location, visit N4A.org and enter your city/state or zip code in the fields provided.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do if my loved one forgets to keep their cell phone with them?

Many seniors and caregivers experience this problem, though it’s more of an issue for people who rely more heavily on their device for emergency assistance and caregiver functionality, such as GPS location of a device owner. In these instances, it may be more beneficial to look into purchasing an attractive and comfortable smart watch that the user may enjoy wearing and find easy to use. For other users who are less reliant on their device for their safety, caregivers should ensure that they and their loved one are able to find the device using Google’s Find My Device feature or Apple’s Find My iPhone, both of which can be accessed remotely using any device that supports web browsing. Small GPS tags and attachments, such as the Tile mentioned above, can emit an alarm sound with the push of a button so that users can find their devices when misplaced around the house or in the car.

What do GreatCall’s health and safety features do for seniors?

GreatCall’s health and safety services are available as add-ons, and different combinations of services are available with differently priced Health & Safety Packages. Depending on what the customer is willing to pay each month, GreatCall’s Packages can offer the following forms of assistance:

  • 5Star Urgent Response connects users with a live agent by pushing the dedicated 5Star button on any Jitterbug phone. Agents pinpoint the caller’s location and can connect them with their personal contacts or emergency services.
  • GreatCall Link is a pre-installed app on all GreatCall phones that helps caregivers stay connected with loved ones to monitor their health and safety.
  • Brain Games are pre-installed apps on Jitterbug phones that are designed to promote memory retention and help users stay sharp.
  • GreatCall Rides allows users to call for a Lyft rideshare to take them where they need to go at affordable rates. Users can dial 0 to reach their Personal Operator, who will order a Lyft for them.
  • Personal Operators can be reached by dialing 0 on a Jitterbug phone. They can help with device operation, address and phone number lookups and more.

Can a smartphone be simple enough for a total beginner to use?

If caregivers are willing and able to program a smartphone to their own specifications, then it’s likely they’ll be able to do the same for someone who needs a very simplified user experience on their smartphone. Most means of simplifying a user interface are available in a device’s native settings, and can include Accessibility Settings, touch ID setup, and other minor adjustments such as those included in our Tips for Caregivers section above. For users of Android phones who require the simplest interface possible, launcher apps are available in the Google Play Store which, when downloaded, provide a seemingly brand-new user experience. There are lots of well-reviewed launchers for seniors available in the Play Store that can simplify the Android user experience in a variety of ways, and most of them require very little technical knowhow to install and set up. Though, of course, when purchasing a smart device for a beginner, it’s usually necessary to teach them how to operate their device to accomplish most tasks. This can take time and patience, but it’s worthwhile.

What’s the difference between Apple devices (iOS) and devices that use the Android operating system (OS)?

The main difference between Apple and Android devices is that Apple’s products are all made exclusively by Apple, whereas Android provides open source software for phones that allows any device manufacturer to adapt their devices for use with the Android operating system. The result is that Apple’s products have more predictable build quality and that the apps available in Apple’s proprietary App Store are all made specifically for a limited range of standardized devices so that some apps can operate more smoothly and capably on Apple devices. Another key difference between Android and Apple is that Android phones are much more customizable by users and come in a broad array of designs and capability levels from different manufacturers. Android phones can also be much more affordable than an iPhone, whereas iPhones can be easier for less experienced smart technology users to operate without the need for major settings adjustments.

Can flip phones use Internet apps and features?

Most flip phones offer at least a limited amount of Internet functionality, though often this does not include the use of an Internet browser or app downloads. The flip phones that we have listed in our comparison guide above all support the use of 4G LTE Internet to allow consumers to use GPS or HD calling for better call connections. However, the majority of flip phones on the market now ship with a few pre-installed productivity apps that may not require an Internet connection, such as a calendar, calculator or magnifier.

If I don’t qualify for Lifeline, what are my options for low-cost devices and service plans?

For device and cellular plan shoppers who do not qualify for Lifeline (see Lifeline’s eligibility criteria above), the best option for low-cost plans and devices is usually a very limited prepaid plan with an off-brand flip or smartphone. These can be found in most grocery and department stores. Large service providers may also offer prepaid plans, though their available low-cost devices may be more costly than the off-brand devices you’ll find at large retail stores.

Can I lock certain apps or limit Internet activity to avoid scams?

There are device users for whom having lots of apps and features at their disposal is just confusing, and this can result in their making accidental in-app purchases or even being targeted by scams and hackers online. Many modern devices come with restriction settings which can limit the types of websites that a device’s browser can open or lock apps that the device user is unlikely to need. App locking and limiting Internet traffic are usually part of a device’s Security Settings, though some devices that are made for seniors, like the GrandPad for example, offer caregivers the ability to remotely limit a loved one’s device usage in certain applications.

Is there a way to make remembering lots of passwords easier without compromising device security?

Many smartphone users now utilize some form of password manager to keep all of their important login IDs in one secure place. But with the many data breaches that have happened in recent years, it can be difficult to trust a service provider to look after your passwords for you. However, writing down passwords either on a physical notepad or in a digital note that you keep in your device can make technology consumers even more likely to misplace passwords, or more vulnerable to hacks. The leading password management services take consistent and sophisticated measures to secure user data, including two-step verification and regular security updates that keep users a step ahead of data thieves. Many smartphones now come with proprietary password management apps and settings created by the device manufacturer. These can usually be found among a device’s Security Settings


To find out more about other assistive devices and safety-enhancing technology, read our guides to these topics: