Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2020
While cell phones might seem complicated at first, they hold a number of benefits for seniors looking to stay in touch with family or friends and explore the world around them.
But which model should you choose? With hundreds of options available, finding the best phone might seem intimidating.
You need not worry.
We're here to help!
Before diving into reviews to find the best senior phones in 2020, we came up with a few requirements:
Availability: A specialized phone doesn’t help much if there’s no one there to provide support should things go wrong. We wanted to find phones that most people could find either online through major retailers or at a local store.
Ease of Use: Having a phone you can’t use is more frustrating than not having one at all. Whether this is your first mobile phone or an upgrade, we wanted to find phones that were simple to learn and use.
Reliability: As smartphones continue to become common parts of daily life, they aren’t always the dependable devices they used to be. We wanted to find phones that offered consistent performance and would withstand daily use with minimal frustration and need for replacement.
Features for Seniors: From hearing aid compatibility or emergency call buttons to specialized menus and interfaces for easy use, we wanted our picks to include features beneficial to senior citizens.
With these options in mind, we filtered through a slough of contenders until 5 great options emerged.
Pros: 4G support, charging dock, emergency button, speed dial buttons, hearing aid compatible, 3.5mm headphone adapter
Cons: Weak camera
With its candybar format, large print display and hardware buttons for common features, the Jethro SC490 offers an experience very similar to a traditional cordless phone.
The phone is unlocked and supports 4G. This means it will work with a wide range of carriers without the need for a contract or finance agreement and should age well with 2G and 3G networks becoming rarer these days.
Features include a dedicated emergency button, flashlight and hearing aid compatibility. There is also a very basic camera--though don’t expect to print photos or share images online.
From $79.99 at Amazon
The phone also supports microSD cards up to 64GB which is good for listening to music or audiobooks.
The optional charging dock stood out to us as well. We think the ability to just set the phone down in the cradle and not mess with tiny cords and ports is worth the added price!
Bottom Line: The Jethro SC490 is a user-friendly, affordable option for covering the communications basics. The charging dock, SOS feature, and larger buttons also make the phone ideal for the elderly.
Pros: Loud speaker, emergency button, "5-Star" monitoring and response service, high contrast screen, large dialpad, digital magnification tool
Cons: Locked to GreatCall network
As we age, things get a little harder. Eyesight, hearing and motor skills might not always be what they once were. This is where the Jitterbug Flip helps.
With its flip design, large keypad, high-contrast display and optional emergency response and health monitoring services, the Jitterbug Flip is an excellent choice for seniors looking for a mobile phone for added peace of mind.
Currently, the phone is locked to the Great Call network. However, with that comes a range of optional services including 24/7 urgent response assistance, medication reminders and on-call access to medical advice.
All plans are contract-free, so there’s no worry about hidden fees or switching providers.
Features include a dedicated 5Star emergency button, a dedicated speakerphone button, a flashlight and a digital magnifying tool. The camera on this phone is also very basic--mostly good to grab pictures to use as background images or quick reminders for later.
Bottom Line: If you don't mind being locked to the GreatCall network, the Jitterbug Flip offers security and health features that you simply won't find anywhere else in an easy-to-use device that's perfect for seniors.
Pros: Solid design, great display, compact and pocket-friendly, massive app selection, consistent Apple experience across devices, fingerprint scanner, good camera
Cons: No microSD support
Smartphones from most popular brands today keep getting bigger and bigger and Apple is no exception. If you don’t want something that’s going to take up your entire pocket or require two-hands to use, the iPhone SE (2020) with its 4.7-inch display offers one of the most compact smartphone experiences available.
However, the biggest reason this phone makes the list is the consistent experience, quality design and world-class support offered by Apple. The phone’s hardware offers more than enough performance for typical use.
Battery life should last well through the day as well. You’ll also find a number of smartphone accessibility features in the settings to improve screen visibility and adjust hearing aid compatibility.
iPhone SE (2020)
From $399.00 at Apple
Features include a 12MP camera on the back of the phone for taking pictures, a 7MP camera on the front for video chat and selfies, up to 256GB of storage and a fingerprint sensor to avoid having to remember complex passwords or gestures.
Bottom Line: Apple is known for their quality and consistency. The Apple iPhone SE (2020) delivers the basic Apple experience at a price point that is friendly to tight budgets and in a format that's as compact as smartphones get in 2020.
Pros: Solid design, great display, larger screen, massive app selection, consistent Apple experience across devices, face ID, great camera
Cons: No microSD support, may be large for one-handed use
While this is the largest phone on the list, we don’t consider that a bad thing. You might need to hold the the iPhone XR with two-hands. However, this can add some stability to the experience and prevent accidental drops or damage. The large 6.1-inch display also provides more room for adjusting accessibility settings without cramping the screen.
As with the iPhone 8, the phone stands out for its world-class support, durable design and consistent experience.
In general, if you’ve ever seen an iPhone, they all work almost the same. This means should you need to replace your smartphone or upgrade to a new version later, you won’t have to relearn how to use it. Just power it on and get back to life!
From $599.99 at Apple
The iPhone XR also includes one of the best cameras currently available in a smartphone. This is great for video chat with family and friends. Storage ranges from 64GB to 128GB, ensuring plenty of room for photos, apps, and media -- even on the basic model.
Bottom Line: As long as you can overlook the lack of headphone jack, the iPhone XR offers an excellent blend of features and price within the Apple lineup. The larger screen is perfect for aging eyes while the quality and consistency of Apple products ensures a good experience.
NOTE: One potential drawback to the iPhone XR is a lack of headphone jack. This means if you want to use headphone or a microphone to talk, you’ll need to purchase an adapter or use wireless headphones.
Mobile phones are a great way to stay in touch with family and friends and reach help should an emergency arise. In the case of smartphones, they’re also becoming a central hub for the entertainment, news and research in our lives.
The five choices above for best senior phone span the full range of options--from simple to the cutting-edge--and offer exception value to senior citizens.
Before you get your new phone, there are a few other points to consider:
The True Cost of Mobile Devices
When shopping around, many sites and stores will list two prices for the phone.
The lower price is often a monthly payment plan which typically requires a credit check and allows you pay off the device over 2 years.
While this is great for getting a newer phone without impacting your budget upfront, it also means you must maintain service with that carrier for the next two years as well.
The window to get a refund or cancel your contract is only 14 days.
If you choose to go with this type of deal, be sure to use your new phone often to uncover any concerns or questions you might have before you’re locked into the contract.
Paying for your phone upfront often removes this contract requirement. If the phone is also unlocked, you can switch between carriers if you do not like the service you receive.
If you pay for your device in full and it isn’t already unlocked, most US carriers will unlock the phone for no charge once you meet their requirements.
For more information on the benefits to buying an unlocked phone, consult our guide .
Choosing a Good Plan for Your Needs
When you’re picking a plan to go with your phone, there’s a good chance the salesperson will try to convince you to take a package much larger than you need.
Related: Compare cell phone plans
Where the big price differences lie is data.
It’s important to have enough data because overage fees add up fast. However, if you’re paying for data each month that you don’t use, you’re paying more than you should.
Our guide on finding the amount of data you need will make this step simple.
Don’t Forget the Prepaid Carriers
If you’re new to mobile phones, you might think that a monthly plan is the obvious way to go.
However, unless you need unlimited minutes, lots of data or international calling features, there’s a good chance prepaid carriers will save you money and make billing simpler.
Most carriers can tell you if your phone is compatible with their network with a quick phone call.
Don’t Forget the Accessories
- A stylus pen is a great way to improve accuracy and make it easier to use your screen. Not to mention there’s less smudges and fingerprints to clean up later. Our stylus pen summaries offer advice on finding the perfect option to suit your preferences!
- You might also consider a protective case . While they’ll make your phone a little bigger and heavier, a good case can be the difference between a shattered screen or no scratches at all should you drop your phone.
- Lastly, if you’re always on the go, a smartphone car mount makes it easier to use navigation, hands-free calling and other features without distracting yourself or forcing you to dig under the seat for your phone when you get home.
If you have any additional questions about the phones listed here or have an alternate suggestion, leave us a comment below!
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