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Top Cell Phones and Cell Phone Plans for the Elderly
How We Chose Our Top List
There are a lot of cell phone providers out there. You probably see commercials constantly for all of the different providers. It could make it difficult to determine which provider is the best since they all seem to be so popular. Luckily, we did all of that work for you. We looked through the 20 most well known cell phone providers and picked the top 6 providers that offered the best solutions for seniors. We looked at everything from features, to customer service, to ease of use and overall cost. See who we picked as our favorites.
Jitterbug offers two cell phones that have been specially designed for seniors, the Jitterbug Smart2 and the Jitterbug Flip. Both come with GreatCall’s award-winning health and safety apps. It’s a great option for older adults and for individuals with medical conditions. Whether you need urgent assistance or medical advice, GreatCall gives you peace of mind. With its 5-star urgent response button, you’re immediately connected to a highly trained response agent who is there to get you help, 24/7 with the push of a button. Both cell phones offer Urgent Care which enables you to speak with a registered nurse or board-certified doctor to receive qualified medical advice anytime (no insurance required).
The Jitterbug Smart2 is a basic Android smartphone designed specifically for older adults. Among other benefits, it comes with a large screen and single list navigation. The Jitterbug Smart2 has one of the largest screens in the industry. With its simple list-based navigation menu and large easy-to-read letters and numbers, it’s easy for seniors to see and use. Its 5-star urgent response integration gives its users peace of mind; and with a built-in 13 MP camera that has a flash, users will enjoy high-quality pictures. Users will also appreciate that the Jitterbug Smart2 combines 3G and 4G LTE for maximum voice coverage and allows mobile internet access.
The Jitterbug Flip phone is compact and has many features that make it great for older adults and people with special health needs including a large bright display, a loud, powerful speaker that makes it easy to talk hands-free, is hearing aid compatible and has a built-in magnifier and flashlight. Its simplicity, ease of use and safety features make it obvious to see that the Jitterbug Flip was designed for the older adult.
In addition to its 5-star urgent response and its Urgent Care, the Jitterbug Flip also offers GreatCall Link. This premier tool lets you keep friends and family updated, alerting them when you use the 5-star urgent response system (with the download of a free app). This feature offers peace of mind to you and those who love you.
The cons of the Jitterbug Flip include a low-end screen, a 2 MP camera, a 200 contact phone number limit, no internet and no email access.
Consumer Cellular offers two phones that are ideal for mature users, the Doro 7050 and Alcatel Go Flip. Both of these phones have senior-friendly features, basic camera and video, and an external caller ID display that lets you see who’s calling without having to open the phone. Let’s take a look at each of them a little more closely.
The Doro 7050 is a reliable, high-quality senior-friendly flip phone that has basic, easy-to-use features that support text messaging and web data. The Doro 7050 has a speakerphone, is hearing aid compatible, has large, raised high-contrast keys and includes a conveniently located “Assistance Button” that immediately dials an emergency contact of your choosing. The well-lit main display screen is clear and easy to read. The Doro 7050 is durable, lightweight and compact. With both 3G and 4G LTE voice coverage, the Doro 7050 has better coverage than almost any other flip phone on the market.
Some of the Doro 7050’s drawbacks is that it has no contact or calendar syncing and a mere 2.0 MP digital camera.
The Alcatel Go Flip cell phone offers classic flip phone convenience, making it an economical and handy way to stay in touch with friends and family. It’s lightweight and compact, has large keypad buttons and HD video capabilities. The Alcatel Go Flip has a memory card slot allowing you to expand its 4GB internal memory up to 32GB more. Its battery is stronger than that of many of its competitors.
Many reviewers indicate that the volume cannot be adjusted enough for users to adequately hear their calls. Additionally, it’s bulky, has a camera that is only 2.0 MP and no HDMI port to watch HP videos although it has the ability to produce them.
The T-Mobile Unlimited 55+ Plan is a great plan for seniors who want to talk, text and stream videos. This plan gives you two lines with unlimited talk, text and LTE data. Only the primary account holder must be 55+ years of age; the other subscriber can be younger. Visit one of their stores and they’ll walk you through getting out of your current contract and let you keep your current phone and number.
T-Mobile Unlimited 55+ Plan offers:
If you want a cell phone for emergency use only, you’ll love T-Mobile’s Pay As You Go plan. It’s simple – $3 per month for any combination of 30 minutes of phone time or 30 text messages (or any combination of 30) with a $10 upfront fee for SIM starter kit.
Things to know about the T-Mobile Pay As You Go Plan:
With the addition of SCORE! (an upgrade option) and an additional $5.00 per month, you can get 500MB of 4G LTE data ($10.00 for 1 GB of $G LTE data). Plus, there is no contract and no credit check.
You can use any GSM-capable phone that supports Band II (1900 MHz) or IV (1700/21 MHz) are compatible with T-Mobile’s network. CDMA phones are not. Phones may need to be unlocked to operate on T-Mobile’s network.
Verizon suggests three different cell phones for use by older adults, the LG Exalt LTE, the DuraXV LTE by Kyocera and the Samsung Galaxy J# V 3rd Gen.
The LG Exalt LTE, also known as the LG VN220, is a basic, simple flip phone that has a few advanced capabilities, including a high-speed processor, web browsing capabilities and a text to speech function. It’s compact, has a camera with auto-focus and a 3-inch color LCD screen and menu with a large font size.
Cons for the LG Exalt LTE include short battery life, low resolution on its 3-inch screen, and no selfie camera which translates into an inability to do video calling.
The rugged DuraXV LTE by Kyocera is the perfect flip phone for seniors who enjoy the great outdoors. Although this flip phone is not the best in terms of display and stamina, its ultra-rugged features and generous memory make it a viable option for seniors who enjoy lots of outdoor activities. The DuraXV LTE by Kyocera is durable, meeting U.S. military standards for extreme conditions and is also impervious to dust and water. It has a native resistance to vibration, accidental drops, extreme temperatures and solar radiation. The DuraXV LTE has 16GB of memory that is expandable up to 64GB. It also has web browsing and HD video recording capabilities and a dual-microphone setup with noise cancellation.
Due to its rugged nature, it’s heavier than most other flip phones, has a low pixel display and does not support automatic screen brightness.
Samsung Galaxy J3 V 3rd Gen and Samsung Galaxy J3 3rd Gen
For seniors interested in the advantages of a smartphone, the sleek Samsung Galaxy J3 V 3rd Gen and Galaxy J3 3rd Gen is a great choice for beginners. These two smartphones are one and the same device (and will hereby be referred to as the Galaxy J3 in this article for simplicities’ sake). The former is prepaid while the latter is sold to qualified customers with a 24-month contract. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to enjoy the benefits of owning a Galaxy J3.
The Galaxy J3’s “Easy Mode” simplifies its home screen making it easier and faster to navigate. Its 5-inch HD display makes it easier to surf the web, read your emails and to see and take pictures. It also offers Bixby Home. Enlarged fonts increase text readability, while a reduced number of icons per screen trims down your most essential selections. It has a 5 MP front-facing camera and an 8 MP rear-facing camera. The Galaxy J3 has a long-lasting battery and an Octa-core Exynos 7884A processor. Add Wi-Fi calling and video calling to this phone and you have a phone that is sure to please.
AT&T’s GoPhone Daily is another option for seniors who want a phone for sporadic use and prefer AT&T’s coverage. You pay two dollars a day only for the days you use your phone. On the days you don’t use your phone, you pay nothing. On the day the phone is used, you receive:
AT&T allows you to use your current phone and phone number as long as the phone you have is compatible with the AT&T network and as long as your number is eligible for transfer to AT&T.
Just like T-Mobile, AT&T does not offer phones designed specifically for seniors. On their website, however, they do recommend two smartphones, the iPhone 8 and the Samsung Galaxy S9. Although not specifically designed for seniors, these phones can be used by seniors who want a high-end phone that is eligible for use with AT&Ts senior phone service plans. AT&T offers discounts on these phones when you sign up for one of their senior phone service plans. Both phones also have accessibility features to make them a bit more senior-friendly.
Smartphones used on the plan may be leased, purchased in monthly installments, purchased at full price or you may use your own phone. Things you need to know:
Sprint’s stated goal “is to offer solutions that allow customers to stay connected as well as feel safe and secure.” With this in mind and to meet the needs of seniors, Sprint offers several easy-to-use phones, the Kyocera Verve, the Alcatel OneTouch Retro® and the Kyocera Cadence LTE.
The Kyocera Verve and the Alcatel OneTouch Retro® offer a long list of accessibility features making it possible for seniors and those with handicaps to use these phones. (See pros for specifics to each device.) They also come with these additional Smartphone Features:
Accessible Now – Offers voice guidance to help you set up the phone, straight out of the box. This is especially helpful for blind and visually impaired users.
Google TalkBack – helps low vision and blind users interact with these Android devices more easily. This app adds vibration, audible and spoken feedback to your phone. It comes pre-installed on most devices and is updated when the service is improved.
Easy Mode – In addition to Standard Mode, some Samsung smartphones also offer easy mode which configures your Home screen to provide an easier experience. This includes larger fonts and a simpler layout. Standard Mode, on the other hand, configures your Home screen with all conventional functions. Select LG devices have a similar mode – Easy Home.
With a simple, straightforward user-friendly interface, the Kyocera Verve is a simple solution for talking, texting and taking photos. It’s a compact, easy-to-use feature phone with a slide-out QWERTY keypad. The Kyocera Verve is the perfect choice for those who want to say in touch but don’t want the high cost of smartphone data plans. The Kyocera Verve has a wide variety of accessibility features. It’s hearing aid compatible, has an “In Case of Emergency” (ICE) shortcut and a “911” shortcut.
The Kyocera Verve has a slide-out Qwerty keypad that messaging enthusiasts can appreciate, although the keys are very small, maybe too small for some senior users. Additionally, the Kyocera Verve provides a slow web experience and the call volume on the handset is too low for some.
The Alcatel OneTouch Retro™ flip phone, also known as the Alcatel Retro, Alcatel Fling and Alcatel Speakeasy, is both easy to use and affordable. Its accessibility features make it an exceptional phone for the blind, visually impaired, the deaf or hard of hearing. These features include variable speed text-to-speech, verbally described user interface and verbally described web browsing. It’s a practical flip phone targeted to older adults, including those with disabilities. It comes with multiple font sizes, has a large, tactile keypad with well-defined buttons and is hearing aid compatible. Battery life falls short of many of its competitors.
The Kyocera Cadence LTE is a simple flip phone with a bright display, large ergonomic keypad, high-quality voice and VoWiFi (voice over Wi-Fi). The Kyocera Cadence has several features that are surprising for a flip type phone including the fact that it operates on a Quad-core M.1GHz processor with 2 GB of RAM – a setup many entry-level Androids rely on. This has a positive impact on its performance when compared to many other flip phones. It comes with a dual-microphone noise cancellation system and a hotspot mode. Cons of Kyocera Cadence LTE does not offer video recording or playback or global roaming. Its battery capacity falls short of some competitors.
Cell phones have become so much more than a mere phone. They have so many uses, often limited only by the apps you choose to load onto them. You can use them to take and store pictures and videos, to calculate an equation, to see what the weather is like anywhere in the world, and to give you step-by-step driving directions to wherever you want to go. It can serve as a flashlight, tell you what time it is, serve as a stopwatch or timer, become your own personal portable library and act as a PDA or calendar. Cell phones occupy our time with an unending supply of games. The list of what cell phones can do goes on and on. With the addition of an app, a cell phone can do almost anything. They are essentially small computers, which means you have the world wide web at your disposal anytime and anywhere which can certainly be a huge benefit. Whether you want to check local movie schedules, look up the address of a store you want to visit, or check out some odd bit of trivia, all you need to do is whip out your cell phone and the world wide web is at your fingertips.
The very first cell phone call was made in 1973. Back then, cell phones were bulky (even requiring a base unit that resembled a briefcase to be carried around with it) and expensive. Reception was an issue and the locations in which a call could be made were very limited.
We have seen many advancements since then. Cell phones are smaller, more versatile and, due to the use of satellites and wireless services, reception is much improved. In fact, cell phone service is available worldwide, even in remote areas.
Cells phones are an excellent way to stay connected with family and friends and provide users with a sense of security. Cell phones even go beyond having the ability to call for assistance. Since most cell phones are equipped with GPS technology, the phone (and its user) can be located in the event of an emergency (as long as the GPS capability is available and turned on).
Cell phones are no longer a luxury item, especially for older adults. Despite the tremendous benefits seniors receive from owning a cell phone, nearly one-quarter of all seniors sixty-five and over still don’t own one. This is unfortunate. From having the ability to connect with those they love to being able to get assistance with emergencies to the enjoyment of apps that are easily loaded onto a phone, a cell phone can greatly enhance the life of a senior.
Benefits of cell phone ownership include:
With so many choices, finding the right cell phone for you can seem like a daunting task. Here are a few easy tips to help you find the perfect cell phone:
A cell phone service plan is a paid agreement between you and a mobile carrier that allows your cell phone to use their network for calls, text messages and internet access (also called mobile data).
There are five major mobile phone service carriers in the U.S.– Sprint, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular (only provides regional coverage). Each of these companies is classified as a Mobile Network Operator (MNO).
Other carriers, like Cricket, Straight Talk Wireless and Boost Mobile are resellers, also referred to as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO). Mobile Virtual Network Operators purchase network access from one of the major carriers, the MNOs, and resell that access to their own customers, often at a lower rate because they don’t have to pay to maintain the network infrastructure and licensing. MVNOs primarily offer pre-paid/no contract plans and services.
Why would you choose an MNO when you can use the same network for less by choosing an MVNO?
Besides being able to pay cheaper rates, MVNO customers have other benefits to consider as well:
Mobile carriers offer various types of plans that cover talk time, messaging and mobile data. To determine which plan is right for you, consider the following:
There are several categories of cell phone plans:
Now that you understand the importance of having a cell phone, let’s take a look at various top-rated cell phones and cell phone plans. You’re sure to find one that meets your needs at a price that fits within your budget.
Senior cell phone usage patterns generally fall into two different groups:
Knowing how you intend to use your phone will help you select the best cell phone and cell phone plan for you.
Cell phone manufacturers have designed a variety of phones that sell for a wide range of prices. Some of the phones themselves are priced well under $100 while others go for more than $1000. For example, the iPhone X, which came out in the fall of 2017 with facial recognition, a studio-quality camera and animated poop emojis (you heard that right!) came in at just over $1000. Options range from the basic cell phone that is used only to make phone calls to a complex, technologically advanced piece of equipment that can perform more tasks than the basic home computer. Over the last ten years, cells phones have become more and more a necessity for people the world over. Satellites have made it possible for even the most remote and underdeveloped countries to have access to some amount of wireless services and cell phone technology.
Cell phone prices span a wide range of dollar amounts. Cell phones designed for seniors, tend to be more basic with very few bells and whistles. Some cell phones can be purchased outright, like the Alcatel Go Flip with Consumer Cellular, which sells for $30.00 plus a monthly plan with free activation. The Jitterbug Smart2 with GreatCall regularly sells for $149.99 plus monthly plan and activation. Plans using the Jitterbug Flip cell phone are available for as low as $14.99 per month. The Kyocera Verve goes for $19.99 per month on-contract. The Kyocera Cadence LTE retails for $120.00 and can be purchased for $5.00/month in 24 monthly payments with a contract. These are just a few examples from phones previously discussed in this article. Prices vary depending upon the method of purchase, from an outright purchase to being paid out as part of a purchase plan and contract.
Some phone plans have a one-time activation fee while others wave this fee.
Since 2011, when smartphones reached the global average price of $348, the average global price has steadily declined to an average of $229 in 2018. It’s expected to drop even further to $214 by the end of 2019.
The average price varies around the world with North American paying the highest average price. In 2013, North American consumers paid an average of $531 compared to the $306 global average. In 2017, the average North American selling price was $567, up from the 2013 price, although globally the price continued to drop.
The average selling price for a smartphone also differs between vendors and the phone’s operating system. Apple’s iPhone has the highest average selling price. Smartphones using an Android operating system pay substantially less, almost two-thirds less.
Although worldwide average cell phone prices continue to drop, the trend for higher priced cell phones in theU.S.is expected to continue to rise. As processing power, internet data speeds, camera technology and battery life continue to improve, the value people attach to their phone continues to increase as well. Consumers who consider a mobile phone to be the most important product in their lives are prepared to pay a premium; and, mobile phone suppliers are prepared to take advantage of this fact.
Basically, you can obtain a plan and pay less than $20 per month and pair that with a $60 flip phone. Or, you can get a $100+ per month plan to use with your $1000+ cell phone. There are many more options in between. As you shop for a cell phone, you need to determine how much you’re willing to pay and find the phone and plan that stays within your budget. Be sure to ask the salesperson to total up all the taxes and fees so you know exactly what to expect when you receive your bill each month.
If you have a phone that allows you to load additional apps onto it, you might find the following apps helpful if you have accessibility issues.
The app, Android Accessibility Suite, offers a collection of accessibility services that will enable you to use your Android device eyes-free or with a switch device. Android Accessibility Suite includes such features as Accessibility Menu, Select to Speak, Switch Access and a TalkBack screen reader. For more information about Android Accessibility Suite and other accessibility options, click here.
If you are interested in other third-party applications, there are a variety of options that can be used to make your phone even more accessible to meet your needs. These two links, Android third-party accessibility apps and iPhone third-party accessibility apps, will provide you with a great start in finding an app to fit your needs.
Many seniors on a fixed income sourced entirely from Social Security often find it difficult to make ends meet. Given their low income, cell phones often fall low on the list of things they can afford to purchase. Understanding that having a cell phone is important for seniors, especially when faced with an emergency, Lifeline, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program, was created to make free to low cost cell phones or home phone service available to anyone who qualifies.
Lifeline subscribers can purchase discounted monthly phone service and broadband services from participating providers. Subscribers have several options from which to choose – voice only, stand-alone broadband or a bundled voice-broadband package. Lifeline helps ensure that low-income seniors can afford 21st-century technology. FCC rules prohibit more than one Lifeline service per household.
With so many options and choices, only you can determine which cell phone and cell phone service plans are right for you. Do you want a Smartphone, or will a flip phone serve your needs? Do you travel and need to have a plan that enables you to stay connected with family and friends even when you’re out of the country? Or perhaps, you have friends and family who live outside the country with whom you want to stay connected. Is having access to the internet important? What does your budget allow? Once you have answers to these questions and many others like them, you’re more prepared to choose the best cell phone to meet your needs.