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If rotary phones ever make a comeback, I guarantee you won’t find any seniors waiting in line to buy one. Most seniors these days — a good 71%, in fact1 — own a smartphone and depend on their cell phones to hang out with faraway family and friends, shoot high-quality videos, keep up with social media, and stream shows and movies while traveling.
Traditionally, Apple’s flagship smartphones have had great tech for keeping us connected. On top of that, iPhones are easy to use and come with best-in-class accessibility features that make life a lot easier if you have trouble with arthritis or find it difficult to read on smaller screens.
Of course, like the best of anything, iPhones don’t necessarily come cheap. But that doesn’t mean you should write them off either, even if you’re on a fixed income, as plenty of older folks are. It just means the best iPhones for seniors are going to be the best value for money without stinting on the special features they need.
There isn’t much not to like about the iPhone SE. At $399 upfront, it’s at the low end of the price spectrum for iPhones. It’s blazing fast, it has a superior HD Retina screen that you can unlock with your fingertip, and its camera can shoot professional photos and video.
FYI: Just how much storage does the iPhone SE’s 256 GB give you? It gives you as many gigs in the palm of your hand as the latest iMac. So you should be more than covered for storage with your SE, especially if you’re backing up your family photos in the cloud.
Starting at $499.99, the XR is slightly pricier than the workhorse SE. That higher price tag goes toward a bigger, state-of-the-art display that makes reading easier, an extra rear camera, and a more durable build.
You also get Face ID with the XR, which might be useful for those who suffer from arthritis. In that case, the XR’s next-generation facial recognition software could be a lot more convenient for you than Touch ID. With Face ID, you can unlock your phone just by holding it in front of your face.
Did You Know: You don’t even need a cell phone tower to offer cell phone service these days. You can just piggyback off another provider’s tower, which is exactly what startup Mint Mobile does. Without that overhead, Mint Mobile’s no-contract plans are bargain-basement cheap. This has made Mint seriously popular with seniors on fixed incomes.
It’s worth pointing out that the XR’s maximum storage (128 GB) is half the SE’s 256 GB, and that its plenty-brainy A12 chip isn’t quite as smart as the SE’s A13.
The bottom line? If you spend a lot of time on your screen and are involved in any way with video or photography (streaming, shooting, editing), we’d recommend the iPhone XR.
If you’re having a hard time choosing between our top three iPhones for seniors, we can confidently say that if you aren’t into photography, you probably don’t need the $629.99 iPhone 12 mini. You can easily get by with the XR, which has a bigger screen and a great camera, and costs over $100 less.
Senior Saving Tip: Looking for a discount on the things you like best? You’ve earned it! Check out our seniors discount guide for special deals on travel, leisure, eating out, and the latest technology.
On the other hand, the iPhone 12 mini may suit you if you spend a lot of time online out of the house, for business or pleasure. The iPhone 12’s 5G network connections, coupled with its faster A14 processor, will make heavy downloading, uploading, and surfing a lot quicker. The iPhone 12 mini’s 5.4-inch display also offers a great balance between handiness and easy reading, hitting the sweet spot for many seniors.
If you aren’t in either of those camps, and you want a classic iPhone you can hold on to for a while, the SE would be my pick. An Apple phone of this quality for $399 isn’t something you see every day.
Senior Tip: The cell phone market is huge, with new providers and models sprouting up every day. Make sense of it all before you lay your credit card down with our handy 2023 seniors cell phone buyer’s guide.
Like all our top cell phone picks for seniors, our top iPhones had to meet certain criteria to make the cut. Here’s what we were looking for.
The iPhones we chose for this list needed to have features that make life easier for seniors. These could be accessibility features like hearing aid compatibility, text magnification, or voice dictation. But they could also be a great selection of apps, a high-quality Retina screen, or a professional camera. Not every senior with a smartphone is looking for a big-button flip phone.
We chose iPhone models that offer the best value for money. Obviously, if you’re considering an iPhone, you might have a different price point in mind than if you were in the market for a $99.95 Snapfon ez4G. Then again, you may not be shopping for a $1,599 iPhone 13 Pro Max either. Finding quality features to fit reasonable budgets was our priority here.
Senior Tip: Now that you’re considering an iPhone, you’ll have a smorgasbord of apps to explore in the App Store. To start you off, we’ve prepared a list of the best free apps for seniors, a mix of practical and pure fun, for iPhones or Android phones.
We looked for flexible payment options. Are you a no-contract, money-upfront shopper? Or do you prefer to pay your phones off in installments? The iPhones we chose offer both options and more. We’ll give you more details on this year’s best cell phone plans for iPhones and the cellular carriers that offer them in just a moment.
Finally, websites do a great job selling their technology, but it isn’t until you actually hold a phone in your hand that you can decide if it’s the right fit for you. That’s why we test all the models we write about thoroughly. We also talk to as many older folks who use them daily as we can, to balance out the picture.
Once you settle on an iPhone, you still need to pick the right cellular carrier. Yes, that’s plenty more choices to make, but they’re important decisions, so it’s better to err on the side of too much research than going unprepared. So, whether this is your first smartphone or you’re thinking about switching carriers, here are a few things you’ll want to consider.
If you’ve got the cash, paying upfront frees you from getting locked into a contract with a provider. These days, most major carriers with postpaid plans (where you pay your bill at the end of the month based on usage) don’t require contracts if you own your phone.
The advantage here is you can always take your iPhone to another carrier if you’re not happy with your current service. Most carriers these days also have a “bring your own phone” (BYOP) policy, so using your iPhone with another service won’t be a problem.
Paying by installment (financing) is another popular choice for seniors with iPhones. Just keep in mind that when you opt to pay by installment, you’ll be locked into a contract, typically for 24 months. If you’re not satisfied with the service at the end of the contract, and you’ve paid off the balance of your iPhone, you can switch to another carrier.
FYI: BYOP policies have made it easier for consumers to switch providers if they’re not happy, fueling competition. If you do decide to take your business somewhere else, just make sure your phone isn’t locked into a multi-month contract. If it is, you’ll have to pay off your phone before you switch.
How you pay for your iPhone isn’t the only thing you need to think about when settling on a cellular carrier. There are plenty of other things to consider, like data limits, talk and text limits, discounts for multiple lines (this will come into play for families), senior perks and discounts, and 4G and 5G coverage. To save you some time, here’s a breakdown of how our favorite cellular providers for seniors stack up.
|Plan||Starting monthly price for a single line||Contract||Data limits||Unlimited talk & text||5G||Multi-line discounts||Discounts for seniors|
|$40||No||Unlimited, but slower after 50 GB||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Consumer Cellular||$20||No||Unlimited, but slower after 35 GB||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|$60||No||Unlimited, but slower at peak times||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes, but only for Florida residents|
|Verizon 55+ Unlimited||$60||No||Unlimited, but slower at peak times||Yes||No||Yes||Yes, but only for Florida residents|
|$30||No||Unlimited, but slower after 35 GB||Yes||Yes||No||No|
*Mint Mobile is a mobile virtual network provider cooperating with T-Mobile to provide its services. All Mint Mobile plans are prepaid.
Back in 2017, former T-Mobile CEO John Legere made the bright decision to put the kibosh on senior mobile plans that belittled their target audience: Americans 65 and over. This is exactly what we found when we reviewed T-Mobile’s Unlimited 55+ cell phone plans: cheap single lines for $27.50 per month with unlimited talk, text, and data that are available to anyone older than 55. To learn more about how the company’s prices compare with other providers, check out our T-Mobile pricing guide.
Like all the other plans on our list, T-Mobile’s basic, one-line plan comes with SD streaming and gets cheaper the more lines you add. One advantage that sets T-Mobile apart, besides its no-frills pricing, is that it currently dominates the 5G market with about 42 percent national coverage. Its closest competitor, AT&T, is at 18 percent.
Senior Saving Tip: If you’re into streaming, and you upgrade to one of T-Mobile’s Magenta 55+ senior plans, T-Mobile will throw in Netflix on the house. That’s an extra $10 monthly value.
Finally, you’ll notice that while throttling policies (when your provider slows your internet down at peak traffic times) remain a little murky for the other big carriers, T-Mobile is upfront about it. You may notice a drop in speed, but only after you burn through 50 GB of data in a month.
Consumer Cellular is a postpaid mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that has been around since 1995. Now, don’t be intimidated by the MVNO terminology. All that means is Consumer Cellular doesn’t have its own wireless network, which is true of many cell phone plan providers. Instead, it uses AT&T and T-Mobile networks, so you know you’re connected to two of the country’s largest and leading carriers.
Consumer Cellular is known for its customizable and affordable plans that range from $20 to $50 per month in price and 1 GB to unlimited data limits, with data speeds dropping after about 35 GB. Many of the company’s plans are catered to low-data users.
AARP members get a 5 percent senior discount on Consumer Cellular’s plans. The carrier also has a great track record when it comes to customer service. In 2021 J.D. Power, a global leader in consumer insights and ratings, awarded Consumer Cellular with the highest customer satisfaction score (871) out of all MVNOs. If you want to know more about what to look for in your provider, take a look at our Consumer Cellular review.
AT&T has great national 4G coverage (68 percent), so if you’re still on 4G (as most of us are) and you live outside of town, that coverage alone may steer you toward the industry goliath.
When we tested AT&T’s Unlimited 55+ plan for seniors, we found that we got the best value when we signed up with a partner or family member. If you do the same, you’ll see your monthly rate drop to $40 per line, provided you autopay. It’s also very likely you’ll catch a deal from time to time on specific phones, even iPhones, so check back here often for the latest scoop on carrier discounts.
Now for the elephant in the room. I’m talking about Florida, of course. AT&T’s Unlimited 55+ plan is only for residents of Florida. But this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. AT&T offers other unlimited plans (available to customers of all ages) that may be suitable for your needs if you don’t live in Florida.
Verizon’s senior package is almost identical to AT&T’s. They both charge the same price, offer the same discount for multiple lines, and have the same throttling policy.
Where Verizon stands out is its national 4G coverage. Verizon claims to cover 98 percent of the U.S. population, which would make Verizon your go-to provider if you live off the grid. If you’re into your 5G, on the other hand, Verizon’s 11 percent coverage is not its best selling point.
As with AT&T, you need to live in Florida to take advantage of Verizon’s cellular plan for older Americans. But even if you don’t, you still have an option. One thing we discovered in our complete analysis of Verizon’s cell service is that they’ve also got a budget-friendly Start Unlimited plan that costs only $40 per month for two lines.
Did You Know: Subscribing to a special senior plan isn’t the only way you can save on your monthly bills. Cellular providers that also offer internet and TV service, like Verizon, sometimes advertise bundles that roll your mobile, internet, and TV bills into one discounted pay.
Mint Mobile is the new kid on the cellular block. Taking their lead from T-Mobile, Mint is straight-talking, a little sassy (Ryan Reynolds is their public face), and all about the service. This isn’t a coincidence: Mint Mobile rents out T-Mobile’s towers, which also gives them the best 5G coverage in the U.S.
While Mint doesn’t have any senior-specific plans, all their plans are pretty cheap. In fact, Mint has made a name for itself with the basic plan that costs only $15 per month. (If you’re reaching for your credit card, know that the basic plan only comes with 4 GB of data per month.) But even Mint’s most expensive unlimited plan, at $30 per month, will fit most of our budgets. For comparison, that’s only $2.50 more per month than T-Mobile’s Unlimited 55+ plan for seniors.
FYI: Have you noticed a drop in your physical activity over the past few years? If you have, you’re not alone. Older people now spend nearly 4.5 hours a day plugged into their devices, a half-hour increase since 2010. That uptick in screen time has led to a drop in fresh-air hobbies.5
The only big difference — and this may boil down to personal preference — is that Mint’s plans are all prepaid, meaning you buy your minutes and data as you go. As we found out in our full review of Mint Mobile’s plans, you also have an incentive to buy in bulk. When you buy 12 months of Mint’s service upfront, for instance, you continue to pay the introductory rate of $30 per month. Otherwise, your monthly bill will shoot up by $5 to $10.
The cheapest iPhone on our list is the iPhone SE (third generation), which starts at $429.
Apple should be offering updates and support for iPhones with A13 (SE) and A14 (12 mini) chips well into 2027. For the iPhone XR with the A12 chip, it could be a little less.
No, if you pay for your iPhone upfront, you’d just pay for your cellular service month to month without a contract. If you opt for installments, however, you will be locked into a plan.
Built-in iPhone storage varies from 64 to 256 GB. The more storage you get, the more expensive your iPhone will be.
Yes! iPhones are well known for their senior-friendly accessibility features. If you go with any of our top three models, your phone will come with full hearing aid compatibility, speech to text, text magnification, wide screens (some wider than others), and cutting-edge water and damage resistance.
No, you don’t have to have an Apple ID to use an iPhone. Also, iPhones these days are compatible with your favorite Android apps (Google Drive, Gmail, and even Google Photos), so you can sync your iPhone with the rest of your devices even if they aren’t Apple products.
For over five years, Taylor has been writing, editing, and researching products and services covering topics such as senior care and technology, Internet and the digital divide, TV, and entertainment, and education. Her research on media consumption and consumer behavior has been… Learn More About Taylor Shuman
Pew Research Center. (2021). Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2021.
AARP. (2020). Older Adults Keep Pace on Tech Usage.
Federal Trade Commision. (2021). Consumer Sentinel Network.
Apple. (2021). About splash, water, and dust resistance of iPhone 7 and later.
Pew Research Center. (2019). Americans 60 and older are spending more time in front of their screens than a decade ago.