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Best Unlocked Phones for Seniors

We've researched and tested out the top unlocked phones in the industry to give you our picks for the best unlocked cell phones for seniors.

The 3 Best Brands
Accolades Best unlocked phone for hearing impaired seniors Best unlocked advanced smartphone Best unlocked phone for visually impaired seniors
Phone Alcatel GO FLIP 3 from T-Mobile Apple iPhone SE from Verizon Motorola Moto G Power 2021 from Consumer Cellular
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How We Chose the Best Unlocked Phones for Seniors

We’ve tested out the industry’s leading unlocked phones, so you don’t have to. After hours of trying out a dozen phones, researching, chatting with customer service, and making side-by-side comparisons, we found four unlocked phones that stand above the rest for seniors. All of the phones were evaluated using several metrics, including features, value, price, and carrier compatibility. Every cell phone had to meet the following criteria:

  • Senior-friendly features: Not all unlocked phones are right for seniors, so we only included phones on our list that meet older adults’ needs. These phones have features like large screens, voice texting capabilities, large text and buttons, and powerful speakers.
  • Value: We’re all about phones that offer the most bang for their buck. While our top picks come at various price points, you’ll find that the value matches up with or exceeds the price tag.
  • Network compatibility: All of our best unlocked phones for seniors are compatible with GSM and CDMA-based networks. GSM and CDMA is techie jargon that means these four phones will work with virtually any carrier on the market!

What Exactly is an Unlocked Phone?

Locked cell phones sold through a particular carrier use software to lock the phone so it can only be used on their network. For example, if you buy an iPhone from AT&T, you’ll only be able to use the phone on AT&T’s network because it’s locked to the carrier. The carrier generally offers a discount on the phone in exchange for a contract commitment or payment plan. If you’re like most of us, you’ve probably taken advantage of big discounts on device purchases in the past. While we love a good deal, this type of discount locks you into one provider, so you’ll have to pay off the phone or deal with early termination fees if you want to switch carriers. Plus, you’ll have to request to have the phone unlocked by the carrier before you can use it on another network; every carrier has different policies for unlocking phones, so this can be a time-consuming and costly process depending on your provider.

On the other hand, an unlocked phone isn’t tied to any one network, so, in theory, you could use it with a mobile plan from any carrier. An unlocked cell phone doesn’t have any software restricting its use to a particular network. For instance, if you buy an iPhone directly from Apple, the manufacturer, you could use the phone with a SIM card from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and other major carriers. An unlocked phone is more expensive upfront but gives users more freedom of choice over which network to use and how much they pay for service.

Let’s take a look at this year’s top picks for unlocked senior-friendly phones!

  • 1. Alcatel GO FLIP 3

    Overview

    Our experts chose the Alcatel GO FLIP 3 as one of the best unlocked phones for seniors with hearing loss. We were blown away by its top-notch accessibility features. With an M4/T4 hearing aid rating, Bluetooth capability, and built-in Google Assistant, the Alcatel GO FLIP 3 ensures those with hearing loss have the tools they need to stay connected. If you’re looking for an affordable, easy-to-use phone that’s compatible with your hearing aids, look no further. Another plus is that the flip phone’s dual displays make using your phone oh-so-simple! With the external display, you don’t have to open the phone to see who’s calling. The internal display is excellent for reading text messages and emails.

    Go Flip 3 from T-Mobile

    Go Flip 3 from T-Mobile

    Did You Know: The Alcatel GO FLIP 3 didn’t just make it onto our best unlocked phones for seniors list! You’ll also find it on our list of the best flip phones for seniors.

    If you’re looking for the right plan to pair with your Alcatel GO FLIP 3, we’d recommend T-Mobile. T-Mobile offers three 55+ unlimited phone plans with great perks and pricing for seniors. Check out our T-Mobile review for the inside scoop on exclusive 55+ plans, pricing, and perks.

    Ease of use Equipment Service & Response Features & Tech Pricing
    Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent
    Please scroll to the right for more info.
    Pros
    • Easy-to-use flip phone
    • Google Assistant
    • Bluetooth and hearing aid compatible
    • Real-Time-Text (RTT)
    • Text Telephone (TTY)
    • Large, tactile keys
    Cons
    • Low-end 2MP camera
    • No built-in flashlight
    Alcatel GO FLIP 3 Specs
    Price $100
    Camera 2MP
    Operating system Proprietary
    Display 2.8 inch internal display, 1.44-inch external display
    Hearing aid compatibility M4/T4 rating
    Memory and storage 64 GB internal memory
    Network compatibility Works on both CDMA and GSM Networks
  • 2. Apple iPhone SE

    Overview

    The iPhone SE makes our list as the best unlocked advanced smartphone for seniors because it offers the right blend of affordability and modern tech. For seniors who want a smartphone with a little extra “oomph” and advanced features, the iPhone SE is an excellent option. It features high-quality cameras for family photos, a water-resistant design (accidents happen!), and a fingerprint passcode scanner for extra security. Plus, it’s one of the least expensive iPhones on the market, so if you’re sold on an Apple phone, it won’t break the bank. If you are already familiar with Apple products, the iPhone SE transition will be a breeze. However, users who are new to the iOS operating system may face a pretty steep learning curve. If your loved ones are all using Apple devices, it still might be worth it to have the ability to FaceTime for video calls or send iMessages.

    Apple iPhone SE

    Apple iPhone SE

    Buyer’s Tip: Pair your unlocked phone with one of Verizon’s competitively priced plans and cash in on the carrier’s promotional perks. Check out our Verizon senior plan review to learn more!

    iPhones are one of the most diverse unlocked phones, as they are accepted by nearly all carriers available in America. No matter what network you choose, you’ll likely be able to use your iPhone.

    Ease of use Equipment Service & Response Features & Tech Pricing
    Above Average Excellent Average Above Average
    Please scroll to the right for more info.
    Pros
    • Built-in voice assistant
    • Water-resistant design
    • Wireless charging
    • FaceTime video calling
    • Access to thousands of mobile apps
    • High-quality cameras
    • Fingerprint passcode for security
    • Retina HD display for older eyes
    Cons
    • No traditional headphone jack
    • Steep learning curve for iOS system
    iPhone SE Specs
    Price Starting at $399.99
    Camera Front: 7MP; rear: 12MP
    Operating system Apple iOS
    Display 4.7-inch Retina HD display
    Hearing aid compatibility M3/T4
    Memory and storage 64 GB internal storage
    Network compatibility Works on both CDMA and GSM networks

    From the Pros: Our research team tested 15 senior cell phones. Find out why the Apple iPhone SE made it on our best cell phones for seniors list!

  • 3. Motorola Moto G Power 2021

    Overview

    We selected the Motorola Moto G Power 2021 as the best unlocked phone for visually impaired seniors. This powerful Android smartphone delivers a simple and easy-to-see design. Make calls or send texts with just your voice with the phone’s speech-to-text capabilities, an excellent feature for those with vision loss. The large screen makes reading texts, searching the internet, or following directions on the built-in GPS a breeze. Charging your phone won’t be a chore as the Motorola Moto G Power 2021 boasts an impressive three-day battery life. Be sure to make the most of your new unlocked phone! Our list of smartphone apps and resources for people with vision loss includes Android accessibility features.

    Moto G Power

    Moto G Power

    Did You Know: Motorola unlocked phones are compatible with prepaid carriers! Check out our best prepaid phone plans to find out which carriers made our list.

    Pros
    • Large, bright display screen
    • Built-in voice assistant
    • Fingerprint sensor
    • Long battery life
    • Bluetooth enabled
    • Water-repellent design
    Cons
    • Speaker quality could improve
    Motorola Moto G Power 2021
    Price $179.99
    Camera 48MP triple camera
    Operating system Proprietary
    Display 6.6-inch Max Vision HD+ display
    Hearing aid compatibility M3/T3 rating
    Memory and storage 32 GB internal storage
    Network compatibility Works on both CDMA and GSM networks

    Inside Tip: Consumer Cellular’s plan pricing is certainly wallet-friendly! Head over to our Consumer Cellular review to learn more about adding your unlocked phone to one of their monthly plans.

  • 4. Google Pixel 4a

    Overview

    For Android lovers looking for the best unlocked, senior-friendly smartphone, Google’s Pixel 4a fits the bill nicely. The Android operating system is among the most widely available in the smartphone industry, so you will have no problem finding compatible apps. Plus, Android is known for being user-friendly, so the learning curve might not be as steep for seniors. The 12.2MP camera takes delightful, high-quality pictures of your grandkids or granddogs (we don’t judge)! The Google Pixel 4a’s large, bright screen is easy to see for older eyes, and the phone’s size makes it easy to grip for older hands. This phone is very affordable compared to other leading smartphones, so it’s great for older adults who want best-in-class tech and features with a smaller price tag.

    Google Pixel 4a

    Google Pixel 4a

    Did You Know: Your unlocked Google Pixel 4a comes with Call Screen by Google Assistant. This free feature helps you automatically filter out robocalls on your cell phone. This is a fantastic level of protection to help avoid scams targeting older adults.

    Ease of use Equipment Service & Response Features & Tech Pricing
    Above Average Excellent Excellent Excellent
    Please scroll to the right for more info.
    Pros
    • Google assistant
    • Affordable high-tech smartphone
    • Mobile apps through the Google Play store
    • High-quality camera
    • Large, bright screen for older eyes
    • User-friendly Android design
    Cons
    • Not water resistant
    • Shorter battery life than other leading smartphones
    Google Pixel 4a Specs
    Price $349
    Camera Front: 8MP; Rear: 12.2MP
    Operating system Android
    Display 5.8-inch Full HD+ OLED display
    Hearing aid compatibility M3/T4 rating
    Memory and storage 64 GB internal memory
    Network compatibility Works on both CDMA and GSM Networks

    From the Experts: We were impressed with AT&T’s senior plan pricing and AARP member discount. Learn more about AT&T’s carrier benefits for your unlocked Google Pixel 4a in our AT&T review.

Pros and Cons of an Unlocked Phone

The majority of older adults who have embraced smartphones find that they can remain independent thanks to the ease of staying in touch with family, caregivers, and medical support.1 That freedom only gets better when you invest in an unlocked phone. However, unlocked phones aren’t for everyone. Below are the pros and cons of unlocked phones for seniors to consider:

What We Like About Unlocked Phones

  • Freedom to choose any carrier: Hands down, the biggest reason that consumers choose an unlocked phone is the option to change carriers and plans at any time. An unlocked phone lets you break free from the endless cycle of upgrading and renewing contracts that are difficult and costly to get out of.
  • Wider selection of senior-friendly phones: With unlocked phones, you aren’t limited to the selection of phones available from one carrier. Instead, you can buy any phone directly from the manufacturer.
  • Ease of travel: Almost half of all older adults ages 50 and over travel internationally.2 Unlocked phones make it easy to set up service in another country because you can just purchase a SIM card from one of the local carriers at your destination. With locked phones, you’ll typically have to pay for a costly international plan from your carrier, which adds up quickly.
  • No contracts: Since you purchase the unlocked phone outright, it’s yours to keep, and there are no long-term contracts that tie you to a carrier.

Things to Keep in Mind About Unlocked Phones

  • Higher upfront costs: As we’ve mentioned, carriers often offer locked phones at discounted rates or affordable monthly payment plans when you sign a long-term commitment. This isn’t the case with an unlocked phone. However, some manufacturers, like Apple and Samsung, offer financing options for unlocked phones, so you don’t have to pay off the phone all at once.
  • Fewer options for warranties: Carriers will often provide warranties, repairs, and support for the locked phones they sell, but not for unlocked phones that you bring to their network. If you’re having network issues or other technical difficulties, you’re on your own.
  • Service isn’t guaranteed from all carriers: While an unlocked phone can work on most carriers’ networks, not all carriers will support your unlocked phone. Depending on the phone you choose, you might find that the carrier’s technology or policies don’t support your phone.

Important Tip: Before purchasing an unlocked phone, ask for the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. The IMEI is a 15-digit number that’s unique to each phone. Your carrier can then use the phone’s IMEI to see if it can be supported by their network.

Who Is an Unlocked Cell Phone Best For?

Traditional cell phone plans can be restrictive for some senior lifestyles. For many older adults, unlocked phones provide the freedom to use their phone on any network. Unlocked cell phones are best for seniors who:

  • Travel abroad frequently
  • Snowbird to warmer climates for a portion of the year
  • Seniors who find traditional contract plans cost-prohibitive
  • Anyone who doesn’t like the commitment of a one- or two-year contract

Buyer’s Tip: Our in-depth cell phones for seniors guide includes details on brands, carriers, and how to pair your unlocked phone with the best cell phone plan.

Frequently Asked Questions About Unlocked Phones

  • Does an unlocked cell phone save money?

    There is potential to save money by choosing from a bigger pool of carriers and plans. However, cost savings are not guaranteed. The phone’s upfront cost is often higher, and accidental damage can cost more money in repairs and replacements without carrier-provided insurance.

  • I already purchased a device on this list from another carrier; can I have it unlocked?

    The terms of your agreement with the carrier may require that the phone stays locked on their service for a set period of time. For example, T-Mobile/MetroPCS plans typically require 12 months of continuous service or a minimum purchase of minutes. Once this obligation is fulfilled, most carriers will unlock the device.

  • Can I get insurance on my unlocked phone?

    To get carrier-provided insurance, you will likely have to buy the phone from an authorized dealer. However, there are plenty of opportunities for third party accidental damage and theft insurance. Just be careful to do your homework on the company before signing up.

  • If I get an unlocked phone, do I have to sign a contract with a carrier?

    Contract requirements vary by network and plan. Some carriers will allow you to sign up for minutes on their network with your unlocked phone. Others, like AT&T, offer attractive deals to pay for prepaid service in set increments of three, six, or 12 months at a time. And, if you are interested in a senior citizen discount, the provider may require a one- or two-year commitment.

Written By

Taylor Shuman

Senior Tech Expert & Editor

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