Older Americans are using cell phones more than ever before. Only 13 percent of seniors owned a smartphone in 2012 compared to 61 percent in 2021, and just 11 percent of seniors were on social media in 2010 compared to the nearly 50 percent who have a social media profile today.1
We can use our phones for pretty much anything these days: staying connected to loved ones, paying bills, ordering food, shopping, and so much more. But with so many phones out there, it can be hard figuring out what the best options are. Below we'll provide five valuable tips to help you choose the best senior-friendly cell phone for you.
There are lots of different categories for cell phones these days, and the options can sometimes feel overwhelming. The first thing to do is decide what kind of cell phone you'd like based on your needs. Let's break down a few senior-friendly options and what they can do for you.
- Smartphones: Smartphones are designed for tech-savvy users who want to do more with their phones than send texts and make calls, like browsing the web, checking email, watching videos, and taking photos and videos.
- Flip phones: Flip phones are simpler phones for calling, texting, taking pictures and videos, and (sometimes) browsing the web. These have fewer features, app capabilities, and browsing options, so they are a great choice if you don't expect to use the internet very much.
- Special-needs phones: There are innovative phones designed specifically for those with hearing loss, vision loss, memory loss, and other unique needs.
Pro Tip: Want to learn more about how to choose the best device for your needs? Take a look at our cell phones for seniors buyer's guide.
Not everyone wants to spend $1,000 on a phone. Setting a budget can help you narrow down your options. Smartphones can range from around $100 to well over $1,000, depending on the model and features. Flip phones tend to be on the more affordable side, with options ranging from around $50 to a few hundred dollars. Phones designed for specific needs like vision or memory loss, including the RAZ Memory Cell Phone, typically cost a few hundred dollars.
Pro Tip: Some cell phones are available only with certain phone carriers. For example, many of the best senior-specific phones are available from Consumer Cellular and Lively. Check out our guide on the best senior phone plans to learn more.
3. Android vs. iOS
If you're looking for a smartphone, one way to narrow down your options is choosing between the two major operating systems: Google's Android and Apple's iOS. An operating system is just the software that helps your phone run its programs and applications. Android phones offer a little more flexibility in terms of what you can do with them, and iOS phones have a fixed design and are typically more user-friendly.
The biggest things to consider are what kind of phone you want to use and whom you want to connect with. If most of your friends and family have an iOS phone like an iPhone, you'll probably also want an iOS phone.
FYI: Not sure which operating system is best for you? Visit our lists of the best iPhones for seniors and the best Android phones for older adults to learn more.
For example, you'll be able to send texts to your loved ones with iMessage, which is free for iOS users. If you have an iOS phone and your friend has an Android, unlimited texting isn't guaranteed, videos and photos sent between phones will have lower quality, and you won't be able to FaceTime (free video chats between iOS users).
4. Phone Size
The size of a cell phone can make a big difference in user experience. There are a lot of phones on the market that have large screens and buttons, which make it easier for visually impaired seniors to navigate.
Pro Tip: Looking for a phone with large buttons that will be easy on the eyes and hands? Check out our selection of the best big button cell phones for seniors.
If eyesight is not an issue and you don't want to carry around a large phone all day, you can consider a smaller phone. The iPhone Mini is a good smartphone option, and there are plenty of compact flip phones that can fit snugly into your pocket.
5. Urgent response phones
There are a lot of phones that are easy to use and have urgent response capabilities. The Jitterbug Flip2, for example, has a long battery life, big buttons, a large screen, and a magnifier with a flashlight. It also has a button that will connect you with a 24/7 urgent response service member if you have an emergency. With the addition of a Health & Safety Package, you'll gain access to a suite of features, including a personal operator and access to urgent care. Phones like the Jitterbug Flip2 are good options for older Americans who live alone, have disabilities or injuries, or simply want to have the peace of mind that someone will be there in case of an emergency.
Pro Tip: Check out our Jitterbug Flip2 review for a closer look at this senior-friendly phone with urgent response features.
While there are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right cell phone for you, narrowing down your options with your preferred price range, phone type, operating system, and needs will simplify the process. You can also ask your friends and family about the phones they use and like. It will be easier to communicate with loved ones who use the same operating system, so that's a good way to simplify your options.
Still need help making a decision? Check out our complete guide to the best cell phones for seniors to compare our top picks side by side.