Best Smartphones for Seniors
Smartphones keep getting more complex with each generation. Some of the latest smartphones on the market are riddled with so many superfluous features that they can be a little cumbersome to navigate. This is especially true for seniors who might prefer simplicity and minimalism in their phones.
However, that is not true for all smartphones and you don’t need to go back to operating an old flip-phone. There are a number of great smartphones for seniors on the market. Some of them are designed specifically for seniors. And some of them are regular smartphones equipped with senior-friendly features like the ability to narrate onscreen options, enlarge font size and icons, etc.
In this article, I’ll give you a detailed review of the best smartphones for seniors on the market.
Best Android Smartphones for Seniors
1. GreatCall Jitterbug Smart2
GreatCall Jitterbug Smart2 has been specifically designed for seniors, which is exactly why it belongs at the top of this list of smartphones for seniors. It has a 5.5-inch display with a 720p resolution. It’s equipped with a 1.5 GHz Mediatek 6738 chipset with a 2GB RAM, and it runs on the Android Nougat 7.0 operating system. This smartphone has limited internal storage of 16GB, but it can be expanded with a microSD card. It also has a pretty great dual-camera — a 13MP rear-facing camera and a 5MP front-facing camera.
In terms of size and display, it is perfect for seniors. The screen doesn’t glare or strain the eyes. The user-interface is extremely intuitive and all the important features like Email, Camera, Photos, Text Messages, and Phone are clearly (and in large size) listed out on one page. All the contacts are listed out on the other page. As such, seniors can easily navigate the phone to find whatever feature they’re looking for. So this smartphone doesn’t really have a large learning curve. It also features a Voice Typing feature so you can dictate notes and messages.
This smartphone is also ideal for seniors with hearing impairments as it is hearing-aid compatible. One of this smartphone’s best features is the pre-installed 5Star Service App. With this, the senior can press a single button to alert a National Academy of Emergency Dispatchers agent if they are under any emergency situations, either related to health or otherwise. You can also use the Urgent Care feature to be immediately connected to a professional nurse or doctor who is qualified to prescribe medications or give health-related advise over the phone.
From what I could tell, the biggest issue with this smartphone will be for left-handed seniors. When a call is coming in, you have to swipe right to accept or swipe left to send to voicemail. This could be simplified with simple Green Accept or Red Reject buttons. Swiping right might feel unnatural for some left-handed individuals.
Furthermore, while I appreciate that it’s compatible with hearing-aids, this phone’s ringing volume is too low for most seniors suffering from even slight hearing impairments.
Finally, the Airplane Mode in this phone is too easily accessible with a simple swipe and it leaves people incapable of handling critical functions like calling and texting. As such, a feature like Airplane Mode (that is not used too often), should not be so readily available in a smartphone for seniors.
- Extremely reasonable.
- Large screen size.
- Compatible with hearing aids.
- Expandable memory.
- Intuitive user-interface.
- Voice Typing feature.
- 5Star Service App.
- Urgent Care.
- Loud ringing volume.
- Might not be suitable for left-handed seniors.
- Airplane mode is easy to accidentally trigger.
- Ringing volume is too low.
2. Samsung Galaxy Note9
It is possible that you might not want a smartphone that has been specifically designed for seniors. In that case, you can go for Samsung Galaxy Note9. It is an extremely advanced smartphone that can be used by just about anyone, but it also has some features that can make it easy specifically for seniors.
This smartphone is extremely lightweight and has a large 6.4” display with 1440 x 2960 resolution. It is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset and a really decent internal storage of 128GB, which can be further increased with a microSD card. Furthermore, it also comes with a Samsung S Pen stylus that can be used to remotely click pictures or play music.
However, this smartphone’s best feature for seniors is “Easy Mode”. This is a mode that’s specifically geared for seniors and it essentially removes all the complex and superfluous features from the phone. It reduces the phone to three home screens — one for essential widgets like time and date, one for calling and 9 custom contacts, and one for up to 9 essential apps. As such, you can set up the phone to make all the essential contacts and features easy to access. All the superfluous apps and features can be accessed through a separate app drawer. You can also go out of this Easy Mode whenever you want.
Accessing Easy Mode is pretty simple. You have to swipe down from the top screen and go to Settings > Display > Easy Mode > Easy Mode > Done. With that, Easy Mode will be triggered and you’ll view a minimalist and simplified interface. You will have to set up your preferred contacts on your own, but that is also fairly simple. You just have to tap on the icon for the contacts.
In addition to Easy Mode, Samsung Galaxy Note9 also has a brilliant camera. It has a primary rear-end camera of 12MPs and a selfie front-end camera of 8MPs. As such, you can easily record clear videos or hold video calls with your family.
- Large screen.
- Excellent camera.
- Excellent storage space.
- Samsung S Pen stylus for easy use.
- Easy Mode.
- Extremely expensive.
3. GreatCall Jitterbug Smart2 No-Contract Easy-to-use Smartphone for Seniors
This is a smartphone specifically designed for seniors. All designs and features aim to make it easier for even non-tech savvy seniors. The menu is straightforward (organizes apps in a single list), large fonts and icons, voice typing, pre-installed apps, easy-to-use 13MP camera with flash, built-in front-facing camera, user-friendly photo sharing feature, large 5.5 inches screen, mobile internet access, 5Star urgent response service, nationwide coverage, and more. Most of these features are only available on the GreatCall Network. You’ll need to go to GreatCall’s website or call them to activate these features. More information is available on GreatCall how-to cards and videos.
Next to their user-friendly interface, the 5Star urgent response service is one of Jitterbug’s best selling points for seniors. This feature will allow seniors direct access to IAED-Certified Agents that are available 24/7. Many Jitterbug users availed of this service. They received referrals to the right urgent care providers whether it be a doctor or a nurse. Jitterbug Smart2 also features a Lively Link App, a caregiver app that sends health and welfare updates to designated family and friends. Lastly, the Lively Rides feature will allow users to get a ride from the ridesharing company Lyft by just pressing “0”.
- Specifically designed for seniors with many senior-specific special features
- 5Star urgent response service
- No carrier subscription
- US-based customer support
- Relatively low internal memory at 32 GB
- The setup isn’t as straightforward as promised
4. Samsung Galaxy Note9 N9600 128GB Unlocked GSM Duos Phone w/Dual 12MP Camera
This refurbished unit from the official Samsung Store looks and works somewhat like new. It has all the features of a brand new Samsung Galaxy Note9 but at a more affordable price and few minor cosmetic flaws. Several of these features and specs include a 6.4-inch Super AMOLED display screen, an S Pen, 128 GB of internal storage, 6 GB RAM, dual 12 MP camera, dual SIM (GSM Duos), 4G LTE, 4,000mAh battery capacity (may be reduced), Dolby ATMOS and UHQ upscaling for the audio. Note that with this refurbished unit, not all features on the official specs sheet may be present.
When it was first released, the Galaxy Note 9 was a premium flagship model. This is one of the best choices for a balance of high specs, high-performance, high functionality, and high cost-effectiveness. It may not be a practical first Android phone for a senior, though since it has advanced features and functionality that may be unnecessary for someone just learning to use a smartphone.
- S Pen for access to remote control functions
- Unlocked international version phone
- Premium features
- IP68 water and dust resistant
- No warranty
- Only works with GSM carriers
The S Pen is perhaps the most usable feature for seniors. This stylus is a fixture on all Galaxy Note models. It allows users to access remote control functions and note-taking capabilities. You can create handwritten notes, scribbles, sketches, and personalized messages. And don’t worry, the Galaxy Note 9 isn’t dainty. The exterior is brushed metal while the screen and backplate are Gorilla Glass. It’s also IP68 water and dust-resistant.
Best iOS Smartphones for Seniors
5. Apple iPhone 7 Plus
All Apple iPhones are, generally speaking, pretty user-friendly and suitable for seniors. The Apple iPhone 7 Plus is one of the best iPhones for seniors because it has an excellent camera, display, and performance.
It has a 5.5” display screen with a 1920×1080 resolution. The screen has an antireflective coating to prevent glares and minimize reflections in direct sunlight. This prevents the display from straining your eyes. It is also equipped with a brilliant dual-camera — a 12MP rear-end camera and a 7MP front-end camera. Furthermore, if your relatives and friends also use iPhones, you can use FaceTime to easily video chat with them.
However, the best aspect of this iPhone for seniors is the availability of a wide range of accessibility features. With VoiceOver, the phone starts narrating everything on the screen so that you can use the phone even if you can’t see it clearly. You can also trigger the Braille feature to be able to read without seeing the text, which is perfect for visually-impaired seniors. With the Zoom feature, you can magnify parts of the screen to see them more clearly. If you trigger the Magnifier, it increases every aspect of the display, including the font and icon sizes. And you can also use Siri to provide voice command or dictation for texting and navigation.
All of these features make Apple iPhone 7 Plus one of the best smartphones for seniors, especially those with visual or hearing impairments.
- Excellent display.
- Long battery life.
- Excellent cameras.
- Easy to chat with family.
- Wide range of accessibility options to increase ease of use.
- Ideal for seniors with visual and hearing impairments.
- All of the accessibility options are scattered and may be hard to locate and use for seniors. It doesn’t have a single consolidated “Easy Mode” like the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy Note9.
6. Apple iPhone 6
Apple iPhone 6 is a great alternative to the aforementioned 7 Plus if you want an iPhone that’s more affordable. This iPhone has a 4.7” screen with a 1334×750 resolution. The display also has a multi-touch IPS LED-backlit that minimizes all glares and reflections to facilitate ease of use without straining the eyes. It also has an excellent battery life that can provide up to 10 hours of battery with regular use and 250 hours of standby time. It also has an excellent dual camera with an 8MP rear-end camera and a 1.2MP front camera. The front camera isn’t very clear, but it’s good enough for FaceTiming with family.
In addition to these specifications, this phone has the trademark iOS user-interface — clear and simple. When you purchase this phone, it will run on iOS 8. However, once you upgrade it to the latest iOS, you’ll gain access to all of the accessibility features available in the aforementioned Apple iPhone 7 Plus. You’ll be able to trigger Screen Magnification, Voice Over, Braille, Zoom, and all other features meant for visually-impaired seniors.
The only issue is that you’ll only be able to access those features after you upgrade to the latest OS by connecting your phone to the internet. Furthermore, these features are all available deep in the Settings so you’ll need to engage in a bit of learning to figure out how to enhance your own user experience.
- Great display.
- Long battery life.
- Great back camera.
- Wide range of accessibility options available.
- Ideal for seniors with visual and hearing impairments.
- Weak front camera.
- Accessibility features are hard to locate as they’re not consolidated in a single option.
- Accessibility features will only be available after upgrading the operating system.
7. New Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (128GB, Pacific Blue)
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max is a top-of-the-line iPhone model. It’s a relatively new release with all the flashy features, but at its core, it’s a reliable and durable smartphone that is perfect for all ages. Features that are perfect for seniors include the Ceramic Shield (a tougher and more durable upgrade to the smartphone glass), an IP68 water-resistant build, a pro camera system (12MP ultra-wide back camera and 12MP TrueDepth front camera with night mode), 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR display, 128 GB storage capacity, and MagSafe accessory support for faster wireless charging. There are more advanced features but these are the ones that make iPhone 12 Pro Max senior-friendly.
- Ceramic Shield for extra durability
- Pro camera system
- Excellent specs
- Excellent cameras
- Long battery life
- Needs to be purchased with a carrier subscription
The iPhone 12 Pro Max also has an excellent screen-on time, including up to 20 hours of video playback, up to 12 hours of video streaming, and up to 80 hours of audio playback. It’s an excellent high-end iPhone option for seniors.
One major complaint about this iPhone 12 listing is that it is locked to a Cricket Wireless monthly auto-renewed stored value card subscription. Purchasing this unit means that you’ll also be purchasing a SIM kit and a carrier subscription.
8. (Refurbished) Apple iPhone 8, US Version, 64GB, Gold – Unlocked
Refurbished and unlocked, this Apple iPhone 8 unit looks brand new and comes with all the basic features but generic accessories. A refurbished unit like this is advantageous for its cheaper upfront cost. It’s important, though, to manage your expectations. One of the most common non-cosmetic disadvantages is the decreased battery capacity. Most units like this refurbished by the Amazon Renewed Store only have around 80% battery capacity. Brand new iPhone 8 units’ battery capacity is around 1,821mAh which is not a lot considering the decreased capacity, but it’s still adequate for casual use.
This is still a good deal, though, especially with the iPhone 8’s features. It’s the first iPhone model with a durable glass front and back, dual cameras, 64 GB internal and 256 GB flash storage; 4.7-inch widescreen, multi-touch IPS display, and more. iPhones, undeniably have the best cameras in the market. And for a senior that is fond of video calls with family, the 12-megapixel 4k back camera and the 7-megapixel front camera will be more than adequate.
- Excellent specs
- More cost-effective than brand new units
- Unlocked and compatible with most carriers
- Includes MFI-certified charger and charging cable
- Decreased battery capacity
One of the most important advantages of refurbished smartphones like this iPhone 8 is that it’s locked to a specific carrier. This unit is compatible with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, Cricket, US Cellular, Metro, Mint Mobile, Tracfone, and more. Note that you’ll need to purchase a sim card separately. Also, make sure to verify compatibility with your carrier before purchasing. Service activation is straightforward even for seniors, but assistance may still be necessary, especially for those without experience in activating an iPhone or connecting to a WiFi network.
Smartphones for Seniors Buyer’s Guide
If you’re considering buying a smartphone for seniors, you need to focus specifically on the following factors.
The first thing you need to consider is whether to get an Android smartphone or an iPhone. Both of them have their distinct sets of advantages and drawbacks.
- Android: There are hundreds of different Android smartphones on the market from various developers and companies. These are popular for all their customization features and versatility. However, seniors often report that they get confounded by all the options available on most Android phones.
- iOS: All Apple iPhone run the iOS operating system. They are known for having minimal and simplistic features with a clean user-interface. They don’t feature a lot of customization options. Furthermore, the latest iOS phones are also equipped with a wide range of accessibility features that can make it easier for seniors to use them.
For seniors who have certain hearing impairments, you need to get smartphones with a loud ringing volume. Some smartphones for seniors are specifically designed with extremely loud volumes. Additionally, you should also consider vibration levels so seniors may feel the vibrations even if they can’t hear the ringing.
Most modern smartphones feature touchscreens as that can ensure the screen remains large. However, certain seniors have trouble using touchscreens. In that case, you should get a smartphone with a QWERTY keypad.
A front-facing camera is an important feature in smartphones for seniors since it allows them to video call their relatives and friends often.
You need to strike the right balance. If the screen is too large, you might have trouble carrying it around. If it’s too small, you might have to squint really hard to see details onscreen. Generally speaking, a smartphone with a 5” screen is ideal for seniors.
Some smartphones for seniors come equipped with a single emergency button. Pressing that button will immediately send a call to a contact of your choosing. As such, in case of emergencies, you won’t have to struggle to find the right contact.
Some of the latest smartphones come equipped with various features meant to enhance the phone’s usability amongst senior citizens.
- Closed Captioning: This feature automatically captions all the videos seen in the smartphone. If you’re hard of hearing, this is a pretty useful feature.
- Icon Size: Some smartphones come with Magnifying options with which you can increase the smartphone’s icon size and font size. This will instantly make the display clearer and larger.
- Voiceover: This feature makes it so that all the available options on the screen are narrated to you. As such, you can navigate the phone even if you can’t see clearly. This feature is pretty useful for those with visual impairments.
- Voice Commands: Modern smartphones can be controlled via voice commands. This can save you a lot of time. Instead of typing long notes or messages, you can simply dictate the messages. And you can also use these voice commands to navigate the phone or surf the internet.