Best cell phone for seniors
Everyone needs a cell phone, but not everyone has the same cell phone needs. For seniors, in particular, it’s critical to have a lifeline to friends, family and emergency services, to say nothing of apps for health, safety, entertainment and more. The phone should also be easy to use, of course, with a large, bright screen, a simple interface and ideally some accessibility features for users with physical challenges (such as eyesight or motor skills). With those criteria in mind, I’ve identified six that I consider the best cell phones for seniors in 2023.
Best phone for seniors: Android, iPhone or something else?
Below you’ll find two iPhones, two specialized phones, one Android phone and one tablet. Although the Android-versus-iPhone debate has been raging for years, the truth is that neither operating system is especially senior-friendly. One exception: Samsung’s Galaxy A23 offers something called Easy Mode. When activated, it makes the user interface (text, icons, onscreen keyboard, etc.) larger and simplifies the home screen. When you swipe to the left-most screen, for example, you’ll see it’s now populated with one-tap icons to call “favorited” contacts.
That’s a great option, one that’s available on all Samsung Galaxy phones (not just the A23). However, the Android operating system on the whole — navigation, settings, etc. — can be a little complicated. Overall, I find iPhones a bit easier to learn and use, and they offer an unrivaled selection of accessibility features. For example, users who have vision issues can enable “Speak Screen,” which verbalizes the contents of whatever’s currently showing. Those with hearing impairments can toggle the rear LED (normally used by the camera) to flash repeatedly when a call, text or other alert comes in. A triple-click of the side button can activate a camera-powered magnifier, and so on.
Newer iPhones also offer medical alert–style safety features like crash detection and, when paired with a newer Apple Watch, fall detection. In the unfortunate event of a driving incident or a tumble, these helpers can notify family and even contact emergency services. (Worth noting: Google Pixel phones offer crash detection as well, and fall detection is coming to Google’s Pixel Watch soon.)
Phones for seniors: Costs and other considerations
As with any phone you buy, there’s the cost of the phone itself and the cost of service. Thankfully, while the hardware can range from a few hundred dollars to nearly $1,000 (or more!), you can often take advantage of zero-interest financing to make them more affordable. The iPhone SE below, for example, can be paid off over three years for just $5 per month. The Samsung A23 runs about $8.33 per month when financed through Samsung.
As for service, consider whether you really need an unlimited plan. If you spend much of your time at home, connected to Wi-Fi, then you probably don’t. By choosing an unlocked phone, you can get service from whichever carrier offers the best plan to meet your needs and budget. Consumer Cellular, for example, is widely regarded as the “senior-friendly” carrier, with excellent customer service and plans starting at $20 per month. Mint Mobile is another popular option, with plans as low as $15 (amortized) when you prepay for a year at a time.
Whatever phone and carrier you end up with, I strongly recommend buying a rugged case as well. Although phone durability has improved over the years, with screens that promise to withstand minor bumps and scratches, gravity is not your friend — and a cracked screen is no fun.
Speaking of accessories, consider keeping a mobile charger close at hand. Depending on how you use it, your phone might last a couple of days on a charge or it might expire by dinnertime. If you’re near an outlet you can always plug it in, but a power bank like this one from Anker can help when you’re out and about.
Now let’s take a look at the best cell phones for seniors.
Best overall phone for seniors
Lively Jitterbug Smart3 Smartphone for Seniors
Android phones and iPhones can be made senior-friendly, but the Smart3 arrives that way: It’s a phone made specifically with seniors in mind. In place of a sea of cryptic icons, it offers a handful of core features (e.g., phone, text and email) represented by large, clearly labeled buttons. And at the very top: an Urgent Response button for quick access to live humans who can assist with everything from rides to minor health issues to real emergencies. (It can also be set to notify friends and family if that button gets tapped.) The phone itself is quite affordable, and service plans start at just $20 per month. While this is far from the most capable smartphone out there, it is without question the smartest option for seniors.
Best flip phone for seniors
Consumer Cellular Link II
For some seniors, a smartphone can seem like a Ferrari: too fast, too complicated. In that case, a simple flip phone might be the best bet, and it’s hard to beat Consumer Cellular’s Link II. Priced at just $49, it’s the cheapest option here by far, and service is available for just $20 monthly. It doesn’t have apps, of course, and texts are complicated to send (remember: no keyboard here). But there’s a front-facing camera and even support for Bluetooth headsets, in case hands-free calling is preferred. Although I definitely recommend a smartphone for seniors who can manage one, this is an easy and affordable way to enjoy basic phone service.
Best affordable Android phone
Samsung Galaxy A23 5G
It may be Samsung’s entry-level Galaxy phone, but the A23 5G offers plenty of power, including the aforementioned Easy Mode, which helps simplify an interface some might find intimidating. Stocked with four camera lenses, the A23 is also great for photography. In fact, if you think you’ll be shooting lots of photos and videos, you’ll appreciate the expandable storage (up to 1 TB via microSD cards), a feature not found on any iPhone. The 6.6-inch screen is also downright huge, great for seniors who have vision issues. And because this phone is unlocked for use with all carriers, it’s easy to take it somewhere offering dirt-cheap monthly service.
Best affordable iPhone
Apple iPhone SE 3rd Generation (Verizon)
An affordable iPhone? Sounds unlikely, but you can pay just $5 per month (for 36 months at 0% interest) to get Apple’s baseline model, which packs plenty of power and excellent cameras. It also has a physical Home button, something tech-challenged seniors might appreciate. Take note, however, that the screen is on the smaller side at 4.7 inches. Some actually prefer that because the phone fits more easily in a pocket, but it can be harder on the eyes. In any case, you’ll need a Verizon service plan as well (starting at $30/month), though Walmart also offers the iPhone SE through AT&T.
Best big-screen iPhone
Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max (Verizon)
This is Apple’s flagship iPhone, and it’s here for one main reason: the super-spacious 6.7-inch screen. That’s a full 2 inches larger than the iPhone SE’s screen, and trust me when I say bigger is better. Icons are easier to identify, text is easier to read and YouTube videos are just, well, bigger. The 14 Pro Max takes dazzling telephoto and close-up photos as well, great for birders and grandchildren-watchers. You can finance this phone for around $29 per month (for 36 months) with no interest, though remember that you’ll need a service plan as well. (This link will lead you to Verizon, but Walmart offers the same model, with the same pricing, on AT&T.)
Best phone that’s also a tablet
GrandPad Tablet for Seniors
It may seem odd to include a tablet in this roundup, but the GrandPad is part phone: It includes 4G LTE service with its monthly subscription plan ($59). That means it can be used for email, phone calls and Zoom video calls. It also means it’s not limited to home use; it works out and about as well, just like a phone (though not one you’d want to hold up to your head). In addition, there’s baked-in live customer support that’s available 24/7, which helps justify the somewhat pricey service plan. See below for my complete GrandPad review.
Read more: GrandPad review: A grand tablet for grandparents