5 of the Best Smartphones for Seniors

It’s unfortunate but true: technology tends to leave seniors behind. Older folks find it more difficult to adopt new technologies, and with the cell phone industry on the forefront of emerging tech, some seniors find them simply too difficult to use.

Do Grandma and Grandpa seem flabbergasted by the latest iPhone? Do they think an Android is the metal trashcan from “Lost In Space?” It’s time to take them under the arm and guide them into the modern age. The phones listed below should be enough to convince them that smartphone technology isn’t all that scary.

best-smartphones-for-senior-users-samsung-galaxy-note-5

While this list features plenty of phones dedicated to those unfamiliar with phones, there’s no reason why the older generation shouldn’t own a regular powerful handset like the rest of us.

While splashing out on the latest Samsung flagship might be a bit much, the Galaxy Note 5 remains an excellent smartphone that can be picked up for around $200 – $300 these days. Crucially, it features a large, vibrant 5.7-inch screen and a stylus. (After all, everyone over the age of 60 is probably more comfortable with a pen than a touchscreen).

In addition, the Galaxy Note 5 has an “Easy Mode” which makes everything on the screen bigger and clearer, cutting out many of the more intricate UI features and letting you customize it.

Specifications:

  • 5.7-inch display
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 32/64/128 GB internal storage
  • 16 MP rear camera, 5 MP front-facing camera
  • 3000 mAh battery
  • Android 5.1.1
  • 4G LTE
  • ‘Easy Mode’ which makes UI more accessible

jitterbug-home

The Jitterbug Smart features an interface that is easy to see and navigate with a simple list interface. The phone also boasts a large 5.5-inch display, which may be a turnoff for older users who might find the form factor awkward.

However, with a larger screen, everything is much easier to see. The device even has a number of urgent care apps pre-installed. Say goodbye to “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” scenarios! The Jitterbug Smart is also hearing aid-compatible and comes with 4G LTE connectivity.

Specifications:

  • 5.5-inch display with HD resolution
  • 8 GB internal storage, expandable via microSD card up to 32 GB
  • 5 MP rear camera, 2 MP front-facing camera
  • 2,500 mAh battery
  • 4G LTE
  • Hearing aid-compatible – M4/T4 rating

powertel-m9500

This 5″ smartphone is made by a company called Amplicomms whose motto is “Loud and Clear.” As you may have guessed, the PowerTel M9500 is super loud. The phone’s ringtone can go as high as 90 dB, which is similar to a train whistle or an oncoming subway train.

The phone also features a volume boost key that can enhance the speaker volume by an additional 40 dB. It’s safe to say that with that level of amplification, you won’t have to ask “Can you hear me now?” when talking to Nana ever again. In addition to being really loud, the PowerTel M9500 has a retooled user interface with clearly-labelled large buttons.

Specifications:

  • 5-inch display
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 GB internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 32 GB
  • 8 MP rear camera, 2 MP front-facing camera
  • 3,200 mAh battery
  • Android 5.1
  • 4G LTE
  • Hearing aid-compatible – M4/T4 rating

emporia-smart

The Emporia Smart features a unique marriage of old and new. The Android smartphone has a touchscreen that can be overlaid with a keypad cover. This cover allows those who prefer a more tactile experience to dial and text while using a physical keypad. If at a later date the user warms up to the touchscreen, the keypad cover can be completely removed.

The Emporia Smart’s user interface has large buttons and a simple menu for easy navigation. Finally, the phone comes with a stylus for those uncomfortable with touch-based navigation. Despite some interesting features that we don’t normally associate with modern smartphones, the Emporia Smart doesn’t have the best specs. That being said, ease of use is the major draw with this one.

Specifications:

  • 4.5-inch display with a 960 x 540 resolution
  • 1.2 GHz dual-core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 4 GB internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 64 GB
  • 8 MP rear camera, 1 MP front-facing camera
  • 2,600 mAh battery
  • Android 4.4.2 Kitkat
  • Hearing aid-compatible – M4/T4 rating

doro-liberto-825

The main selling point of the Doro Liberto 825 is its ease of use, so naturally it features an easy-to-use UI with large icons and clear text. When users first fire it up, a comprehensive tutorial walks through the basics of smartphone operation. It can be skipped, but the tutorial is ideal for anyone who hasn’t used a smartphone before.

In addition to the tutorial, there are also interactive tips that guide users through the process of sending text messages, emails, etc. If Pop Pop is still struggling, there is an online help center featuring videos that walk him through step by step.

One of the more interesting features of the Liberto 825 is remote access. Users can nominate trusted contacts who can remotely control the Liberto 825. So instead of pulling your hair out trying to explain how to install apps or set up a contact list, you can do it for them. Be aware that the Liberto 825 isn’t available in the US, so double check what bands your cell provider operates on before importing.

Specifications:

  • 5-inch display with HD resolution
  • 1.1 GHz quad-core processor
  • 8 GB internal storage, expandable via microSD up to 32 GB
  • 8 MP rear camera, 2 MP front-facing camera
  • 2,000 mAh battery
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • Hearing aid-compatible

Do you know of any other senior-friendly smartphones? Do you have any strategies for helping an older person embrace smartphone technology? Let us know in the comments!

This article was first published in July 2017 and was updated in May 2018.

21 comments

  1. Big screen (7″, 16:10 aspect ratio), loud speakers (like the PowerTel), easy mode. Don’t be so quick to dismiss the value of a larger screen for anyone, especially for seniors. That is… keep your fanboyish politics to yourself.

  2. The general problem with smartphones is that everything about them is too small for seniors, the screen, the icons, the fonts and even the phone itself. In the article you glibly tout couple of phones with 5″+ screens. While that may seem large to you or a 40- something design engineer, it may still be minuscule to 60+ eyes and fingers. When PopPop and NaNa are have to use 17 and 18 (and larger) sized fonts on their PC screens, how do you expect them to use size 5 and 6 fonts on their smartphones?

  3. Speaking as one of those old geezers…. at age 67, my only problem using a small phone is the smallness of it. With my Google Nexus 6 and a pair of 3X magnifying glasses, I get by well enough. My 90-year old father in law (magna cum laude from MIT & certified genius) has similar issues.

    Old people aren’t automatically stupid or slow; don’t fall into the trap of assuming that they are.

    • I am 82 and have a ‘ MOTO-G’! I am really happy with it except for answering a call. Some ads or other interference
      Can cloud the screen and there is no way I have found to clear the screen and answer!! Therefore I have a lot of
      missed calls!! Any suggestions other than , get a new phone??

  4. Hi! I have Samsung 7 at 70 years. Basically no problem, except font could
    be larger. I raised it and all fine but then can’t see all the print with games etc. So a larger
    phone would be better. Thanks for addressing senior issues and raising awareness.

  5. I work as an accessibility expert for government – making sure that applications are fully compliant with accessibility standards. Anyway, I am 68 and use both the Apple iPhone 6 as well as a Android based – LG phone. I can use and view everything on both of them – but the iPhone is easier to use and its accessibility features that are useful to older individuals – i.e. VoiceOver – Magnifier, etc. are all integrated into the iOS – The article needs to address these issues if it’s going to be useful to a broad base of people. Granted cost is a factor, but other features are equally important.

  6. I’m 103 years young and I use the samsung galaxy 45. It has apps, 10g speeds, and even transforms into a tennis racket for whooping my grandchildren when they sneak werther’s orginals.

    • Hi Deirdre
      As a lifelong Apple user myself – highly recommend an Apple iPhone for you. All of your other tech items will talk to each other (calendar, email, contact list, photos, et). Get the “PLUS” version (larger screen) of whichever one you choose (preferable the 7 or 8 – but a 6S Plus could work too). The negative right now is that the older phones ie: 6S and older, are completely slowed by the newest updates. I currently have the 6Plus and the slow processor speed is driving me nuts. That said – my 93 year old father welcomed the slow down.
      Good luck! Nicole

  7. I had the Jitterbug. Three days I had the Jitterbug. Waited hours on hold hoping to get it activated. Gave up and returned it. Lady at returns desk said she had purchased one for her father and he loved it until he tried to get service. Service does not exist.

    Currently on Moto-G6. Number three example of Moto-G. First two were defective. Do you have any idea how much time and how much struggle it takes for a person with limited tech ability to determine the problem is not their aging brain but a defective black box? And then to convince a younger person who normally only converses with their thumbs to accept an exchange? Mature technology was Western Electric phones that lasted decade after decade with zero problems.

  8. I have the ZTE N817, ( The free “O’bama” phone, Free Gov. minutes via QLink server. I am 77,….and it leaves a lot to be desired. ‘
    Qlink advertised the same free service with other phones I may buy/use if they are ” compatible”
    I wanted to buy/use a Samsung Galaxy, however; Nothing @ Walmart or any other dealer was compatible !
    Can anyone help me find a compatible Samsung Galaxy that is compatible with Qlink service ?
    I can go on line to them and type in the MEID number to test compatibility .

  9. I am hit 2x, not only am I a senior but I am disabled (auto accident, leaving brain issues) But, it’;s time I trade in my flip phone for a smart phone. Verizon is currently my provider and I was thinking of buying a Jitterbug from Best Buy, taking it to Version and having it activated. But, someone in the comments ,here, said it’s an issue with Verizon and their compatibility with Jitterbug, is this the case? If so, what kind of phone should I get.
    Thanks

    • Hi Stephen, my Mother is 82 and has a Jitterbug and she loves her Facebook and messenger {especially video chat} but she has problems with making phone calls. It’s terribly sad to watch her struggle with the calling and answering issues.My first smartphone was just so intimidating, the touchscreen, the options were all too much for me to handle all at once. Straight Talk and AT&T has been my provider’s and I have had no problem getting Samsung phone’s activated through them. Straight Talk was my first provider, my children rushed me through tutorials and I just couldn’t get it. So I called for Tech services from Straight talk and they were my glorious Teacher’s. I learned how to clear the cache from my apps, clear apps one at a time and now 6 year’s down the road I can use a smart phone with the best of them. For a first timer, you can buy a refurbished phone frotm Verizon, Staright Talk, At&T or Iphone’s from any of their websites from 49.99-300.00 depending on your budget. Start cheap and upgrade as you learn. It’s worked for me. I’m a TBI survivor and 55 years old too. Good luck

  10. NONE of these are people with Alzheimers, which is what 30% of the elderly have (And need just a send and an answer!) Cameras, pictures, any additional junk makes them USELESS!

  11. A good quality phone that works and is only a phone is of value to couples as well. I have the android. He has the flip phone. When he wants extra he uses mine. But, he would pay for better quality, and he doesn’t want data. Hard to find.

  12. I am 87 years old, never used a smart phone, have only one hand (due to stroke), and not very good at learning how to use new things. I can use the computer for e-mail etc. What do you suggest I buy in a smart phone?

    • Hi Brian, find a phone that can be operated with voice-commands. Another important feature is fingerprint-based security. This allows you to hold the phone in one hand and login using your thumbprint. The iPhone has both these features, even if its an older iPhone. I have a 3-year old iphone 6, and I’m amazed at how good the voice recognition it. I don’t have to type emails on the keyboard, I can just speak everything and it gets converted to text. I’m sure other phones have these features too, so you’re not limited if you don’t want an iPhone.
      The other ingredient you’ll need is someone to help you set it up, who will enter your contacts list and help set up the voice-command shortcuts. Good luck with it!

  13. My mother is 91, and is surprisingly tech savy, but her Consumer Cellular Huawei phone is a total POS. What does anyone think about the Galaxy J7 for a senior who needs large icons?

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