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The Best Cell Phones for Seniors

Page Reviewed / Updated - November 28, 2019

Studies show that an increasing number of elderly adults are using cell phones, and specifically, the popularity of smartphones is increasing. According to a 2019 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 91% of Americans ages 65 years and older own a cell phone. And, further breaking it down, 53% have smartphones. Compare this to a 2017 report by the Pew Research Center that showed 80% of persons in this same age group owned a cell phone, of which 42% had smartphones.

As the above figures show, seniors are certainly embracing technology. But there is a huge selection of cell phones on the market these days, and the choices and options can be overwhelming, making it difficult to decide which one will best fit a senior’s needs. Not only are there various styles (block-style, flip, and smart) from which to choose, but the availability of features is vast. Some cell phones have many features, while others are very limited in their capabilities. Unfortunately, seniors aren’t always aware of all the features available to them, nor do they always think through which features they will and will not use prior to purchasing a cell phone.

Affordability is often also a concern, as many seniors are on a fixed income, which means they have limited means from which to purchase a cell phone. Generally speaking, the more features a phone has, the higher the cost. Even so, the range of cost can vary greatly even among the same type of cell phones. The key to choosing a senior cell phone often becomes matching a senior’s needs with a budget-friendly phone.

How this Guide Helps

In this senior cell phone guide, we take a look at the top 7 affordable senior cell phones, from extremely basic to technologically advanced, that are currently on the market. Basic details, such as phone weight, overall size, screen size, estimated battery life, storage capacity, service providers, suggested retail price, and specific features, including senior-specific, are covered. To make it easier to choose the style of phone, we discuss the differences between block-style phones, flip phones, and smartphones, and features that are common to each of these types of cell phones.

Our overall goal is to provide invaluable information that makes the process of selecting and purchasing an appropriate cell phone, feature-wise and price-wise, easier. In addition to phone-specific information, we also include ways to save money on the price of a phone, as well as ways to lower the cost of one’s wireless phone plan. We also realize that after purchasing a cell phone, assistance may be required setting up the device, learning to navigate it, and becoming confident in using its features. Therefore, we offer suggestions as to where help can be found.

How We Chose the Best Cell Phones for Seniors

When selecting the top 7 senior cell phones to include in this guide, we took a large number of variables into account. Below is a list of the qualities we looked for in cell phones in order to include them in this guide as one of the best. A list of variables that were cause for eliminating phones from the running follows.

What We Looked For
  • Senior Specific Features and/or Design
  • Safety and Emergency Features
  • Positive Consumer and Professional Reviews
  • Easy Navigation
  • Affordability Based on Available Features
  • Budget Friendly
  • Reliable Wireless Coverage
  • Dependability
  • Durability
  • Option to have an Affordable Phone Plan
  • Long Battery Life
Variables that Eliminated Phones
  • Not Senior Friendly
  • Extremely Expensive (We Didn’t Include Phones Over $549)
  • Did Not Have Some Sort of Emergency Feature or the Capability to Download an Emergency Alert App

The 7 Best Cell Phones for Seniors

Of the 7 best senior cell phones listed below, we included one block-style phone, two flip phones, and four smartphones. Price-wise, these phones range from budget to moderately priced. Below the overview chart, readers will find individual overviews of each chosen cell phone, including available features.

*Please note that while phone prices and wireless carrier plans were correct at the time of this writing, costs are apt to change in the future.

Model Phone Type Service Provider Suggested Retail Cost Emergency Alert
Snapfon ezTWO3g Block-Style SnapMobile, but compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile $29.99 with SnapMobile / $79.99 without SnapMobile SOS Emergency Alert Button
GreatCall Jitterbug Flip Flip Phone Verizon $99.99 5-Star Urgent Response (Extra Monthly Fee)
GreatCall Jitterbug Smart2 Smartphone Verizon $149.99 5-Star Urgent Response (Extra Monthly Fee)
Consumer Cellular Doro 7050 Flip Phone Consumer Cellular $50.00 Emergency Call Button
Samsung Galaxy S8 Smartphone Major Carriers $499.99 SOS Emergency Messaging
Motorola Moto E4 Smartphone Major Carriers $109.99 Emergency SOS Safety Alert (Must Download App)
iPhone 8 Plus Smartphone Major Carriers $549.00 Emergency SOS Feature
Snapfon

Best for Seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias

The Snapfon ezTWO3G is a low-cost cell phone designed specifically to meet the needs of seniors. This phone is about as basic as they come, making it an ideal choice for seniors who are not technologically savvy. Oversized, rubber buttons with large font, a speaking keypad that says each number as it is pressed, and an enhanced volume option are beneficial for those who have vision and hearing issues. Additionally, an SOS Emergency Alert button on the back of the phone, as well as an option to add 24/7 Mobile Monitoring, provide peace of mind where safety is concerned, such as if the user is prone to wandering.

Overview of Snapfon’s Features

Phone Type Block Style
Model Name ezTWO3G
Phone Features -Keypad Lock Switch
-Enhanced Volume
-Speaking Keypad
-LED Flashlight
-Low Battery Alert
-8 Speed Dial Buttons
-4 Alarm Modes
-Simplified Menus
-Bluetooth Enabled
-Camera
-Color Photo Album
-English & Spanish Language Option
-SMS Text Messaging
-Voicemail
Emergency Feature SOS Emergency Alert Button
Add on Features -sosPlus 24/7 Mobile Monitoring (Additional Monthly Fee)
-ezProtection Handset Replacement (Included with SnapMobile Service)
Hearing Aid Compatible / Compatibility Rating Yes, M3 / T3
Phone Dimensions 4.665V x 2.262H x .602W Inches
Screen Size 1.8H x 1.57V Inches
Phone Weight 2.3 Ounces with Battery Installed
Estimated Battery Time Talk Time 3-5 Hours / Standby 4-7 Days
Operating System N/A
Storage Capacity Can hold 250 numbers on SIM card and up to 1,000 numbers in Internal Storage
Service Provider SnapMobile, but the phone is compatible with other service providers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. This phone is NOT compatible with Verizon or Sprint.
Average Retail Cost $29.99 with SnapMobile Service Activation 79.99 without Snapfon Service and the ability to use the phone with other services providers.

SnapMobile service plans are affordable, starting as low as $20.00 per month for 250 minutes of nationwide talk time. For voice and text messaging, there is a $30.00 per month option for unlimited talk and text. There is also the option to add sosPlus 24/7 mobile monitoring service (discussed more below) for $15 per month.

There is no contract needed to get a service plan with SnapMobile. There is a $35 activation fee with the $29.99 purchase of the Snapfon ezTWO3G through Snapfon. (The Snapfon ezTWO3G cell phone comes with a 30-day money back guarantee.) If a senior already has an ezTWO3G cell phone, there is no activation fee. There is no charge to cancel a service plan.

Best Features & Benefits for Seniors

The SOS Emergency Alert button can alert up to 5 emergency contacts via voice and text messaging when pressed for 3-5 seconds. This feature also has the capability to sound a 120 dB emergency siren to alert persons who are nearby if an emergency occurs. In addition, the Snapfon ezTWO3G will automatically convert to a speakerphone for the purpose of emergency calls.

The sosPlus 24/7 mobile monitoring service through SnapMobile is an add on service for $15 per month. With sosPlus, a response agent has access to pertinent senior information, should it be needed. This includes the following:

  • A Current List of Prescription Drugs and Over the Counter Medications
  • Allergies
  • Health Issues and Diseases / Previous Surgeries
  • Emergency Contacts
  • Physician Information
  • Instructions of What to do if the Senior Is Housebound and Unresponsive

The sosPlus 24/7 Mobile Monitoring Service agent can alert both emergency responders and the user’s emergency contacts. The response agent will stay on the phone until help arrives.

Included with a SnapMobile service plan is the ezProtection handset replacement plan. Via this plan, up to 2 handsets a year can be replaced deductible free.

GreatCall

Best Health & Safety Packages

GreatCall offers two phones that are ideal for seniors who are new to using cellular phones: the Jitterbug Flip and the Jitterbug Smart2. Designed for ease of use, both phones allow for easy navigation.

The Jitterbug Flip has a simplified menu, large numbers on large buttons, and a bright, backlit screen. The Jitterbug Smart2 has a list-based navigation menu with big type, a large screen for easy viewing, and voice texting. While the Jitterbug Flip does not have the capacity to check and send emails, search the web, and participate in other internet based activities, the Jitterbug Smart2 does have this feature.

A 5-star (24/7) emergency response button immediately puts both Jitterbug Flip and Jitterbug Smart2 users in touch with International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) response agents. Via Urgent Care, users can speak with a healthcare professional for medical advice, and via GreatCall Link, relatives and close friends can monitor the health and safety of the cell phone user.

Overview of Jitterbug Flip’s Features

Phone Type Flip Phone
Model Name Jitterbug Flip
Phone Features -Backlit Keypad
-Yes / No — Menu Navigation Buttons
-Voice Dial
-Magnifier
-Flashlight
-Camera
-Bluetooth Compatible
-Loud Speaker
Emergency Feature -5star Emergency Response Button
Add on Features -Health and Safety Packages with GPS Locator
-Cell Phone Replacement
Hearing Aid Compatible / Compatibility Rating Yes, M4 / T4
Phone Dimensions 4.3H x 2.2W x 0.7D Inches
Screen Size 3.2 Inches
Phone Weight 4.7 Ounces
Estimated Battery Time Up to 10 Hours of Use / Standby 5.5 Days
Operating System N/A
Storage Capacity Can Store Over 200 Contacts, 1,000 Photos, and 50 Text Messages.
Service Provider Verizon Wireless
Average Retail Cost $99.99

Overview of Jitterbug Smart2’s Features

Phone Type Smartphone
Model Name Jitterbug Smart2
Phone Features -Voice Texting
-Camera with LED Flash
-Video Recorder
-Mobile Internet
-Front Facing Speaker
-Built-In GPS
-Bluetooth Capable
-Speed Dial
Emergency Feature -5star Emergency Response Button
Add on Features -Health and Safety Packages with GPS Locator
-Cell Phone Replacement
Hearing Aid Compatible / Compatibility Rating Yes, M4 / T4
Phone Dimensions 6.0H x 3.1W x 0.4D Inches
Screen Size 5.5 Inches
Phone Weight 5.57 Ounces
Estimated Battery Time Up to 12 Hours of Talk Time / Up to 400 Hours of Standby
Operating System Android 7.0 Nougat
Storage Capacity 16GB, with the Option to Add 16GB More
Service Provider Verizon Wireless
Average Retail Cost $149.99

Plans and Pricing

A basic plan, with just talk time, starts as low as $14.99 / month for 250 minutes, and 500 texts can be added to the plan for an additional $5.00 / month. Unlimited talk and text runs $39.99 / month.

Health and safety packages are available, which are very appealing for senior users. The basic health and safety package is $19.99 / month, the preferred health and safety package is $24.99 / month, and the ultimate health and safety package is $34.99 / month. With the purchase of a health and safety package, the cost of talk and text is discounted. Talk time can be added for as little as $5.00 / month (100 minutes), and texts can be added for as little as $3.00 / month (500 texts). Unlimited talk and text with a health and safety package is $20.00 / month. For the Jitterbug Smart2, data must be added to the plan. Data packages start as low as $2.49 / month for 100MB.

With GreatCall, there are no contracts, no cancellation fees, and plans can be changed month to month to fit the needs of the user. There is a one-time activation charge of $35.00.

Best Features & Benefits for Seniors

As mentioned previously, health and safety packages can be added to one’s phone plan. The features vary based on the plan, but may include the following:

  • 5-Star Emergency Response Button - 24/7 Assistance
  • Brain Games
  • Urgent Care - 24/7 Availability of Nurses and Doctors Over the Phone for Medical Advice
  • Personal Operator - Assistance Finding Addresses and Phone Numbers
  • GreatCall Link - A Downloadable App that Sends Health and Safety Alerts to Relatives or Friends

GreatCall Link - a downloadable app that sends health and safety alerts to relatives or friends

Consumer Cellular

Best Basic Senior Flip Phone

Consumer Cellular’s Doro 7050 is a basic cell phone designed specifically for elderly persons. The main display is bright, and the high contrast keys are sufficiently spaced, making the keypad easy to see and navigate. An emergency alert feature allows users to quickly and easily reach a pre-programmed emergency contact, making this flip phone simple to operate for seniors during times of need.

Overview of Doro 7050’s Features

Phone Type Flip Phone
Model Name Doro 7050
Phone Features -High Contrast Keys
-Camera with Built-In Flash
-Video Recording
-Bluetooth Compatible
-Voice Mail
-Text Messaging
-Video Messaging
-Speaker Phone
-Usage Alerts
Emergency Feature Emergency Call Button
Add on Features Protection Plan
Hearing Aid Compatible / Compatibility Rating Yes, M/4 T/4
Phone Dimensions 4.28H x 2.25W x 0.82D Inches
Screen Size 2.8 Inches
Phone Weight 4.3 Ounces
Estimated Battery Time 14.5 Hours Talk Time / 16 Days Standby
Operating System N/A
Storage Capacity Internal Storage, 4GB / Up to 64.0GB microSD card
Service Provider Consumer Cellular
Average Retail Cost $50.00

Plans and Pricing

Consumer Cellular phone plans start as low as $15 / month for 250 minutes of talk time. For unlimited talk time, the monthly fee increases to $20. Text and data plans are bundled together and start as low as $5 / month for 250MB and go as high as $40 / month for 20GB. Additional lines can be added to a service plan for $15. AARP members receive a 5% discount on their monthly bill.

There is no overage charge for users who go over their service plans. Instead, persons are automatically upgraded to a plan with greater coverage. However, if a user goes over 250GB, each additional GB used is $5. Consumer Cellular does not require contracts, and service plans can be changed as needed without penalty. There is no service activation charge, nor is there a cancellation charge.

Best Features & Benefits for Seniors

An emergency contact button is located on the back of the Doro 7050 if the need for assistance arises. By pushing this button three times, a preprogrammed emergency contact is called.

Although not specifically for seniors, a protection plan can be added anytime within 30 days of purchasing the Doro 7050. From dropping the phone, to submerging it in liquid, to manufacturer issues, the protection plan will fix or replace the phone as needed. Please note that there is an additional cost for the protection plan, which can be as low as $2 /month.

Samsung

Best Smartphone for Easy Use

The Samsung Galaxy S8 features a large screen that extends from edge to edge, maximizing the screen space. This phone comes equipped with Bixby Talks, a digital assistant, that completes tasks by voice command. This includes typing a text message or email and setting reminders (like taking medications) that pop up on the phone screen on specific days and times. There is an optional setting, “easy mode”, that makes using this cell phone easier for seniors who are not used to navigating smartphones. There is also an SOS feature that allows users to contact a preprogrammed contact in the event of an emergency.

Overview of Galaxy S8’s Features

Phone Type Smartphone
Model Name Galaxy S8
Phone Features -Easy Mode Optional Setting
-Bixby Voice Command
-Camera
-Video Recording
-Bluetooth Capable
-Edge-to-Edge Screen
-GPS
-Text Messaging
-Voice Mail
-WiFi Capability / Internet
-Iris Scanning / Facial Recognition
Emergency Feature SOS Emergency Messaging
Add on Features Samsung Health—Downloadable App
Hearing Aid Compatible / Compatibility Rating Yes, M4 / T3
Phone Dimensions 5.86H x 2.68W x 0.31D Inches
Screen Size 5.8 Inches
Phone Weight 5.46 Ounces
Estimated Battery Time Up to 17 Hours Talk Time / 30 Hours of Standby
Operating System Android 7.0 Nougat
Storage Capacity 64GB, Expandable Up to 256GB
Service Provider Verizon, AT&T, T Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular
Average Retail Cost $499.99

Plans and Pricing

Because this smart phone isn’t specifically designed for seniors, the pricing structure follows that of standard smartphones, including the need to pay for data in addition to talk and text. To find a plan, users will pick a carrier (AT&T, Verizon, etc), and can then choose a plan from that carrier that best meets their needs. Some carriers do offer senior-specific plans.

Best Features & Benefits for Seniors

As mentioned above, there is an “easy mode” setting that can be used with the Galaxy S8. With this option, the home screen layout is simplified, the icons are larger, and overall, the phone is easier to navigate than it is in standard mode.

In the event of an emergency, an SOS message can be sent to a pre-programmed emergency contact. The message, which is sent to another mobile phone, will include the user’s approximate location. To activate this feature, the power button must be pressed three times in quick succession.

There is also an available downloadable app, Samsung Health. This app tracks daily fitness activity, such as calories burned and minutes spent walking, monitors health, like blood glucose level and heart rate, and allows users to chat with health care professionals and even have medications prescribed.

Motorola

Best Budget-Friendly Smartphone for Seniors

The Motorola Moto E4 is a cost-efficient smartphone that can be unlocked by using a fingerprint sensor, eliminating the need for remembering and entering a code to unlock the phone. The Moto E4 has a water repellent coating that protects the phone in the event that something gets splashed or spilled on it. This phone can be registered via Google Find my Device in order to locate the phone if it is lost or misplaced, which is extremely useful for forgetful seniors. And, at only $109.99 for the phone itself, the Moto E4 is much less expensive than most other smartphones on the market.

Overview of Moto E4’s Features

Phone Type Smartphone
Model Name Moto E4
Phone Features -Fingerprint Lock Screen
-Camera
-Bluetooth
-GPS
-Water Repellent Coating
-Video Camera
-WiFi Capable / Internet
-Voice Mail
-Text Messaging
Emergency Feature No
Add on Features -Emergency SOS Safety Alert—Downloadable App
-GPS Tracker
Hearing Aid Compatible / Compatibility Rating Yes, M4 / T4
Phone Dimensions 5.7H x 2.85W x 0.37D Inches
Screen Size 5 Inches
Phone Weight 6.98 Ounces
Estimated Battery Time N/A
Operating System Android 7.1 (Nougat)
Storage Capacity 16 GB, Expandable Up to 128GB
Service Provider Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile
Average Retail Cost $109.99

Plans and Pricing

As a standard smartphone, available plans and pricing will vary. Buyers will first choose a mobile carrier and can then speak to a representative about available plans and their prices. Some carriers even offer senior-specific plans. Keep in mind, however, that these phones also require customers to pay for data in addition to talk and text.

Best Features & Benefits for Seniors

While the Moto E4 does not come preprogrammed with an emergency feature, an emergency app can be downloaded onto the phone. The Emergency SOS Safety Alert can send an alert to family, friends, and even medical professionals that help is needed right away. This app, with the simple press of a button, can alert more than one emergency contact at a time. Using the Moto E4’s GPS, the location of the user will be sent to emergency contacts, along with a preprogrammed message from the user. Additional apps can be downloaded that might be beneficial for seniors and / or their caregivers. For example, there are apps that allow a person to track the movements of the Moto E4 user via the phone.

iPhone

Best High End Smartphone for Seniors

The iPhone 8 Plus has a large touch screen, can make Facetime video calls, and is resistant to splashes, dust, and water. In fact, reports indicate that this phone can be immersed in water as deep as 1.5m for as long as 30 minutes and still be functional. A built-in virtual assistant, Siri, responds to voice-activated commands. From voice activated calls, to text messaging, to getting directions, to setting reminders, Siri can make phone related tasks easier for seniors. The Find My iPhone feature allows users to find their phones via GPS, a huge benefit for forgetful seniors who are likely to misplace their device. Additionally, built-in features specific to health and safety are preprogrammed on the iPhone 8 Plus, such as Medical ID and emergency SOS.

Overview of iPhone 8 Plus’ Features

Phone Type Smartphone
Model Name 8 Plus
Phone Features -Fingerprint Resistant Coating
-Camera
-Video Recording
-Facetime Video Calls
-Fingerprint Sensor
-Bluetooth Capable
-GPS
-WiFi / Internet
-Siri
-VoiceOver
-Zoom
-Magnifier
-Voicemail
-Text Messaging
Emergency Feature -Emergency SOS
-Medical ID (In the Built-In Health App)
Add on Features Downloadable Apps
Hearing Aid Compatible / Compatibility Rating Yes, M3 / T4
Phone Dimensions 6.24H x 3.07W x 0.30D Inches
Screen Size 5.5 Inches
Phone Weight 7.13 Ounces
Estimated Battery Time Up to 21 Hours Talk Time / Up to 12 Days Standby
Operating System iOS 13
Storage Capacity 64 GB, Expandable to 128 GB
Service Provider AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
Average Retail Cost $549.00

Plans and Pricing

Because the iPhone isn’t specifically designed for seniors, there are no plans available specifically for senior use. Users will pick a carrier (AT&T, Verizon, etc), and can then choose a plan (including data) from the carrier that best meets their needs. Some carriers offer senior-specific plans.

Best Features & Benefits for Seniors

For seniors who are blind or have poor eyesight, the VoiceOver feature allows them to touch the phone screen and hear what is written underneath their fingertips. For those who are hard of hearing, visual and vibrating alerts are available.

On the iPhone 8 Plus, there is a built-in health app that includes a Medical ID section, allowing medical professionals access to important information in the event of an emergency. Information may include existing health issues, allergies, medications, blood type, emergency contact information, and more. In order for medical professionals to have access to this information when the cell phone is locked, the user must have enabled the app as “show when locked”.

There is also an emergency SOS feature to call emergency personnel. To work this feature, seniors must hold down both the side button and the volume button for a few seconds until an emergency SOS slider appears. To call for emergency assistance, users need to drag the slider to the right with their finger.

Buyer’s Guide

There are many things to consider when purchasing a cell phone. From the purpose it will serve, to the “must-have” and desired features, to the cell phone style, to one’s available budget, to the actual buying process, purchasing a cell phone is much more involved than simply going to the store and buying it. Below we’ve outlined a step-by-step process to help guide you through the decision-making process so you can find the best cell phone that meets your needs.

1. Consider the Three Main Types of Cell Phones

Block Style

The block phone, also called a candy bar-style phone, is rectangularly shaped with an exposed keypad and screen on the face of the phone. Due to the exposed keypad, “pocket dialing” can be an issue unless the keypad is locked when not in use. Candy-bar style phones are generally quite sturdy, but are also very basic and do not allow for internet access. For seniors who are not technologically advanced and mainly want a cell phone for calls and texts, candy bar-style phones can be a good option.

Flip Phone

A flip phone is a hinged cell phone that “flips” open to expose a keypad and screen. The hinged covering aids in protecting the screen from damage, but flipping it open could present a challenge for seniors with arthritis or who have difficulty performing tasks with their hands. Flip phones generally have limited features, but some do come equipped with a camera and the ability to access the internet. However, compared to smartphones, the internet speed is slow and the capabilities very basic.

Smartphone

A smartphone combines the features of a cell phone and a computer into a handheld device. This type of phone has a large touch screen made of glass, which can crack or break if the phone is dropped. Therefore, smartphone users often purchase and use screen protectors and phone cases for protection against damage. Smartphones are the most technologically advanced type of cell phone on the market and are more expensive than candy-bar and flip-style phones. From searching the internet, to downloading and using apps, to managing smart devices in the home, the features of smartphones are immense. For seniors who are more technologically advanced and like to keep up with the times and learn new skills, a smartphone can be a great option.

2. Understand What Activities You Want to do With the Cell Phone

An important consideration when choosing a cell phone for a senior is for what purpose(s) the phone will be used. This is because the purpose(s) will offer direction in choosing the style of cell phone and the available features. As an example, a senior who wants a cell phone simply for receiving and making phone calls and/or texts needs only a very basic phone. On the other hand, a senior who wants to search the internet, set medication reminders, and use GPS to find local addresses needs a more technologically advanced phone. The following chart lists activities that can be done based on style of phone to help you determine the type of cell phone that might be the best fit for you.

Do the Following Types of Phones Allow for the Following Activities?

Block-Style Phone Flip Phone Smartphone
Make & Receive Calls Yes Yes Yes
Send & Receive Text Messages Yes Yes Yes
Take Photos & Videos Depends on Phone Depends on Phone Yes
Video Chat No No Yes
Use the Internet Depends on Phone Depends on Phone Yes
Play Games Depends on Phone Depends on Phone Yes
Watch Movies No No Yes
Download and Use Apps No No Yes
GPS Navigation Depends on Phone Depends on Phone Yes
Manage Smart Home Devices No No Yes
Check Local Date and Time Yes Yes Yes
Check Local Weather Depends on Phone Depends on Phone Yes
Set Reminders Depends on Phone Depends on Phone Yes

*Depending on the purpose(s) the phone will serve, compatibility with friends and relatives cell phones are a must. For example, if the phone is to be used for video chatting with grandchildren, all parties must have cell phones with the capability to do so.

3. Determine What Extra Features Are Needed

In addition to the basic phone features covered above, some cell phones offer extra features that are extremely relevant to the aging population. Based on the senior in question, some of the following features may be “must-haves”, while others might be desired, but are not necessarily a deal-breaker if a phone does not have them. One note of importance is that many seniors have visual and/or hearing issues. Therefore, features that offer assistance in these deficits are often crucial. The list below includes some of the more commonly desired extra features for seniors.

  • Emergency Alert Button: Some cell phones feature an emergency alert button that, when activated, can alert up to several pre-programmed emergency contacts via voice and/or text message.
  • Health and Safety Monitoring / Alert Compatibility: A downloadable app available with some cell phones can allow family members to monitor the health and safety of their loved one. These features will be dependent on the app, but may include emergency alerts, GPS tracking, fall alerts, and daily activity monitoring.
  • Hearing Features: For seniors who are hard of hearing, cell phones that have extra-loud speakers or have a volume adjustment button that is easily accessible can be helpful. In addition, many cell phones are hearing aid compatible.
  • Visual Features: There are many assistive features available for seniors who have impaired vision. Very basic ones include a large cell phone screen, large keypad buttons, and large font. More advanced features might be buttons that “speak” the numbers aloud as the buttons are pressed, phones that read text out loud, the capability to create texts by voice, built in magnifiers, and virtual assistants that are voice responsive.
  • Extra Long Battery Life: Battery life can vary greatly based on the cell phone, how frequently and how long the phone is used, and the task for which the phone is used. For seniors who have memory issues and might not remember to charge their phone, an extra long battery life can be crucial.
  • Easy Navigation: Some cell phones are easier to navigate and use than others. For instance, some phone menus have simple “yes” and “no” navigation, some have a simplified menu, and others offer “easy mode” for easier navigation.
4. Consider Budget

As mentioned previously, many seniors have a fixed income and matching their needs with their budget is crucial. Furthermore, it is important to remember that it is not just the cost of the cell phone that needs to be taken into account; the cost of the phone plan must also be considered. After all, a phone with all the latest bells and whistles does no good if a senior cannot afford to pay the monthly phone bill.

Phone Price

The cost of purchasing a cell phone varies greatly, but can range from approximately $30 to more than $1,000 based on the type of phone and the available features. In general, block-style phones and flip phones are less expensive than are smartphones. However, even within the same grouping of cell phones, the price can fluctuate quite a bit.

It is important to consider features versus price when choosing a cell phone, as the more features a phone has, the more it generally costs. For the most cost-efficient purchase, choose a cell phone with only the features the senior wants and/or needs. For example, for a senior who isn’t interested in searching the web, downloading and using apps, or participating on a social media platform, a smartphone isn’t the most economical choice. Instead, a less expensive flip phone or block-style phone without those features would be a better option.

For seniors who want a cell phone they cannot afford to pay for outright, many cell phone carriers offer the option to pay monthly installments towards the cost of the phone. Some installment plans may charge interest, so be aware of this before committing to this arrangement.

To save money, a senior might consider purchasing a new cell phone that isn’t the latest model, but instead was released a year or two prior. While it won’t have the latest technology, cell phones have come such an incredibly long way over the years that it is not necessary to have the latest phone for it to be high quality.

Cost of Monthly Plan

As with the price of a cell phone, the cost of a monthly phone plan also tends to vary significantly. On average, the cost ranges from approximately $20 to over $100 per month.

Prior to choosing a phone plan, it is important to compare wireless carriers, available plans, and ensure seniors find a plan that both meets their needs and matches their budget. To get the most bang for their buck, seniors should ask themselves how many minutes of talk time they will use and how many text messages they will send on a monthly basis. For instance, a senior who has a landline and wants a cell phone mostly for emergencies would do well with a limited talk and text plan. On the other hand, a senior who does not have a landline and wants the cell phone for all communication will need a more extensive phone plan, maybe even unlimited talk and text. For seniors who want a smartphone, a data plan is needed in addition to talk and text, adding to the cost of a monthly plan. Therefore, a senior who has no interest in an internet-based phone should not purchase a smartphone. Seniors who desire this type of cell phone should ask themselves how much monthly data they think they will need, as the amount of data coverage impacts the cost of the plan.

For seniors on a tight budget, prepaid phone plans are often less expensive than are contract plans and can be an especially good option for talk and text plans. Also called pay-as-you-go plans and no-contract plans, these plans allow seniors to closely monitor their phone use. This is because individuals pay in advance for only a set amount of minutes and texts (and sometimes data). Because there is no contract, a senior can change or cancel their plan at any time without a fee. Please note: With prepaid plans, there is not an option to pay for a cell phone in monthly installments.

Regardless of the plan option, there may be an initial phone activation fee. When researching wireless carrier plans, seniors need to find out if there is an activation fee, and if so, factor it into their budget. That said, some wireless carriers may waive this fee if asked.

Overview of Cell Phone Cost and Monthly Plan by Style

Cost of Phone Cost of Monthly Plan
Block-Style Phone* $ $
Flip Phone* $ $
SmartPhone $$$$ $$$

*Upgraded models that include internet access cost significantly more.

5. Take These Steps Before You Buy

Once you have decided what type of cell phone is ideally suited for you or the senior in question, the needed and/or desired features, and the allotted budget, there are still several steps that should be taken prior to purchasing a cell phone. These include the following:

Research the Best Wireless Network Coverage

It is crucial to know which wireless network carriers are available in your area and which ones offer the best coverage. This is because you must have a strong cell signal in your home and other places you frequent in order for your cell phone to work well. If the signal is weak and the phone works poorly, it won’t serve its intended purpose.

Ask friends and family in your area which cell phone carrier they use and if the phone service works well and is reliable. If you want an internet-capable cell phone, ask if they are happy with the internet speed. You could even take it a step further and ask to use their cell phone in your home to check reception, reliability, and speed. You can also find cell phone coverage in your area by checking a carrier’s coverage map online by zip code.

As a side note, not all cell phones are compatible with all wireless carrier networks.

Shop for Cell Phones Online & Compare Phones

Shopping online for cell phones is a great way to find and compare specific styles of phones with select features. For instance, say you have decided on a flip phone to be used primarily for calls and texts, but you also want an emergency alert button. You can search online for flip phones that fit these needs while also comparing prices.

Read Cell Phone Reviews and Check Their Ratings

Written reviews by previous buyers of specific cell phones can be found online and is a great tool to use when choosing which phone to buy. These reviews cover a variety of topics, including satisfaction with the phone and its features. You can also find cell phone ratings and written reviews on the Consumer Reports website.

Go to the Store for a Hands-On Experience

Going to a retail store to try out different cell phone devices in person can be extremely helpful in narrowing down your choice. Pick up the various cell phones and discover what feels comfortable in your hand, play around with the phones and determine if you can easily navigate the menus, and check out the features to see how they work and if you would use them.

Consider a Cell Phone’s Return Policy

Different wireless carriers and manufacturers have different return policies. For example, Consumer Cellular offers a 30-day money back guarantee in which service can be cancelled and the phone returned. Some carriers are not as lenient as Consumer Cellular and may offer a shorter period of return, such as 14-days. In addition, some carriers charge a restocking fee for the return of a phone, which may be approximately $25 to $55. Depending on the return policy, purchasing a cell phone to give it a “test drive” might be worth it if you are not 100% sure if a specific phone is right for you.

Learn Where to Get Help Setting up the Device & Learning to Navigate It

While a new cell phone may at first seem intimidating, there are many options for getting help with setting up the device and learning how to use it. Manufacturers and wireless carriers often offer over-the-phone support, some even 24-hours / day, while others offer in-person support at their retail stores. For example, Apple, which manufacturers iPhones, offers assistance in their stores with phone related issues and concerns. They also offer product workshops in which seniors can learn how to use their phones and the available features. Instructional videos and how-to articles can often be found online. Furthermore, assistance may be available in your community. Examples of where you might find assistance include your public library, a community college, or a nearby senior center. In various cities throughout the United States, AARP offers TEK Workshops in which seniors can learn how to use smartphones. Your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) might also be able to point you in the right direction for assistance. Lastly, friends and families who have the same type of phone can be invaluable in providing assistance with setting up your phone and learning how to navigate it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Buy a Refurbished or Used Cell Phone to Save Money?

Yes, you can purchase a refurbished or used cell phone to save money. While a refurbished phone is a used one, it was returned to the manufacturer or a qualified retailer who has since inspected and repaired (if needed) it prior to resale. Because it is no longer new, it is sold at a significantly reduced rate. For seniors on a tight budget, this can be a great way to purchase a cell phone they would otherwise not be able to afford. Refurbished phones generally come with a warranty, although it is usually much more limited than is the warranty on new phones. When searching for a refurbished cell phone, do your research and make sure the dealer is reputable. Reading reviews written by previous customers can be very helpful, as they will shed light on their satisfaction with the dealer and the refurbished phones.

Purchasing a used cell phone can also save a lot of money, often more money than buying a refurbished phone. However, it does come with more risk. This is because the phone is being sold by the previous owner and a manufacturer or qualified retailer has not looked it over and repaired any existing issues. In addition, used cell phones generally do not come with any type of warranty. Trust needs to be placed in the seller, and if purchased online, buyers need to be aware that photos may not show cosmetic damage.

Am I Able to Get a Discount on a Phone Plan by Being an AARP Member? What About a Cell Phone Discount?

Yes, there are some wireless phone carriers that do offer discounts on select phone plans for AARP members. At the time of this writing, it was found that Consumer Cellular offers a 5% discount on monthly plans, as well as a 30% discount on certain phone accessories. In addition, this wireless phone carrier extends their money back guarantee an extra 45 days for AARP members. AT&T also offers discounts for AARP members; they can save 10% on select plans, 15% on some accessories, and get the activation fee waived.

Please keep in mind that AARP senior discounts change frequently, so it is always important to research your money saving options. At the time of this writing, no discounts on cell phones for AARP members could be found.

How Can I Lower the Cost of my Cell Phone Bill?

One easy way to lower the cost of your monthly cell phone bill is to only pay for the minutes, texts, and data that you need. For example, if you have an unlimited talk, text, and data plan, consider if you really need this type of plan. Perhaps a cheaper plan with limited talk, text, and data would fit your needs and save you money. As a side note, a way to cut down on the data you use is to use Wi-Fi rather than data whenever you can, and a way to lower the number of minutes you use is to use your landline (if you have one) when you are home rather than your cell phone.

Another way to lower the cost of your cell phone bill is to opt out of insuring your cell phone. That said, if you have an expensive smartphone, this likely isn’t a good money saving option, as this type of phone can be very costly to replace and / or fix if broken.

Some wireless carriers offer a discount to seniors if they use autopay, and as mentioned previously, some wireless carriers offer discounts for AARP members. (Learn more under the question, “Am I Able to Get a Discount on a Phone Plan by Being an AARP Member? What About a Cell Phone Discount?”). In addition, several wireless carriers offer discounts to Veterans.

Do Any Cell Phone Carriers Offer Senior Specific Coverage Plans?

Yes. Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer senior specific cell phone plans for persons aged 55+, and AT&T offers a senior plan for those aged 65+. Even so, based on one’s needs, there may be more affordable plans that are not senior specific.

Is there Financial Assistance Available to Help Pay for Phone Service?

There is a federal program, Lifeline, for low-income seniors who need help paying for their monthly phone service. This program, which is administered by USAC (Universal Service Administration Company), offers discounted phone service for persons who meet the eligibility requirements. Please note that in order to receive this discount, one’s cell phone provider must be participating in the Lifeline program.