Seniors could easily pick any of the best Android phones or a premium iPhone and be happy. Most have perks like bright screens, big batteries, and fast performance that anyone will appreciate regardless of age. But truth be told, the most expensive phone perks like pro-quality cameras and fast displays for mobile gaming are superfluous for plenty of seniors. In most cases, a mid-range phone like the Google Pixel 5a will be more than sufficient.
Its 6.34-inch display hits the sweet spot, large enough to give the visually impaired a better experience but not so large that it’s hard for arthritic hands to hold. It has surprisingly solid performance for a cheaper phone, enough that you shouldn’t ever have to wait long for an app to open. Its battery will last even if you use it for 6–8 hours non-stop, so it’ll never die on you during an emergency. And Pixel phones have famously excellent cameras, plus Google AI that automatically improves your photos of grandkids or nature.
Hardware aside, the Pixel 5a works well for seniors because its stock Android software is streamlined and easy to use. It comes pre-downloaded with easy-to-use Google apps. You get three years of software and security support from Google, making it a cost-effective purchase.
Built-in Google Assistant is a great way to call family or ask questions without typing anything with unsteady fingers. And Pixels have built-in call screening and spam blocking tools that’ll help prevent scammers and telemarketers from getting through.
Finally, the Google Action Blocks app is perfect for those with vision or memory problems. Friends or family members can set up quick, one-tap actions from their home screen, which can be sized for large touch targets. You’ll get all these perks and more for about half the price of the most popular smartphones.
Even though many Android phones have a dedicated “easy mode” or other shortcuts to make navigation easier, the standard-bearer for senior phones has long been the Jitterbug brand. Made by Lively (formerly GreatCall), Jitterbug phones are tailored to seniors that feel intimidated by new phone features or lack the dexterity to use them easily.
The Jitterbug Smart3 has a large 6.22-inch touchscreen, which is much easier to read than a tiny flip-phone screen. Instead of a traditional app-based system, the Smart3 has a simplified list view of the most important apps that a senior might need. This includes the phone/dialer, text messages, camera, internet, email, maps, and support. You won’t find popular games or apps here, but the limited selection keeps the phone from feeling overwhelming or bloated.
The phone supports voice typing, so those with dexterity issues don’t have to worry about small keyboard touch targets. The front-facing video camera will let you video chat with family and friends. Best of all, there is an urgent response button right on the home screen that puts the senior in touch with a trained agent who can connect them with emergency services.
Then, there’s the Lively Link app, which lets family and friends receive alerts if the Smart3 user calls for help, along with any other health info or your location if you want to share it. Similar to Amazon’s new Alexa Care Hub, the Lively Smart3 safety features will give you peace of mind that someone’s looking out for you in an emergency.
However, you’ll have to be ready to pay monthly fees for talk, text, data, urgent care response, and other features that add up to a decently high monthly fee. There’s even a one-time, mandatory activation fee to use the phone, which Lively doesn’t clarify on its site. On the other hand, the phones run on Verizon networks, so coverage is pretty reliable.
We know this is an Android site, but hear us out (no pun intended). Apple’s iPhones and iPads have long been at the forefront of the accessibility discussion, with tons of features for all kinds of differently-abled people. Whether it’s voice-to-text, low sight accommodations, or hearing aid integration, iPhones cater to people with hearing or visual impairments.
For instance, Live Listen uses the phone mic to amplify people’s words into the headphones. Sound Recognition notifies you on-screen if the phone detects an alarm sound. And certain smart hearing aids are designed to work specifically with iPhones. Our colleagues at iMore have written up an easy how-to guide to help get you started with iOS accessibility tools.
But as we’ve mentioned, iPhones get expensive with diminishing returns for older users. That’s why the affordable iPhone SE is a good choice for seniors. You get all the perks of an Apple phone — better longevity than Android phones, strong security, a colorful and accessible app interface, iMessage, and FaceTime to text and video call your family — for about a third of the price of an iPhone 13.
The compact iPhone SE has a 4.7-inch screen with large top and bottom bezels, plus a dedicated Home button if you get lost in an app. That screen size could be too small for the visually impaired, but it’s much easier to hold in less stable hands than a 6-inch phone. You’ll have to decide whether tactile or visual comfort is more important. Also, keep in mind that a smaller phone means a smaller battery; it’ll work fine for short trips but may not last a full day out without a recharge.
All Samsung phones have a unique Easy Mode feature other Android phones lack. With it active, you get “bigger on-screen items, a longer touch-and-hold delay to prevent accidental actions, and a high contrast keyboard for better readability.” The most important apps are prioritized and enlarged on the home screen, including a Magnifier, and it also lets you add important contacts to your home screen.
Also, similar to iPhones, Samsung phones have some robust accessibility settings, including hearing aid or mono audio (one ear) support, a screen reader that describes what’s onscreen, font size/color adjustments, and plenty of other useful tools.
With that in mind, the Samsung Galaxy S22 is the best reasonably-priced Android phone of the year. But as with the iPhone SE and Pixel 5a, most seniors will be more than happy with a mid-range phone. In our review of the Galaxy A53 we found the performance to be more than enough for day-to-day activities outside of gaming.
For the price, you get a 6.5-inch, 1080p AMOLED screen that’s large enough to leave plenty of room for zoomed-in text and stretched apps. Its 5,000mAh battery will easily make it to the end of the day, even with heavy usage. The Exynos chip under the hood does a good job sipping energy even with solid support for 5G including mid-band 5G.
Let’s be honest, when most people picture the best phones for seniors, they think of flip phones, not smartphones. Well, there’s a good reason for that assumption. Flip phones give you physical, tactile buttons to more easily navigate simple menus while sticking to a few core apps without making things too complicated. Most of the best flip phones will give you a cheap way to call family, but for one that’s purpose-made for seniors, we return once again to the Lively Jitterbug brand.
This isn’t your father’s flip phone; it’s your grandfather’s! In all seriousness, the Lively Flip2 is better suited to seniors thanks to some useful design choices. On the inside of the phone, you have large, clicky buttons for dialing, an arrow pad for navigating the screen, and an emergency key at the bottom for calling for help. There are also dedicated On/Off and Speaker buttons, so you don’t need to hunt for them.
Even though it’s definitely not a smartphone, the Lively Flip2 does come with built-in Amazon Alexa support so you can use your voice to send texts, make calls, set timers and reminders, and even control smart home devices. There’s also a usable 8MP camera, a flashlight, and a magnifying glass feature for zooming in on small text. It’s worth keeping in mind that this phone has no support for video messaging so you’ll need a smartphone or a tablet to see your friends and family when you call.
The first thing you’ll notice when you see the Moto G Stylus (2021) is the large 6.8-inch LCD panel on the front. This LCD panel is sharp with a 2400×1080 resolution, which is a great pairing for the included stylus. While the stylus tech isn’t as advanced as the S Pen included with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, you still get precise inputs for writing or just navigating apps. The phone is powered by a modest Snapdragon 678 with 4GB of RAM so don’t expect flagship-tier performance but you should be able to use most apps without much slowdown.
Motorola also has some solid accessibility settings. TalkBack lets you tap anything on the screen and have the phone read it out loud to you. You can also turn on large text or high-contrast text by default. Then, there are some standard Android accessibility tools like voice-to-text, plus (of course) Google Assistant. It’s not as robust as other OSs for accessibility, but it’s respectable for a budget phone.
Motorola is unique in that it has special Moto Actions, or gesture controls. For instance, you can karate-chop your phone to turn on the flashlight or twist it to turn on the camera. Some seniors will find these difficult to pull off, while others will appreciate the option to quickly pull up features without tapping an icon.
There has never been a better time to find a phone well-suited for seniors or those with vision or hearing impairments. Google, Samsung, and Apple have all stepped their accessibility games up in recent years, making it much easier to navigate their operating systems with disabilities or limited technical know-how. Of course, you can’t go wrong with the big 3, but if you want our top recommendation, go with the Google Pixel 5a. This unlocked phone also works great on any of the best cell phone plans for seniors.
In terms of accessibility, you get its TalkBack screen reader to hear what’s on-screen, text magnification, sound amplification through wired or Bluetooth headphones, live transcription of whatever’s said around you (including movie captions), Action Blocks for routines, and Lookout — which uses Google Lens and your camera to describe text or locations around you. And these cool features aside, the Pixel 5a is one of the best cheap phones available today, with a great display, battery, performance, and cameras for the price.