Simplified Smartphone Options for Tech-Shy Seniors

I’m interested in getting my 72-year-old mother a smartphone, but want to get one that’s very easy for her to use. What can you recommend? There are several different ways you can go about getting your mom a simplified smartphone that’s easy for her to use. Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, here are some different options to consider.

Simplify a Used Phone The cheapest way to set your mom up with an easy-to-use smartphone is to purchase a used android phone and install a senior-friendly “launcher app” on it. This app will provide a user interface that is simple and easy to use. A senior-friendly launcher app will simplify the phone’s user interface by providing features such as large understandable icons for commonly used items (e.g. phone, text messaging, camera, contacts, etc.) and no excess clutter. Most launchers can also be customized to fit your mom’s needs and preferences. There are a variety of launcher apps available today that provide this type of technology and are completely free to use. Some popular options include, Necta Launcher (launcher.necta.us), Wiser (wiser-me.com), Seniors Phone (seniorsphone.mobi), Fontrillo (fontrillo.com) and Big Launcher (biglauncher.com) that also offers an upgraded version for $9. If you have an old Apple iPhone that you’d like to convert, check out Silverline Mobile (silverline.mobi) that converts both Apple and androids for free.

Purchase a New Phone If you’re interested in purchasing your mom a new smartphone, you have options here too. For starters, you could purchase a smartphone that’s specifically designed for seniors such as GreatCall’s Touch3 ($150 with no contract at greatcall.com or 800-918-8543). The Touch3 is an android phone made by Samsung that has a 4-inch touchscreen and provides a simple menu list to often-used features like the phone, text messages, camera, pictures, email, the Internet, contacts and apps. It also offers a variety of health and safety features such as the “5Star app” that would allow your mom to speak with a certified agent 24/7. If your mom needs help, the agent can identify her location and provide the help she needs. “Urgent Care” is another health and safety app that provides access to registered nurses and doctors for advice and diagnoses. Finally, “MedCoach” is an app that sends medication reminders. Another option is to purchase a standard smartphone that provides a built-in “Easy Mode” or “Simple” feature in the phone’s settings. Like the launcher app, this built-in application would convert the phone’s interface to one with simpler features such as large and well-labeled icons to commonly-used functions. Samsung Galaxy smartphones include a built-in “Easy Mode” or “Simple” feature. These phones are available through most cell phone carriers at prices typically ranging between $400 and $850 without a contract. The Huawei Vision 2 and Huawei Ascend Mate 2 also have this Easy Mode option and are more budget-friendly. You can purchase these phones as unlocked phones or through Consumer Cellular (consumercellular.com, 888-345-5509) for only $80 or $225 without a contract. Consumer Cellular is a top-rated no-contract service provider that also offers discounts to AARP members. A nice advantage of getting your mom a new smartphone is that if she masters the Easy Mode (or gets bored with it) and is ready to expand her skills, you can always switch the phone back to the standard operation mode. You can also add any number of health and safety features to her phone, similar to what the Touch3 offers, by downloading their apps at greatcall.com/medical-apps. Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

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