Are These 5 Cell Phones Really as Senior Friendly as They Claim to Be?

Smart Phone

By James Lester

Back in the good old days, phones made and received calls and that was the end of it. Phones now have texting, GPS, email, games, and over two million apps to download. It can be overwhelming trying to make a simple call if you didn’t grow up with a smartphone. There are so many different cell phones to choose from and each one seems more complicated than the last.

I wanted to find the perfect easy-to-use senior phone for my parents. Now that they are older, ensuring they can contact me any time is a top priority of mine. That’s why I’ve decided to review five simple cell phones and find out which is the most senior friendly.

Finding a reliable, senior friendly phone is challenging. I’ve spent hours reviewing and trying to find a quality smart phone for my parents. Narrowing the phone options is difficult and it’s hard to tell if my parents will even be able to use it. What is easy for us to do on a phone seems like magic to the untrained smartphone user. A cell phone is a great way to check in with them and stay in touch, but is it the safest?

Are senior phones the safest way to get help during an emergency?

The short answer is no. If you worry about your parents’ safety as they age, a medical alert is the safest way to protect them.

Making calls on a smartphone is not as intuitive if you are used to older phones. Seniors need to be able to easily call for help if they have a serious fall. Dialing 911 on a smartphone is difficult and life threatening.

Medical alerts and senior phones serve different functions. Senior phones are for on-the-go calls, chatting with friends, and taking pictures. Medical alerts are for emergencies and creating 24/7 peace of mind.

With that said, there are still plenty of reasons to buy a senior phone. Many companies understand the challenges smartphones present and offer simple, easy-to-use senior phones.

How do I choose the best senior phone?

Here at Alert1, I will review five senior cell phones to find out if they are actually as senior friendly as they claim to be. First, I will review the pros and cons of each senior phone. Then I will explain why you shouldn’t use these phones in replacement of a medical alert. By the end, you will know which senior phone is best for your parent!

Senior Cell Phone Review – Punkt MP0

Punkt

The Punkt MP01 is a minimalistic phone that does two things: makes calls and sends texts. That’s it.

My first impression upon opening the box is that it looks like a small remote control that would come with a DVD player. You have the ability to save phone numbers in your address book and set alarms and reminders. It also has Bluetooth capability and a USB charger.

Pros

  • Simple and easy-to-use. To set up the phone, you put in your SIM card, charge the battery if it is low, and power on. Voila! You are ready to make calls. No screen walk through or added steps. Once it’s on you are good to go. Having only two features makes learning a breeze. Making phone calls is very intuitive on the MP01 since it is so similar to older home phones.
  • Aesthetically designed. The MP01 has a classy, vintage feel and thoughtful design. Its sleek black and white letters make it visually appealing. The calculator-like font fits the Punkt style. Being 4.5 inches long, 0.6 inches thick and 2 inches wide, this senior phone fits in your pocket with ease. A gorilla glass screen protects it from scratches and keeps it looking clean.
  • Loud and clear sound. The speaker is loud and has a clean sound. My personal favorite part is the bird hoot sound that it makes when powering on. Very crisp and full sound for such a small device. Those who are hard of hearing will be able to hold a conversation without missing a beat.
  • Long Battery life. Almost 5 hours of talk time and a 20-day standby life is a long for a senior phone. You won’t have to worry about your battery dying on this device.

Cons

  • It’s expensive. On the official website, the MP01 is $337. You can find it cheaper on Amazon for around $290. Paying $300 only to make calls and send texts is a steep price. Sure, it looks nice and is well designed, but other senior phones do the same thing and more for a lower price.
  • Limited service providers. The MPO1 is limited to 2G network providers. This makes it limited to T-Mobile in the United States. Switching providers is a hassle and an added cost. If you are stuck in a contract with your provider, you will have to wait quite some time before using this phone.
  • Small Screen. Even though it the screen is made LCD gorilla glass screen, it is small. For those whose sight isn’t what it used to be, the screen will be difficult to read. The white letters with a black background are nice but don’t help its readability.
  • Difficult to write texts. If grandma loves to text, this isn’t the phone for her. Using a keypad is hard enough on its own and its preprogramed interface does not make things easier. It took me quite a while to get used to writing messages on this phone. Having to push the ‘Select Button’ after each letter becomes tiresome fast.

Summary

punkt 2

The Punkt MP01 is a simple, minimalist phone. It doesn’t distract you with too many features like a supercomputer smart-phone. Its focus is on communication, but I was not a fan of its texting interface. For such a simple phone, the price is high. Having limited supported service providers does not help its case either.

Senior Friendly? - No.

The Punkt MP01 is minimalistic and simple but not designed for seniors. It doesn’t cater to the needs of an aging individual. This phone for hipsters or young adults trying to kick their smartphone addiction. The buttons are small, texting is difficult, and the screen is hard to read. During an emergency having to find your phone, unlock the screen, and dial 911 are steps that you don’t have time to do. Medical alerts have one button and are attached to your body at all times. If you are unable to talk, you won’t be able to receive help with the MP01. But Alert1’s home fall detection knows when you fall and sends help even if you are unable to push your button.

If your parent doesn’t text often and wants a cool looking phone that only makes calls, then the Punkt MP01 is for them. Otherwise, I would suggest choosing a different phone.

Senior Cell Phone Review – Alcatel© One Touch Pixi 3®

Pixi 1

The Pixi 3 is an affordable senior smartphone that does everything you would expect a smartphone to do. Unlike the Punkt MP01, it has a camera, internet, email, and is able to runs apps.

Upon first glance, it looks like an outdated smartphone. It isn’t ugly but it doesn’t offer anything new or unique in its appearance. The dimensions are 5 inches long, 2.5 inches wide and 0.4 inches thick. A 4.5-inch display covers a majority of its body and it has about 4 Gb of storage (more with an SIM card). Selling price is around $50 dollars on Amazon.

Pros

  • Easy to read. The large screen and bright front notification light make it very easy to read. Font size is not an issue since it’s easily adjustable in the settings menu. Readability is not a problem for this phone.
  • Cheap. The Pixi 3 is only $50, which is a small price to pay for all the features this senior phone comes with. That being said, the more you use this phone, the more you realize why the price is so low. More on that in the cons section.
  • Full day battery life. The slow processor the Pixi 3 has allows for a longer battery life than most smartphones. It lasts a full day if used only sometimes. If you charge it at night, it will be good for a full day, which is rare for most cheap smartphones.

Cons

  • Has a lot of features…but none that you want to use. There are plenty of apps on this phone to choose from, but they do not run at optimum performance. The capability to play video games is there but they will run very slow. All these features can be very confusing to those new to using a smartphone. And the slow processor only makes the learning process more frustrating.
  • Low quality camera. The camera on this phone makes each image look foggy and videos have a very low framerate.
  • Nothing New. This phone is similar to the other cheap smartphones but you would be better off with a more mainstream brand. There is nothing new or unique to make this senior phone stand out and it’s slower than its competitors.

Summary

Pixi 2

There are much better and more affordable senior phone options out there. The Pixi 3 has many features, but they run slow and are not easy-to-use. Its slowness hinders its performance. Since it’s not any simpler than other smartphones, your parent would be better off with a regular smartphone.

Senior Friendly? – No.

Besides the large screen and bigger font size, this phone is not senior friendly. It has less features but is not any simpler to use. Most seniors wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the Pixi 3 and a regular smartphone.

Using this phone requires preexisting smartphone knowledge or a lot of time. For example, finding the settings requires swiping down on the tool bar at the top. To make a call, you must tap the phone icon and find the number pad. There are plenty of other tricks that are intuitive to younger folks, but not for seniors. These little navigation tricks are far from obvious to figure out on your own. Even if you show your parent once, they are still hard to remember. It would take time for your parent to get used to this device.

Struggling to make a call on a complicated smartphone after a fall is the last thing you want your parent to doing. If they are able to make a call, your parent has to rely on cell towers to connect. Even then, they still need to be able to describe their location to respondents.

With mobile medical alert fall detection none of the issues listed above are a problem. You push the button and your location is sent to respondents. Then a live person stays on the line with you until help arrives. Unlike our medical alerts, the Pixi 3 is not fall or waterproof. Smartphone screens crack easily and break when dropped. Medical alerts are more durable and designed to stay intact during falls.

Senior Cell Phone Review – Doro Liberto® 820

Doro

The Doro Liberto 820 is smartphone created with seniors in mind. Everything is bigger and there is an emergency help button on the back. Prices are around $150 for this senior phone which is a little on the high end when compared to phones with similar specs. At first glance, it looks a bit chunky, but that is not a bad thing. It is very durable and looks like it could handle a few falls.

Pros

  • Large icons. The icons on this phone are huge and easy to understand. Much bigger than other smartphones. The screen is 4.5 inches and has 560 x 940 resolution. This makes the buttons very prominent and readable when outside and in the sun. Some angles outside cause glare but it does not hinder readability.
  • Walk though steps. Everything you do on this senior phone has a guide that walks you through the process step by step. This is especially useful for beginners who have never used a smartphone before. Your parent won’t have to remember how to use the interface since it tells you each time. You can turn the guide off once they learn how to use the different functions.
  • Resting cradle for charging. The Doro comes with a charging cradle that allows you set the device in for charging. This is a godsend for those who don’t want fiddle with USB cables or don’t have steady hands.
  • Comes installed with useful apps. All of the apps that you would want to use are accessible and customizable. They come preinstalled and have large icons for added clarity.
  • Design is sleek and durable. The raised edges on the front protect the screen when face down. And the buttons underneath the screen are robust and accessible. This is good since these buttons are used so often.

Cons

  • Help Button. On the back of the device there is help button that when pushed, contacts emergency services. In theory, this would be a good idea, but in reality, it creates a false sense of security. It leads you to believe that you can rely on this button during an emergency. But if you are unable to push your button after a fall, help will not come. Being able to push the button after a fall it is only useful if the phone is charged. This help button is not the same as a medical alert and should not replace one.
  • Battery life. It has an average battery life that is good for 7 hours of continuous playback. It lasts longer if you are using it less often. This is average for a normal smartphone, but since it has a help button too, this hinders its reliability. If you decide to read the news while at the park and it drains your battery then you are out of luck. Alert1 mobile medical alerts stay charged for 24 hours. This is true regardless of how many YouTube videos you decide to watch on your smartphone. Our in-home medical alerts have a battery life of two years.
  • Comes with a European charger. Luckily, I had extra USB charger, which was compatible with the charging cradle. But if you don’t have European style outlets in your house I would suggest ordering an USB charger.
  • Small keypad for texting. The keypad on this senior phone is small like most smartphone keypads. Rotating the screen sideways does increase the text size, but seniors may still have difficulty texting.

Summary

Doro 2

The Doro 820 is easy-to-use, durable, and has a help button for emergencies. Texting may be challenging and the battery life could be longer but besides that, this is a good senior phone. Your parent will have much less trouble using this phone than other smartphones. It may take some time to get used to, but the built in guide will help them along.

Senior Friendly? Yes, but do NOT use it in replacement of a medical alert!

This phone is easy-to-use for seniors. Even seniors not familiar with smartphones will be able to navigate its interface. For most phones, having too many apps is overwhelming. Unused apps don’t hinder your interactions since this senior phone limits the home screen to four icons. The interface guide walks you through step-by-step. Which is useful if your parent forgets how to use any of the features on their phone.

The help button is a nice idea but shouldn’t replace a medical alert. Having a short battery life is one reason it should not be used it in replacement of a medical alert. Another is that it is not strapped to your body. Alert1’s medical alerts attach to bracelets, lanyards, or clip to your belt. With our medical alerts, help is sent to their location even if they can't push their button.

Senior Cell Phone Review – Jethro© SC-628

Jethro

The Jethro SC-628 is a small mobile phone designed for seniors. It is small and simple and does not have any unnecessary features. Like the Doro, the Jethro also has a help button on the back for emergencies.

Pros

  • Large buttons. Those with deteriorating eyesight will be able to dial phone numbers with ease. The keypad has actual buttons, which are easy to read and push.
  • Easy to read screen. The screen is only 2.3 inches across but is very bright and easy to read outside. The minimal information on the screen allows for the large text size, which helps as well.
  • Hearing aid compatible. You can connect your hearing aid via Bluetooth. For the hearing impaired, this is a useful feature.Most phones have trouble connecting to hearing aids; the Jethro does not have that issue.
  • Simple to make calls. Similar to the Punkt MP01, it is easy to make calls on the Jethro. Dial the number and push the call button. No added steps like smartphones have.
  • Cheap. Unlike the Punkt MP01 this senior phone is very inexpensive. The Jethro is only $69.99 and has more capabilities than the MP01. It doesn’t look as nice but it gets the job done.
  • Has a flashlight and camera. Having a flashlight is added feature that is useful during the night. Your parent won’t have to use the screen to see in the dark like with other phones. It has camera as well but the pictures aren’t very high quality.

Cons

  • Small and hard to grip. The Jethro is small and made of plastic. It is easy to drop even though the back has small holes to improve its grip. Not sweaty hand friendly. If your parent has arthritis, using this senior phone would be a challenge.
  • Cradle charger is not included. On the front of the box shows the Jethro in a charging cradle. Unfortunately, there is no cradle inside the box. If you want a charging cradle, you will have to order one separately. The cradle costs around $15 if you order online.
  • Emergency button activation before use. The factory default setting for the emergency help button is off. Unless you read the user guide, which let’s be honest not many of us do, you would never know to turn it on. During an emergency, you would be out of luck unless you activated the help button beforehand. Another reason why a medical alert is the safer choice.

Summary

Jethro 11

The Jethro SC-628 has its heart in the right place. It caters to many of the needs a senior would have: Large text, easy-to-use keypad and hearing aid compatible. The downside is that it is small and could easily be lost or dropped. There are other Jethro models that are affordable and may better fit your needs. This an easy-to-use senior phone that is cheap and reliable. Make sure you activate the help button if you plan on using it.

Senior friendly? Yes, but get a medical alert too.

 This would be an easy-to-use phone for a senior. It’s affordable, easy to read and has some added features such as a flash light which is useful.

The Jethro senior phone has a help button but it is not the safest option to rely on. It’s made of plastic and a fall could easily damage it. And if you did not activate the help button beforehand, the button would be useless. Also, the Jethro only contacts 911 emergency services. Our medical alerts contact friends, family or neighbors before notifying the emergency services. Sometimes emergency services are not necessary after a less serious fall. For example, when your parent is not injured and only needs help standing up after a fall. In this situation, an Alert1 respondent will contact a nearby friend and have them assist you. For more details check out Alert1’s Circle of Care.

In most cases, emergency services have to break your parent's lock to enter their home. With our emergency lockbox you don’t need to worry about a broken lock. We create a unique code for your lock box, which stores an extra pair of keys. During an emergency, we give the emergency correspondents the code so they can open the door. That is best way to for your parent to get the help they need as quick as possible. 

Senior Cell Phone Review – Emporia Click Plus

Emporia

The Emporia Click Plus is a flip phone designed with seniors in mind. It has large buttons, a help button, and is hearing aid compatible. There is a lot to like about this phone based on the reviews and my first impressions. The design is very modern for a flip phone and it looks easy-to-use. You can find them online for around $150.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use. As mentioned above, this phone would be very intuitive for a senior to use. They may need help with the initial set up but besides that, its design is straightforward and simple.
  • Bright Screen. The screen is easy to read, has large buttons and a simple interface. Readable even when the sun is shining on it. Seniors will have no problem reading the texts.
  • Loud. This senior phone is very loud and is hearing aid compatible like the Jethro.
  • Comes with a charging cradle. Unlike the Jethro, the Emporia comes with a charging cradle. No added cost for it either.

Cons

  • Short battery life. The battery charges fast but only lasts for a few conversations. This is typical for most phones but it defeats the purpose of having a help button. If you have to choose between using the phone or using it as a help button then the device is a failure.
  • Help button is not as good as a medical alert. This is the same issue as the Doro and Jethro. It leads to a false sense of security and does not have the same functionality as a medical alert. Your parent does have the option to choose a contact number when pushing the help button. But it relies on a cell phone battery. Emergency services will not be able to pinpoint your location either when you need help. A medical alert uses GPS to send help to you when you don't know where you are.
  • Not secured to your body. The Emporia, as well as any cell phone, isn’t attached to your body. This is a problem because if you fall while holding your phone it could easily break or fall out of reach. Alert1’s Medical alerts are available as a bracelet or necklace and are strapped to your body at all times.

Summary

The Emporia is a well-designed flip phone that is easy-to-use, read, and hear. But the help button should not replace a medical alert. There are many customer complaints about the short life. A short battery life is my top concern when using this phone. Having a long conversation would drain the battery. This would result in tragedy if your parent had a serious fall afterwards.

Senior Friendly? Yes

This would be a great phone for a senior to make calls and send texts. But if your intent is to keep your parents safe then get them a medical alert as well. It is simple, intuitive, and comes with a charging cradle. Large text size and easy-to-read screen add value too. The price is high for a flip phone, but since it’s designed for seniors, the price is justifiable. 

So which senior phone is best?

After reviewing these senior phones, my recommendation for seniors is the Emporia Click Plus. It is the most intuitive to use and senior friendly. If your parent is more tech-savvy than the average senior, then the Doro smartphone may be a better fit.

Safety and communication are two of my top concerns when it comes to my parents. Buying a cell phone and a medical alert is the smartest choice. The added help button on the cell phone is good intentioned but it’s not as reliable as a medical alert. Here’s a quick recap as to why senior phones should not replace a medical alert:

  • Short battery life. If you phones dies, help won’t come.
  • No fall detection.
  • Rely on cell towers.
  • Are not securely strapped to your body.
  • A Command Center respondent does not stay on line with you until help arrives.
  • Broken lock from emergency services entering your parent’s home.
  • Senior phones are not as durable.

Each senior phone serves its function as a phone, but they should not replace a medical alert. I’m not saying that adding a medical alert to a senior phone is a bad thing. But I have yet to see a senior phone that does everything as well as a medical alert. When it comes to your parent’s safety, you don’t want to cut any corners.

Why I Chose a Medical Alert for My Parents

Coffee

The older my parents became, the wearier I felt leaving them alone. My father goes on long walks to the beach every morning and leaves my mother alone. If they fall and there is no one nearby to help, they will be stranded alone. A medical alert is the only way to ensure their safety when I am not there. They were hesitant at first but after my father had a fall at his desk, we all agreed it was the safest option.

In addition to their medical alerts, my parents were very happy with their Emporia and got used to it in no time. My mom loves that fact that she can call me anywhere at any time and has been taking full advantage of that recently…maybe I shouldn’t have gotten them a cell phone after all.

Worrying about your parents’ safety is a concern we all share. These senior phone recommendations allow you to stay in touch with your parents. And with a medical alert, your parents will have 24/7 protection while you have peace of mind.