Dear Savvy Senior:
What types of simple cell phones can you recommend to seniors that are easy to use and that come without all the bells and whistles? My 77-year-old mother has had a cell phone for two years but never uses it because she finds it too confusing.
--Shopping For Mom
While smartphones garner most of the attention in the mobile phone world today, there are still a number of companies that offer simplified cell phones that are specifically designed for boomers and seniors who want one for the primary purpose of making and receiving calls. Here are some top options to consider.
Created by GreatCall nearly six years ago, the Jitterbug continues to be the best senior-friendly cell phone on the market. This custom designed Samsung flip phone offers a big numerical keypad that lights up, extra-large text on a brightly colored screen and "YES" and "NO" buttons to access the phone's options versus confusing icons.
It also offers voice dialing, an ear cushion that cups around your ear to improve sound quality, a powerful speakerphone, a 24-hour Jitterbug operator who can place calls for you and optional features like voicemail, texting, medication reminders, 5Star personal security service, a live nurse service to answer your health questions any time, night or day, and more. The Jitterbug J sells for $99 with a one-time $35 activation fee, no-contract and calling plans that start at $15 per month.
If you're looking for something a little less expensive, the Doro PhoneEasy 410 sold through Consumer Cellular, is also an excellent option. This flip phone offers a large separated keypad, with a bright easy-to-read color display screen and huge text. Other features include a vibrating ringer, easy text messaging, a two-way speakerphone and a one-touch emergency SOS button on the back of the phone to contact help when needed.
The Doro 410 sells for $25 with service plans starting at $10 per month, a one-time $35 activation fee and no long-term contract. They even give a five percent monthly service discount to AARP members.
Two other senior-friendly phones to check out are the Just 5 that costs $90, and the new Clarity Pal for $100. Both of these cell phones have big buttons, amplified sound, a "talk back" feature that speak the numbers as their dialed, an "SOS" button that can automatically call your emergency contacts if needed and they're both sold as "unlocked" phones, which means they can be used on any GSM network like AT&T and T-Mobile.
Shared Plan Options
Another option you might want to consider is to get your mom a simple cell phone through your cell phone provider. Most carriers -- including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile -- still offer basic cell phones for people who like things simple.
This option is also very affordable. An extra line can be added to your family shared plan for around $10 per month, and the cost for these phones is very low. Here are some of the best basic cellphones that are recommended by the different carriers.
If you're an AT&T customer, the Pantech Breeze III, which costs $30, is a good choice for seniors. It has a big spacious keypad, a bright display screen, large fonts and offers voice command capabilities and three "one-touch" easy access keys located below the phone's display screen. It also has both an easy and advanced mode to suit customers with different comfort levels.
For Verizon users, consider the LG Revere. Retailing for $80, this is a basic flip-phone that has a bright 2-inch display screen and offers one-touch access to three emergency numbers, voicemail, speakerphone and voice commands.
If you're a Sprint customer, the M370 by Samsung is recommended and it's currently free. T-Mobile users should consider the $30 Samsung t259.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.