It may be hard for the younger generations to understand, but not everybody wants a cell phone for text messaging, taking pictures, listening to music or surfing the Web. Some people actually want one for the sole purpose of making and receiving calls. If you're in the market for a simplified cell phone with limited features, that's easy to see, hear and use, you're in luck. There are several options on the market that are specifically designed with seniors and boomer technophobes in mind. Here are several to check out.
Jitterbug J: Created by GreatCall, the Jitterbug J (800-733-6632) is one of the best senior-friendly phones on the market today. 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, roadside assistance, 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.
Doro PhoneEasy 345 and 410: Sold through Consumer Cellular (888-345-5509), these simply designed phones are great for seniors as well as those who struggle with technology. They offer large separated number keys, a bright easy-to-read color display screen and huge text. Other features include a vibrating ringer, easy text messaging, a two-way speakerphone, one-touch emergency button on the back of the phone to contact help when needed, and they're hearing aid compatible to boot. The Doro 410 (which sells for $25) is the flip-phone version, and the Dore 345 (the rectangular shaped model) goes for $30, with service plans starting at $10 per month, with a one-time $35 activation fee, and no long-term contract. They even give a 5 percent monthly service discount to AARP members.
Just 5: This no frills phone offers only the basics for people who love things simple. Its features include big, easy-to-use dial buttons that can speak the numbers when you dial them, amplified sound, an "SOS" button that can automatically call your emergency contacts if needed, and its hearing aid compatible. The Just5 (800-709-0509) retails for $90 and is sold as an "unlocked" phone which means it can be used on any GSM network like AT&T and T-Mobile, or they also offer a no-contract, prepaid service with Jolt Mobile that starts at $10 for 90 days with no activation fee.
ClarityLife 900C: This rectangular-shaped slider-phone focuses on simplicity and amplification and is targeted for the 70-plus crowd. It comes with a big bright display screen with magnified text, simple four-button navigation (along with a full numeric keypad that slides out from the bottom of the phone), a dedicated one-touch emergency button on the back of the phone that will instantly contact loved ones, and a volume control that amplifies incoming sound up to 20 decibels. It's also hearing aid compatible, has a strong vibrating ringer, flashing orange LED to signal incoming calls and has a handy built-in flashlight. The ClarityLife is available at clarityproducts.com (or 800-426-3738) for $100 sells as an "unlocked" phone that can be used with T-mobile and AT&T.
Best Low-Cost Prepaid Plans
For seniors who only want a low-cost cell phone for emergencies or occasional calls, a prepaid plan is the way to go. With a prepaid phone (also known pay-as-you-go phones) there's no contract, no fixed monthly bills, no credit checks and no hidden costs that come with traditional cell phone plans. With this type of service, you buy a special prepaid phone, then pre-purchase a certain amount of minutes (for talk or text) that must be used within a specified period of time.
While there are many prepaid phones on the market today, the cheapest deal for occasional users per month (not the cheapest per minute) belongs to T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile and Tracfone.
Free Cell PhonesIf you're living on a limited income, you may even be able to get a free cell phone and 250 minutes of free airtime each month through a program called SafeLink Wireless, which was created by TracFone.
Currently available in 29 states, to qualify you'll need to show that you're receiving certain types of government benefits, such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, SSI, or have a household income at or below $16,245 for an individual and $21,855 for a family of two. To learn more or apply, call 800-723-3546 or visit safelink.com.
If, however, you don't qualify or if your state doesn't yet have a SafeLink program, another option to check into is the 911 Cell Phone Bank. This is a program that provides free, emergency-only cell phones to seniors and victims of abuse. To see if there's an emergency cell phone program near you, contact your local law enforcement agency or see 911cellphonebank.org.