DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: Are there any smartphones specifically designed for seniors that you know of? I’m interested in getting one, but at age 69, I want to find one that’s easy to see and use. — Semi-Smart Senior
DEAR SEMI-SMART: There are actually several manufacturers who are now making simplified smartphones with features designed primarily for older users who have limited experience with modern gadgetry. Here’s a rundown of what’s currently and soon-to-be available.
Pantech Flex: One of the best and most affordable age-friendly smartphones on the market today is the Pantech Flex (see pantechusa.com/phones/flex), sold through AT&T for only $1 with a two-year contract.
This Android-powered touch screen phone has a bright 4.3-inch screen, with a fast 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 8 megapixel camera. But what makes this phone ideal for seniors is its Easy Experience mode which provides a simple, clean home screen with large fonts, clearly marked icons, and quick access to the phone’s most essential features — your phone, camera, messages, menu, Web, contacts, along with shortcuts to your favorite apps.
It also offers convenient features like voice dialing and voice commands, and SwiftKey technology that predicts the next word you want to type to make texting faster and easier.
Individual monthly service plans for AT&T start at $30 for 200 minutes of talk time (for customers 65 and older), $20 for unlimited text messaging, and $20 for 300 MB of data.
Jitterbug Touch: Offered by GreatCall Wireless — the same company that makes the Jitterbug big-button cell phone — the Touch is actually a Kyocera Milano smartphone that’s been rebranded and loaded with GreatCall’s simplified user interface software.
It offers a 3-inch touch screen, and a full slide-out keyboard with raised, backlit buttons that makes it easier to type messages. And when you turn the phone on, you get a simple menu list with large fonts that lets you access often-used features like the phone, camera, messages and pictures, along with your contacts and apps.
This Android phone also offers voice dialing, a 3.2 megapixel camera, and optional features like medication reminders, 5Star personal security service, a live nurse service to answer your health questions, and more.
Available at greatcall.com or 800-733-6632, the Touch sells for $149 with a one-time $35 activation fee, no contract, and calling plans that cost $15 per month for 50 minutes, up to $80 per month for unlimited minutes, text messages, operator assistance, and voicemail. And their data plans run between $2.50 per month for 10 MB up to $25/month for 500 MB.
Samsung Galaxy Note II: If a bigger screen is the most desired feature, the Samsung Galaxy Note II (samsung.com/galaxynoteII) has a huge 5.5-inch touch screen display and can be used with a stylus, which makes it easy to see and maneuver. It also offers an Easy mode feature which simplifies the home screen providing access only to key functions like the phone, messaging, Internet, contacts and your favorite apps.
Available through AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular for $300 to $370 with a two-year contract, the monthly service plans for talk, text and data start at around $80.
Doro PhoneEasy 740: If you don’t mind waiting, the Doro PhoneEasy 740 (dorousa.us/experience) is another excellent option, but it won’t be available in the U.S. until later this year.
This Android slider phone has a 3.2-inch touch screen and a numerical slide-out keypad with raised buttons for easy operation. It also offers a large-text, clearly labeled menu to frequently used features like the phone, email, messages, Internet, photos, games and apps.
Expected to cost around $99, other age-friendly features include a 5 megapixel camera that can double as a magnifying glass, and an emergency call button that will dial and text five preprogrammed numbers when pressed.
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.