Keep in touch with your loved ones with our list of the best simple mobile phones for older people
Mobile phones are an essential part of day-to-day living for most people, but the idea of navigating and using one can be daunting if you aren’t entirely familiar with the latest technology. If you or someone you know struggles with conventional devices, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on everything that a mobile phone has to offer.
Thankfully, despite the overwhelming number on the market, there are actually quite a few mobile phones that have been designed with simplicity and ease of use in mind. Our roundup of the best simple mobile phones for older people is designed to help you make an informed decision based on your own specific requirements or the needs of someone you know.
Whether your concerns are ease of use, vision, mobility impairment or generally just a bit of technophobia, our comprehensive list of the best simple mobile phones includes something for everyone. There’s also a very handy buying guide at the bottom of this list, to help make your buying decision even easier.
How to choose the best simple mobile phone for older people
Why should I buy a simple mobile phone?
The older generation may not have grown up with some of the tech we enjoy today, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used. While learning new tech at a mature age might put you at a disadvantage, there are still plenty of things you can do to make the transition as easy as possible.
Simple mobile phones are a great way to get to grips with new tech without being bombarded with potentially unnecessary features and functions. They can also alleviate some of the issues that may come with using a mobile device in old age, such as poor vision and arthritis.
What features should I look for in a simple mobile phone?
Simple mobile phones aren’t often feature-rich, but still allow you to do everything you need such as make phone calls and send text messages. It’s not all old, brick-sized phones, either – some of the latest smartphones cater to the difficulties some older people might face.
When choosing a simple mobile phone for an older person, there are a few features you may want to look out for to help make the phone more accessible.
Bigger screen: If sight issues are a worry, a larger screen may help to alleviate any concerns. With screens getting bigger and bigger every year, it’s now easier than ever to find a mobile phone with a generous-sized screen.
The size of the screen isn’t the only thing to consider, though, as small text can also cause problems for those with vision problems. Thankfully, most mobile phones include basic software options to change font size in order to write and read text messages, documents and any other text much easier. Some even have the option to bold text or change the font, which can also boost readability.
Bigger buttons: Phones with physical buttons aren’t quite as common as they used to be, but if you struggle with touchscreen mobile phones, buttons can often make things much easier. Some touchscreens can be unpredictable – even for the most nimble of fingers – so trying to use them with impaired hand mobility can make life quite difficult. Thankfully, most feature phones still include physical keypads.
Simple interface and operating system: The sheer number of things you can do on a modern phone continues to impress. For anyone relatively new to using them, however, it can be quite overwhelming. If you’re looking for something that performs basic duties such as calling, texting and occasional web-surfing, you may want to consider a phone with a stripped-back user interface or slimline operating system.
Many phones support stripped-back versions of the Android operating system, while some don’t use Android at all, offering only the most basic of features for simplicity.
What are the differences between a smartphone and a feature phone?
Before deciding on a simple mobile phone, you should consider whether to opt for a smartphone or a feature phone. Understanding the differences between the two will help you make the best choice based on your specific needs.
A feature phone includes all of the basic features you would expect from a mobile device, but very little else. This includes applications such as a calendar, calculator and photo gallery but many go beyond this with a smattering of other features such as email and web browsing functions. With a feature phone, you won’t be able to download any additional apps from places like the Google Play Store.
A smartphone is essentially like a mini-computer, which allows you to use the internet as well as install and use apps from places like the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. This could be anything from games and social apps to media streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Of course, smartphones can be harder to navigate than feature phones, but if you’re looking to improve your mobile phone skills, this might be the better choice.
How much should I expect to pay?
Simple smart and feature phones, which are easier to use and typically designed for inexperienced phone users, are significantly cheaper than the all-singing, all-dancing top-of-the-range models.
Prices can start as cheap as £30 for basic feature phones, hitting above £100 for more sophisticated smartphones. As a general rule, the more basic you go, the cheaper the phone will be.
How we test simple mobile phones for older people
To assess simple mobile phones, we put models through a variety of tests to examine each of the features. We start with performance, running the Geekbench and GFXBench applications on the Google Play and Apple App Store. Moving on to a phone’s display, we use a colorimeter paired with the DisplayCal software to attain colour accuracy data, as well as maximum brightness and contrast.
Next, we perform our standardised battery rundown test. Setting the screen brightness to 170cd/m2, we switch off all data connections and play a looped video until the battery dies. Upon recharge, we then record the timestamp of where the video reached. Camera testing is performed under a variety of lighting conditions and with all available shooting modes.
We also conduct specific accessibility tests, which includes any software features such as the ability to boost text readability, and whether or not the interface is simple and easy to use. In addition, we test the various buttons on a handset, including power switches, volume rockers and panic buttons if applicable.
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The best simple mobile phones for older people to use in 2023
1. Doro 8050: Best simple smartphone for ease of use
Price when reviewed: £108 | Check price at AmazonThe Doro 8050 isn’t the flashiest of smartphones, but what it lacks in speed and features it more than makes up in usability. This is the very definition of a simple phone for older people – so much so that it has a dedicated ‘Response’ button on the back that, when pressed, sends an alert and location details via Google Maps to a linked handset (think a relative or friend).
The Doro 8050 uses the Android operating system, meaning you can download apps from the Google Play Store if you want to. The phone includes a very simple and straightforward setup process, and Doro’s action-based interface is big, bold and easy to navigate.
Read our full Doro 8050 review
Key specs – Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 215; Display: 5.45in 1,440 x 720; Storage: 16GB; Camera: 5MP; Operating system: Android 9; Weight: 165g
2. iPhone SE 3 (2022): Best simple iPhone with assistive technology
Price when reviewed: £298 | Check price at Back MarketThe dinky iPhone SE is back and while it’s far from the cheapest handset on this list, Apple’s user interface makes for an effortlessly simple experience. The iPhone SE 3 (like all iPhones) comes with all sorts of accessibility options, including text resizing, colour changes, mono audio and subtitles.
You can also enable AssistiveTouch, which is specifically designed to help people with motor skill issues when using touchscreens. Being a smartphone, you can download applications from the Apple App Store such as Facebook, Netflix and a wide variety of mobile games if you’re so inclined.
Read our full iPhone SE 3 (2022) review
Key specs – Processor: Apple A15 Bionic; Display: 4.7in 1,334 x 750; Storage: 64GB/128GB/512GB; Camera: 12MP; Operating system: iOS 15; Weight: 144g
3. Doro 7030: Best non-smart feature phone
Price when reviewed: £91 | Check price at AmazonThe Doro 7030 is the ideal phone for the less tech-savvy. It looks like a phone from a bygone era, but it still handles itself pretty well, and it’s also equipped with a couple of smart features such as WhatsApp messaging, Facebook and even a basic email application. It can connect to the 4G network, comes with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connectivity and Bluetooth 4.2 for connecting any external devices as well.
But the Doro 7030’s beauty lies in its simplicity. All of the Doro 7030’s physical buttons are large, tactile, well-spaced and backlit when switched on and the phone’s black and white colour scheme helps make the buttons stand out, which is especially useful for the visually impaired. The user interface is also extremely easy to use, and heavily customisable to suit your needs.
As is the case with the Doro 8050 listed above, another big plus is the “Doro Response” button located on the rear of the handset, which connects to a pre-determined contact when pressed in an emergency.
Read our full Doro 7030 review
Key specs – Processor: MediaTek MT6731; Display: 2.8in 320 x 240; Storage: 4GB; Camera: 3MP; Operating system: KaiOS; Weight: 124g
4. Nokia C21 Plus: Best smartphone around £100
Price when reviewed: £78 | Check price at AmazonThe Nokia C21 Plus offers the best of both worlds when it comes to accessibility and options to explore the full potential of smartphones. The handset uses Android Go, a stripped-back version of the operating system used by many modern mobile phones today.
Android Go gives users access to simplified versions of popular apps such as YouTube, Google Maps, Facebook. These apps take up less space, meaning they can be incorporated into cheaper, less powerful handsets such as the Nokia C21 Plus.
The limited 32GB storage capacity means you won’t be able to download lots of apps before running out of space, although this can be expanded via a microSD card up to a further 256GB. The phone’s screen is nice and big too, and there are options to change font sizes and use text-to-speech apps if impaired vision is a worry. It’s also well-built and should be able to withstand the occasional accidental drop.
Read our full Nokia C21 Plus review
Key specs – Processor: Unisoc SC9863A; Display: 6.52in 1,600 x 720; Storage: 32GB; Camera: 13MP, 2MP (depth); Operating system: Android 11 Go; Weight: 178g
5. OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G: Best simple smartphone for battery life
Price when reviewed: £320 | Check price at AmazonIf a big screen and extensive battery life are at the top of your list of priorities when searching for a mobile phone, then the OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G is a perfect choice. Not only does it include a massive 6.43in Full HD+ display, but it also boasts some serious stamina, lasting for over 24 hours in our tests. Once depleted, the speedy 65W fast charging can take the battery from flat back up to 50% in just 12 minutes.
The OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G comes installed with the most basic version of Android and a clean, near-stock user interface, which makes it a solid introduction for those previously unfamiliar with the operating system. The 128GB of storage allows you to download plenty of apps, but if that’s not enough, there’s a slot for a microSD card with a capacity of up to 1TB.
Read our full OnePlus Nord CE 2 5G review
Key specs – Processor: Mediatek Dimensity 900; Display: 6.43in 2,400 x 1,080; Storage: 128GB; Camera: 64MP, 8MP (wide), 2MP (macro); Operating system: Android 11; Weight: 173g