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The best smartphones for older people to bridge the digital divide

The best smartphones for older people
The best smartphones for older people

Those who struggle with touchscreens will benefit from simplified home screens and customizable interfaces.

Because of new online payment security checks and the widespread use of parking apps, many daily tasks now necessitate the use of a smartphone. This could be a nightmare for those who struggle with touchscreens, apps, and texting, but there are some simpler models available to help bridge the technological divide.

Manufacturers are constantly improving their smartphones to make them easier to use, but when it comes to apps, whether it’s your bank or WhatsApp, you’ll be at the mercy of their interface, which you won’t be able to change. While there is no such thing as a truly simple smartphone capable of performing every task, here are some of the best alternatives.

Emporia Smart5

Emporia Smart5

Emporia Smart5

Price: £241

The Emporia Smart5 is one of the better smartphones aimed specifically at people over the age of 65. Its main selling points are a simplified home screen, a clever folio case with four physical buttons for answering calls, and an emergency call button on the back that rings a set of five contacts when pressed. Surprisingly, the phone comes with a printed manual that walks you through some basic tasks. It also includes a magnifying app and a training app for touchscreen interactions like tapping and scrolling.

The Smart5 is otherwise a fairly standard smartphone, with a 5.5in screen, camera, splash resistance, and full Android 10 (rather than the stripped-down Android Go) with access to the Google Play store and all of its apps, including banking and messaging apps. It can also be purchased with a charging cradle; otherwise, it uses a USB-C cable.

Unfortunately, when you open a third-party app, the simplified interface is replaced by the regular interface of the app. It also lacks a fingerprint sensor for your banking app or something similar. Emporia only guarantees two years of critical security updates from the date of purchase; if it stops receiving updates, you should replace it to remain secure.

 

Apple iPhone SE 2022

Apple iPhone SE 2022

Apple iPhone SE 2022

Price: £449

The iPhone SE isn’t designed specifically for older people, but you can change the settings to make it easier to use, and it comes with all of the benefits of an Apple smartphone. The phone is fairly compact, with a 4.7in screen, and there is a huge range of third-party accessories available, making purchasing a solid case simple.

Remove all unnecessary apps from the home screen and replace them with widgets for one-tap access to favorite contacts. Increasing the zoom and text size in the settings will magnify everything on the screen. It also has a number of accessibility features that can be enabled, such as additional screen and text magnification and hearing aid adjustments. It is waterproof to a depth of one metre, too, so will survive a proper dunk in a bath or toilet.

With up to seven years of software support, once learned, you won’t need to replace the phone for a long time, and if it breaks, it’s simple to repair on the street. The large, physical Touch ID fingerprint button is simple to use not only to unlock the phone, but also in banking and payment apps. It only has 64GB of storage, which is sufficient for apps but not for large amounts of video.

The phone charges via a Lightning cable, but it also supports wireless charging, so you can charge it by simply placing it on a pad rather than fiddling with a cable. However, only a USB-C cable is included in the box.

 

Google Pixel 6a

Google Pixel 6a

Google Pixel 6a

Price: £399

Google’s Pixel 6a is an excellent value that can be customized to make it easier to use.

It has a good-sized 6.1in screen in a relatively compact body that keeps it pocketable. It is waterproof to one metre, has a good selection of third-party cases, and can be repaired by Google or third parties if it breaks. It also has a fantastic camera that rivals phones twice its price, as well as 128GB of storage.

The interface can be enlarged to make text and icons larger, which applies to third-party apps as well. The home screen can also be fully customized, with unnecessary app icons removed, widgets for favorite contacts added, and the icons made larger and spaced out to make them easier to tap.

There are swipe or on-screen buttons for navigation, as well as a good set of accessibility tools, such as large on-screen buttons for various controls and a screen magnifier tool. Google provides five years of software support from the time the Pixel 6a is released, making it safe to use until at least July 2026.

It can only be charged via USB-C cable, and you must supply your own power adaptor. It has an in-screen fingerprint scanner for unlocking the device and banking apps, but it is more difficult to use than the iPhone’s large, physical home button.

 

Samsung Galaxy A33

Samsung Galaxy A33

Samsung Galaxy A33

Price: £329

If you prefer a larger screen, the Galaxy A33 has a 6.4in display while remaining light and compact. There are numerous third-party accessories for these popular phones. The A33 is water-resistant to one metre, has a large battery, a good camera, and 128GB of storage with support for a microSD card for additional storage.

The home screen, like the Pixel 6a, can be customized, though app icons cannot be made as large. The remainder of the text and interface can also be magnified to make them much larger. There’s a choice of swipe or on-screen touch buttons, as well as some accessibility tools like touch and hearing aid adjustments and a magnifier tool. Samsung offers up to five years of software support from the time the A33 is released, making it safe to use until March 2027.

The phone only charges via USB-C and does not come with a power adaptor. It has an in-screen fingerprint scanner for unlocking the phone and banking apps, which is more difficult to use than a physical button. It also has face recognition for unlockin

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