Published: May 25, 2022
Updated: May 25, 2022
In this blog post RAZ Mobility identifies and reviews some of the popular cell phones for seniors. We examine the phones based on three criteria: (1) ease of use, (2) loudness of the audio, and (3) clarity and contrast of the text for individuals with vision loss. All three of these characteristics are important for seniors.
With respect to ease of use, we are looking for a simple menu system with as few “sub menus” as possible, as well as easy-to-use apps, if apps are included.
The speakers should be loud, helping seniors hear as well as possible when calls are placed on speakerphone.
Many seniors are visually impaired. Accordingly, we are looking for the phone to have good contrast and large text.
The four cell phones reviewed in this article are the RAZ Memory Cell Phone, the Jitterbug Smart3, the Jitterbug Flip2, and the Consumer Cellular Link II. The Jitterbug Smart3 is intended to be an easy-to-use smartphone, the Jitterbug Flip2 and Consumer Cellular Link II are traditional basic cell phones: they have large buttons and easy-to-use menu systems. The RAZ Memory Cell Phone, on the other hand, is unique in that it is designed primarily for seniors with cognitive decline.
Each phone is reviewed in turn. We hope that you find the reviews instructive!
Our four cell phones are the following:
The RAZ Memory Cell Phone is sold by RAZ Mobility. RAZ Mobility specializes in mobile devices, including cell phones and applications for people with disabilities. The company sells to government agencies across the country, as well as directly to consumers.
The RAZ Memory Cell Phone is unique. Unlike the other phones on this list, it is designed specifically for individuals with cognitive decline. There is no cell phone that is easier to use. The phone only supports calls (video calls coming soon). Text messaging, email, web browsing, and other capabilities are not available. Also, unlike the other phones, the RAZ Memory Cell Phone can be controlled remotely by caregivers. This is particularly useful if the senior lives a good distance away from a son or daughter who wants their parent to have a cell phone.
The RAZ Memory Cell Phone looks like many other smartphones. It has a large 6.5-inch display with narrow bezels.Because it does not look different from other smartphones, seniors will not feel self-conscious that they have a “special” phone.
The top edge of the phone includes a 3.5mm headphone jack. The power button and volume rocker are on the right edge of the phone.On the left edge is the SIM card slot. There is a USB type-C port to charge the phone on the bottom edge of the device.
The display is bright and easy to see.To save battery power the phone dims slightly when it has not been used for 2 minutes.However, even when dimmed the screen contents are clearly visible.The screen brightens as soon as the user touches the dimmed display.
The battery cannot be removed or replaced, which is typical of smartphones these days.
Accessories that can be purchased separately include a protective case, a 6-ft coiled charger cable, a pouch with a belt clip and an emergency contact information tag that attaches to the phone and includes basic information, such as name, an emergency contact number and medical condition. Importantly, also available are two options for wireless charging sets which are very helpful to seniors who have difficulty charging their phone with a cable.
The menu system could not be simpler because there is no menu system! The RAZ Memory Cell Phone has one screen that shows contacts in the form of pictures with names underneath. That’s it. The senior has no additional options. The pictures assist individuals with memory loss. The senior tap & holds the picture of the person they wish to call, and the call is initiated.
By default, the screen accommodates up to six contacts (all six contacts appear on the same screen; no scrolling is required to reach a contact). But the number of contacts can be expanded to up to thirty. If this option is selected, the senior will need to scroll through the contacts until they see the picture of the person they wish to call.
The single screen also has a button to call 911, or the RAZ Emergency Service (the Emergency Service is described below). The user does not have to dial the digits 9-1-1. They simply touch and hold the button. If activated, a pop-up appears that asks the senior if they really wish to contact emergency services. If they tap yes, the emergency call is initiated. If they press no, the emergency call is cancelled.
To further simplify the phone, the volume button is disabled and is set to maximum so that users cannot inadvertently silence the phone. The screen does not lock or go to “sleep”.The power button can even be disabled in the event that the user has difficulty turning the phone back on or has a habit of inadvertently going into Safe Mode.
The RAZ Memory Cell Phone is managed from afar through a simple app or online portal.
The caregiver uses the app or portal to add and edit contacts, including uploading pictures. The caregiver can also manage nine (9) unique settings designed specifically for seniors, including but not limited to the following:
The app and portal also provide caregivers access the signal strength, remaining battery power, and the GPS location of the phone. This allows the caregiver to warn the user that they are low on power and need to charge the phone. Also, if the caregiver cannot reach the senior, she can go into the app or portal and see if it is because the phone is out of power or there is poor signal strength. The ability to track the phone can be critical if the senior wanders and needs to be located.
Caregivers also have the ability to send the senior reminders and set up what are called, “quiet hours”. These are hours during which senior cannot place calls to designated contacts. This feature can be important if the senior has dementia and has the habit of calling in the middle of the night.
In short, the app and portal provide the caregiver with complete control over the RAZ Memory Cell Phone. The senior, on the other hand, does not have any control or access to settings. This is done so that the complexity is assumed by the caregiver, while the senior experiences maximum simplicity.
RAZ Mobility offers an optional emergency service.The service is designed for cases where users imagine emergencies and frequently call 911, needlessly tying up emergency resources. With the service, emergency calls are directed to a private emergency dispatch agent rather than 911.The agent knows that the caller has memory loss, or other medical conditions, and will determine whether to contact 911 guided by this knowledge.Also, when a senior calls the Emergency service, up to three caregivers will receive text messages, providing them with the opportunity to cancel the emergency alert, preventing unnecessary calls to 911.The service costs $79.99 annually. In the alternative, it costs $7.99 monthly with a one-time activation fee of $19.99.
We tested the loudness of the RAZ Memory Cell Phone with a sound level meter. The loudness of the phone’s earpiece during a regular conversation was 77.4 db. This is consistent with the average smartphone.
The loudness of the speakerphone during a conversation was 103.9. This too is consistent with a typical smartphone.
By default, the background of the RAZ Memory Cell Phone is black. Each picture is presented as a circle approximately 1 inch in diameter. So, the pictures are quite large for individuals with low vision. The names underneath the pictures are white, providing good contrast with the black background.
The caregiver can change the background to white in the event that the low vision senior prefers black on white.
As a result of the large pictures and good contrast, the RAZ Memory Cell Phone works well for individuals who are visually impaired.
There are two versions of the phone. One version is priced at $309.00 and works on T-Mobile, as well as carriers that resell T-Mobile service, including Metro by T-Mobile, MINT Mobile, Simple Mobile and Ting. It does not work on Verizon, AT&T or wireless providers that resell Verizon or AT&T service. The phone comes with a free SIM card and three (3) free months of service from MINT Mobile. After the free service is used, the service costs as low as $15/month for unlimited service.
The other version of the phone is priced at $349.00 and works with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. In other words, the phone can be used with just about any wireless provider, including wireless resellers such as Straight Talk, Net10, Cricket Wireless, Consumer Cellular and Metro by T-Mobile. This phone also comes with a free SIM card and three (3) free months of service from Affinity Cellular, which operates on the Verizon network. After the free service, the cost is $25 per month. For more information click here or call 1-800-729-0083.
The Jitterbug Smart3is sold by lively; it is designed to be a simplified smartphone.
The Jitterbug Smart3 has the appearance of a modern smartphone. The display has a “teardrop” at the top to accommodate the camera and is a generous 6.22”. On the right edge of the phone is the volume rocker and power button. The left edge includes a dedicated Google Assistant button and the SIM card tray. The top edge of the phone includes a microphone and audio jack, while the bottom edge includes the speaker, another microphone, and the USB charging port. The rear of the phone includes the camera set up.
The Jitterbug Smart3 is designed to be an easy-to-use smartphone. It tries to accomplish this primarily through a customized menu system. Rather than app icons organized on the display, there is a vertical list of apps. It seems questionable whether re-organizing the menu system in this manner resolves challenges faced by seniors. A safe assumption is that most seniors looking for a simple experience have difficulty operating the apps themselves, rather than difficulty with the manner in which the apps are organized. And, on the Jitterbug Smart3, the large majority of the apps themselves are standard android apps. For example, if the senior wants to surf the internet, they must use Google Chrome; if they wish to send or read an email, they must use an email client like Gmail; if they want to navigate while driving, the senior uses Google Maps; if they wish to place a video call, they must use a video calling app such as Google Duo; to view pictures, the senior uses Google Photos … etc. In fact, the only apps designed by lively are the Phone, Text Messages, Contacts and Settings apps. Accordingly, if the senior has difficulty using standard apps, the Jitterbug Smart3 is not the solution.
The true “purpose” of the Jitterbug Smart3 seems to be to deliver lively’s health and safety features. Lively’s website explains that “[i]n emergencies big or small, just press the Urgent Response button and a certified Urgent Response Agent will get you the help you need. You can also speak to a board-certified doctor or registered nurse, enjoy affordable car service and much more.” These services are priced between $19.99 and $34.99 each month and may have additional costs on top of that. Accordingly, the Jitterbug Smart3 may be a good option if the senior wants quick access to lively health and safety services (the phone includes an easy-to-find button for accessing the services). Otherwise, the phone does not offer much advantage over a standard smartphone.
The decibel reading of the phone’s earpiece was 78.9, which is perhaps just a little louder than an average smartphone. On the other hand, the decibel reading of the speakerphone during a test conversation was 99.2; this is quite modest and probably not as loud as some seniors would prefer.
In the menu system, the text size and contrast are very good. The characters are bolded and large, and the color contrast is black on white. In the standard applications (e.g., Google Maps), however, the text size and contrast are the same as on any smartphone.
Lively offers reasonably priced wireless service. It costs $19.99/month for unlimited talk and text; 3GB of data can be purchased for an additional $10/month, and 3GB is probably more than enough for most seniors. If more data is needed, 5GB can be purchased for $15/month, and unlimited data is priced at $30/month.
Watch a video of the Jitterbug Smart3 here.
The Jitterbug Flip2 is manufactured and sold by a wireless provider called lively. Lively specializes in serving seniors and offers a number of solutions aimed at this demographic.
The Jitterbug Flip2 is a nice-looking flip phone that fits well in the hand. It has a plastic exterior and a red-metallic color. It is 4.3 inches high, 2.19 inches wide and 0.75 inched thick. It feels solid and generates a nice sounding thud when closed.
On the front panel of the exterior of the phone is a camera, an LED flash and a notification LED that flashes to notify seniors of a voicemail or emergency alert. There is also an outside screen that displays the time, day, date and some status information, such as the battery and signal strength.
The volume rocker is on the right edge. On the left edge is a 3.5 mm jack for headphones and the charging port. On the bottom edge is the microphone and the charging dock connectors. The speaker is on the back of the phone.
If you flip open the phone, the top half includes a 3.2-inch display and the earpiece speaker. The bottom half includes the keypad and urgent response button.
The Jitterbug Flip2 includes a convenient charging station, which makes it especially easy for seniors to charge their phone. The charging station has a nice sturdy feel to it and the rubber on the bottom grips surfaces nicely.
The battery of the Jitterbug Flip2 is 1780 mAh and advertises up to 12 hours of talk time. On the other hand, the RAZ Memory Cell Phone has a battery with 4000 mAh and advertises up to 46 hours of talk time.
The menu system consists of vertical lists, which are easy to navigate and well organized. The phone does not have many features, which makes it easy to use. However, the menu system does go three levels deep in places, which likely makes it too difficult for many seniors with dementia and other cognitive challenges. Moreover, the contacts do not include pictures, again making it challenging for seniors with dementia.
The main menu items consist of Phone, Text Messages, Contacts, Photos and Videos, Help Tools, Device Info and Settings and Games. The Help Tools include a flashlight, magnifier, clock, calculator, FM Radio and Mobile Support. As you can see, the phone is quite basic, which is generally a positive for seniors.
The Jitterbug Flip2 does not support video calls.
The magnifier is a nice feature for people with vision loss. The quality is not the best (i.e., images are a little fuzzy), but it is still useful.
There is also a feature called Amazon Alexa, which allows the user to perform various functions by voice. One word of caution: the senior will likely need assistance setting up.
Alexa did a good job answering basic questions like the time, weather and the capital of Canada. It can even recite a joke. But it is more limited than an Alexa speaker. For example, it cannot play music.
Furthermore, the Alexa feature’s integration with the phone is very limited. Alexa cannot provide the battery strength, signal strength, adjust phone settings or provide a contact’s phone number. It can seemingly be used for only three tasks: (1) placing a call, (2) sending a text, and (3) finding out how many minutes are left in the seniors’s Lively account. In order to initiate any of these functions, the seniors must say the words “use Lively” before the command. For example, to send a text message, the seniors must say, “use Lively to send a message.” To place a call, the user must say “use Lively to make a call.” Some seniors may have difficulty remembering to preface requests with the words “use Lively.”
The Jitterbug Flip2 does not have a feature comparable to the RAZ Memory Cell Phone’s Remote Manage, where caregivers can manage all features of the phone from afar through an app. Accordingly, the senior must be able to operate the phone independently.
The decibel reading of the earpiece during a test conversation was 78.5. This is perhaps a little louder than a typical smartphone; but not materially louder.
On the other hand, the decibel reading of the speakerphone during a test conversation was 104.4; this too is somewhat louder than a typical smartphone.
Accordingly, lively’s claim that the Jitterbug Flip2 has powerful speakers is justified, although the supported volume level is certainly not exceptional. Moreover, we found the sound quality to be lower than on an average smartphone, which may be a problem for seniors with hearing loss who require clear sound.
The phone is compatible with hearing aids.
Text is black on white and the contrast is very good. There is no option for switching the color scheme to white on black, although the text size can be set to either “regular” or “extra large”.
The regular price of the Jitterbug Flip2 is $99.99.
The phone can be used only with lively service, which operates on the Verizon network. Unlimited talk and text costs $19.99 per month, and lively charges a service activation fee of $35, as well. No data is required. The Alexa features uses data, but this data is provided at no additional cost. Lively offers additional health and safety packages with the phone that are priced between $19.99 per month and $34.99 per month. The basic package of $19.99 per month includes Urgent Response: the user presses the Urgent Response button and the call is answered by Lively’s private dispatch agents.
Watch a video on the Jitterbug Flip2 here.
As the name suggests, the Consumer Cellular Link II is sold by Consumer Cellular, a wireless provider that focuses on the senior segment. It is intended to be a simple flip phone for seniors. However, unlike the other devices in this article, it is not a senior phone in the sense that it is not designed with seniors in mind. For example, unlike the Jitterbug Flip2, it does not label buttons to enhance ease of use. Rather, it is a basic flip phone manufactured by ZTE, a Chinese manufacturer, and designed for the general public.
The Link II is very similar in size and appearance to the Jitterbug Flip II. It has a plastic exterior and is sold in either a black or red. It is 4.28 inches high, 2.21 inches wide, and 0.78 inched thick. Like the Jitterbug Flip2, it feels solid, and generates a nice sounding thud when closed.
On the front panel of the exterior of the phone is a camera. Unlike the Jitterbug Flip2, the Link II does not have an LED flash or a notification LED to notify users of a voicemail or emergency alert, although you will hear a notification sound, as well as see the notification on the outside screen. The outside screen also displays the time, day, date and status information, including the battery and signal strength.
The volume rocker and 3.5 mm jack for headphones are on the right edge. On the bottom edge is the microphone and the charging port. Unfortunately, the phone has a Micro-USB charging port, which means that the senior will need to insert the cable in the proper direction. The Jitterbug Flip2 and RAZ Memory Cell Phone, on the other hand, uses a USB type C, and is therefore directionless, which is definitely preferable for seniors. The speaker is on the back of the phone. There is no charging station.
If you flip open the phone, the top half includes a 2.8-inch display and the earpiece speaker. The bottom half includes the keypad.
The battery of the Link II is 1600 mAh and advertises up to 14 hours of talk time, two more hours than the Jitterbug Flip2. On the other hand, the RAZ Memory Cell Phone has a battery with 4000 mAh and advertises up to 46 hours of talk time.
For two reasons, the menu system of the Link II is more complex than the menu system of the Jitterbug Flip2: (1) as mentioned, the buttons on the keypad are not labeled, so the senior must remember which buttons perform what functions, and (2) there are two “soft” keys which are each marked on the keypad with 3 horizontal dots. These soft keys perform different functions when using different apps and the senior must memorize when to use the respective keys. This user experience is arguably even more complex than that of a smartphone! If the senior has any cognitive decline, the Link II is likely to be too complicated.
The available features include calling, text messages, contacts, gallery, a basic media center, FM radio, calendar, notifications, camera, tools (calculator, alarm, stopwatch, timer and world clock), and settings. These are basic features similar to what is available on the Jitterbug Flip2. The phone does not offer video calling.
The decibel reading of the earpiece was 79, which is reasonable for a typical flip phone but not exceptional by any means.
On the other hand, the decibel reading of the speakerphone during a test conversation was 103; this is not quite as loud as the Jitterbug Flip2 or RAZ Memory Cell Phone.
Text is presented as a combination of black on white and white on black. You can invert the color scheme, but it is still a mix of black on white and white on black, so the benefit is unclear. There is no option for other color schemes, such as yellow on black. The display does not appear to be quite as sharp, or bright, as that of the Jitterbug Flip2, and certainly not as sharp or bright as the RAZ Memory Cell Phone.
Font size can be enlarged, but it would help if it could be made even larger. The font size on a standard smartphone can be made larger than the font size on the Link II.
The regular price of the Consumer Cellular Link II is $59.
The phone is shipped with a Consumer Cellular SIM card inserted. Consumer Cellular operates on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks. Unlimited talk and text with 3GB of data is priced at $25.00 per month. AARP members receive a discount of 5% on monthly service.
You can watch videos of the Consumer Cellular Link II here.
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