Published: December 15, 2020
In this blog post RAZ Mobility identifies and reviews three of the very best 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. A phone designed for simplicity should not require the user to learn a complex menu system with multiple layers. The user should be able to access features quickly and without difficulty.
The speakers should be loud, helping seniors hear as well as possible when calls are placed on speakerphone. The earpiece speaker should also be relatively loud. We used a sound level meter to test the loudness of each of the phones in this review.
Many seniors are visually impaired. Accordingly, we are looking for the phone to have good contrast and large text.
The three very best cell phones for seniors are the RAZ Memory Cell Phone, the Lively Flip and the Doro 7050. The Lively Flip and Doro 7050 are traditional senior cell phones: they have large buttons and simple menu systems. The RAZ Memory Cell Phone, on the other hand, is unique in that it is designed for individuals with memory loss. If you are looking for a cell phone for a senior with dementia or Alzheimer’s, or a senior who is simply overwhelmed with a regular cell phone, there is no other cell phone like the RAZ Memory Cell Phone.
Each phone is reviewed in turn. We hope that you find the reviews instructive!
The RAZ Memory Cell Phone is sold by RAZ Mobility. RAZ Mobility specializes in mobile devices 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 dementia or Alzheimer’s. There is no cell phone that is simpler to use. The phone only supports calls. 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 standard “tear-drop” design with small bezels and a large 6.5-inch display. Because it does not look different from man other smartphones, users 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.
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.
The device box includes ear buds. 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.
One Primary Screen
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 user has no additional options. The pictures assist individuals with memory loss. The user 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 twenty-four. If this option is selected, the user 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 user 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 device, 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. Watch a video of this cell phone for seniors in action.
Online Portal Managed by Caregiver
The RAZ Memory Cell Phone is managed through a simple online portal that can be accessed anywhere in the world. To keep the device simple, there are no on-device settings like a typical phone.
The caregiver uses the portal to add and edit contacts, limit incoming calls to those from contacts, make calls go automatically to the speakerphone and check the device location. Watch a video of the online portal.
The caregiver can also create a so-called “white list” of phone numbers which can ring the RAZ Memory Cell phone, even if those white-listed numbers are not contacts and the feature limiting incoming calls to those from contacts is turned on.
The portal provides caregivers access the signal strength and remaining battery power of the phone. This allows the caregiver to warn the user that they are lower on power and need to charge the phone. Also, if the caregiver cannot reach the user, she can go into the portal and see if it is because the phone is out of power or there is poor signal strength.
In short, the portal provides the caregiver with complete control over the RAZ Memory Cell Phone. The user, 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 user experiences maximum simplicity.
New Emergency Service
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 condition, and will determine whether to contact 911 guided by this knowledge. Also, when a user 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.
Loudness of Audio
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 and is a little louder than the Doro 7050 speakerphone.
Clarity and Contrast of Text
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 user 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.
Price and Wireless Service
The price of the phone is $309.00. It operates on GSM networks, such as T-Mobile, AT&T, Mint Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Cricket Wireless, and other compatible networks. The RAZ Memory Cell Phone cannot be used with Verizon. The phone is unlocked. In other words, the user can select his or her wireless provider. Currently, the phone comes with a free SIM card and three free months of service from MINT Mobile. After the free months of service, MINT Mobile costs as low as $15/month for unlimited service. The total cost of owning the phone for three (3) years, when using MINT Mobile service, is $804. Accordingly, the RAZ Memory Cell Phone has the lowest three-year cost of ownership of the phones evaluated for this article. For more information click here or call 1-800-729-0083.
The Lively Flip is manufactured and sold by a wireless provider called Great Call. Great Call specializes in serving seniors and offers a number of solutions aimed at this demographic.
The Lively Flip is a nice-looking flip phone that fits well in the hand. It has a plastic exterior and a red-metallic color. It is 4.29 inches high, 2.2 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 users 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 Lively Flip includes a convenient charging station, which makes it especially easy for users to charge their phone. The charging station has a nice sturdy feel to it and the rubber on the bottom grips surfaces nicely.
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 memory loss and other cognitive challenges. Moreover, the contacts do not include pictures, again making it challenging for people with memory loss.
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.
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 user’s Great Call account. In order to initiate any of these functions, the user must say the words “use Lively” before the command. For example, to send a text message, the user 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 most surprising omission is the absence of speed dial. Speed dial is very helpful to those seniors who would benefit from an extremely simple user experience. The absence of speed dial means that seniors who need extreme simplicity will not be able to use the Lively Flip.
Loudness of Audio
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, Great Call’s claim that the Lively Flip has powerful speakers is justified, although the supported volume level is certainly not exceptional.
Clarity and Contrast
Text is black on white and the contrast is very good. There is no option for switching the color scheme to white on black.
Font size can be enlarged to a level that is sufficiently large for individuals with mild vision loss.
Price and Wireless Service
The regular price of the Lively Flip is $99.99.
The phone can be used only with Great Call service, which operates on the Verizon network. Unlimited talk and text costs $39.99 per month, and Great Call 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. The total cost of owning the Lively Flip for three (3) years, when using Great Call service, is $1,574.63. This is the most expensive of the three (3) devices.
The Doro 7050 is sold by Consumer Cellular. Consumer Cellular is a wireless provider focused primarily on serving seniors, and the Doro 7050 can be used only with Consumer Cellular service. Consumer Cellular service is relatively expensive, but they are known to provide excellent customer service.
The Doro 7050 is a flip phone with a very similar exterior to the Lively Flip. Like the Lively Flip, the Doro 7050 has a red-metallic color and is almost identical in size. When closed, it is 4.28 inches high, 2.2 inches wide and 0.82 inches thick. It doesn’t feel quite as solid as the Lively Flip and does not generate the same nice sounding thud when it is closed. Nevertheless, it is well-built and does not feel cheap.
On the front panel of the exterior of the phone is a camera, a camera flash that also serves as a flashlight, a light that notifies the user of new voice messages and missed calls, as well as a light that notifies the user of a low battery. There is also an outside screen that displays the time, date and battery strength. Unlike the Lively Flip, the outside screen does not provide the day or signal strength.
The volume rocker is on the left edge. On the right edge is a 3.5 mm jack for headphones and a micro-USB charging port. The fact that the charging port is a micro-USB means that it is directional; the senior must pay attention to how she inserts the charging cable. The speaker is on the back of the phone right next to the Assistance button.
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 and the microphone (a small hole next to the five key).
Unlike the Lively Flip, the Doro 7050 does not include a charging station. Therefore, if it is difficult for the senior to insert a charging cable into the phone, the Lively Flip has a distinct advantage.
As with the Lively Flip, the menu system consists of vertical lists, which is easy to navigate and well organized. The phone has even fewer features than the Lively Flip, ensuring ease of use. The menu system generally does not go very deep, but it is still too complex for many people with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Moreover, unlike the RAZ Memory Cell Phone, the contacts do not include pictures.
The main menu items consist of Contacts, Messages, Call Log, Camera, Media, Organizer, FM Radio and Settings. The Doro 7050 does not offer any capability to control the device by voice, placing it at a disadvantage compared to the Lively Flip, which offers some limited voice control through its Amazon Alexa feature.
The Messages feature allows the user to send text messages and read incoming messages. Users cannot compose messages by voice. The Call Log lists the call history. Users can place calls directly from the Call Log. The Camera feature offers a simple camera and video recorder. The Media menu provides users access to photos and video. It also offers a basic voice recorder. The Organizer includes an alarm, a calendar, calculator and note taker. The FM Radio can be used with a headset and works very nicely. We were able to listen to all of our favorite local radio stations. The settings are limited. For example, you cannot change the ring tone. However, you can do a few useful things, such as secure your phone with a password and limit incoming calls to contacts.
Unlike with the Lively Flip, the Doro allows the user to set up speed dial. Speed dial numbers are easy to set up and easy to use.
Loudness of Audio
The decibel reading of the earpiece while the “boost” feature is activated was 82.9, which is louder than the Lively Flip. This is probably louder than the average smartphone but not louder than all. Note that the loudness without the “boost” function was 75.8, approximately 7db lower.
On the other hand, the decibel reading of the speakerphone during a test conversation was 103; this is not quite as loud as the Lively Flip or RAZ Memory Cell Phone
Clarity and Contrast
Text is presented as a combination of black on white and white on black. The color scheme cannot be changed. The display does not appear to be quite as sharp as that of the Lively Flip, but it is good enough.
Font size cannot be enlarged but is likely large enough for some individuals with mild vision loss.
Price and Wireless Service
The regular price of the Doro 7050 is $50.00.
The phone can be used only with Consumer Cellular service, which operates on the AT&T and T-Mobile networks. Unlimited talk and text costs $25.00 per month. AARP members receive a discount of 5% on monthly service. Assuming no AARP discount, the total cost of owning the phone for three (3) years, with Consumer Cellular service, is $950.
If you are looking for a cell phone for someone who has dementia or Alzheimer’s, or is overwhelmed with a regular phone, the RAZ Memory Cell Phone is the best fit. It is the simplest cell phone available on the market today and is specifically designed for people with memory loss or other intellectual disabilities. On the other hand, if you would like a more traditional senior cell phone, either the Lively Flip or Doro 7050 are best. The Lively Flip has a few important advantages over the Doro 7050. Specifically, it has a charging station to help seniors who find it difficult to insert the charging cable into the phone, and it provides for a certain amount of voice control through its Amazon Alexa feature.