The best smartphones to help seniors bridge the tech divide

JThese days, many daily tasks require a smartphone due to new online payment security checks and the widespread use of parking apps. It’s a potential nightmare for those who struggle with touchscreens, apps and texting, but there are easier-to-use models to help bridge the technology gap.

Manufacturers are continually modifying their smartphones to make them easier to use but unfortunately when it comes to apps, be it your bank or WhatsApp, you will always be at the mercy of their interface as it cannot be changed. So while there isn’t a truly simple smartphone that can do it all, here are some of the best options.

Emporia Smart5

The Smart5
The Smart5 has a nifty folio case with four physical buttons for answering calls and an emergency call button on the back.

Price: £241

The Emporia Smart5 is one of the best smartphones aimed specifically at the over 65s. Its main selling points are a streamlined home screen, a nifty folio case with four physical buttons for answering calls, and an emergency call button on the back that, when pressed, rings a set of five contacts. Unusually, the phone comes with a printed manual to walk through some basic tasks. It also comes with a magnification app and a training app that teaches touch interactions like tapping and scrolling.

Otherwise, the Smart5 is a fairly standard smartphone, with a 5.5-inch screen, camera, splash resistance and full Android 10 (not 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 application, the simplified interface is left for the usual application interface. It also doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor for your banking or similar app. Emporia guarantees only two years of critical security updates from purchase; as soon as it stops receiving updates, you should replace it to stay safe.

Apple iPhone SE 2022

The home screen
The iPhone SE with a simplified Home screen. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Price: £449 RRP – offers from £300

The iPhone SE isn’t specifically designed for older people, but you can tweak the settings to make it easier to use, and it has all the benefits of an Apple smartphone. With a 4.7-inch screen, the phone is quite compact and there is a huge range of third-party accessories available, making it easy to buy a solid case.

The home screen can be simplified by removing all unnecessary apps and placing widgets for one-click access to favorite contacts on the screen. Increasing the zoom and text size in the settings will make everything huge on the screen. It also has a range of accessibility features that can be turned on, including extra screen and text magnification and adjustments for hearing aids. It’s also water resistant to a depth of one meter, so it’ll survive a good dip in a bath or toilet.

With up to seven years of software support, once learned you won’t have to change your phone for long, and if it breaks it’s easy to get repaired on the high street. The large physical Touch ID fingerprint button is easy to use for unlocking the phone but also in banking and payment apps. It only has 64GB of storage, which will be fine for apps but not a lot of videos.

The phone charges via Lightning cable but also supports wireless charging, so you can just place it on a pad to charge rather than fiddling with a cable. Only a USB-C cable is included in the box, however.

Google Pixel 6a

The home screen
The Google Pixel 6a with the simplified home screen and maximized display and text size. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Price: RRP £399 – offers from £299

Google’s Pixel 6a offers exceptional value and can be customized to make it easier to use.

It has a good-sized 6.1-inch screen in a fairly compact body, keeping it always in your pocket. It’s waterproof to a depth of one meter, has a reasonable selection of third-party cases, and can be repaired by Google or third parties if it breaks. It also has a fantastic camera, rivaling phones twice as expensive, and 128GB of storage.

The interface can be expanded to make text and icons larger, which also applies to third-party apps. The home screen can also be fully customized, removing unnecessary app icons, adding widgets for favorite contacts, and making them huge and spaced out so they’re easier to use.

There’s a choice of swipe or on-screen buttons for navigation, plus a decent selection of accessibility tools, including large on-screen buttons for various commands and a magnifying glass tool. screen. Google provides five years of software support from release, making the Pixel 6a safe to use until at least July 2026.

It only charges via USB-C cable, and you’ll need to provide your own power adapter. It has an in-screen fingerprint scanner which is useful for unlocking the device and banking apps, but is trickier to use than the big physical home button on the iPhone.

Samsung Galaxy A33

Front and rear views
Samsung’s Galaxy A33 has a large display and some customization options. Photo: Samsung

Price: £329 RRP – offers from £250

If you want a bigger screen, the Galaxy A33 has a 6.4-inch screen but is still relatively light and compact. Many third-party accessories are available for these popular phones. The A33 is waterproof to depths of one meter, has a big battery to keep it going, a good camera and 128GB of storage with support for a microSD card to add more.

Similar to the Pixel 6a, the home screen can be customised, although the app icons can’t be as large. The rest of the text and the interface can also be enlarged to make them much larger. There’s a choice of on-screen swipe or touch buttons, plus accessibility tools including adjustments for touch and hearing aids plus a magnifying glass tool. Samsung provides up to five years of software support from release, making the A33 safe to use until March 2027.

The phone only charges via USB-C and does not include a power adapter in the box. It has an in-screen fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone and banking apps, which will be a little trickier to use than a physical button. It also has facial recognition to unlock the phone through the camera in good light.

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