While seniors might be the last holdouts when it comes to not using smartphones, only a minority of seniors today do not use one. Their usage habits might differ, and there might be special needs involved regarding settings and accessibility, but seniors can and will use smartphones just like everyone else. We think the need will become ever stronger in the coming years as landlines become less common. Today’s seniors may have had to use smartphones for work even ten years ago. Give them a lot more credit than some people would.
Yet the above being true, that doesn’t mean that smartphones cannot meet the needs of seniors of all types and all levels of technological proficiency. Some smartphones and service plans are better than others for seniors.
Yet it can be complicated for those who aren’t used to shopping for plans. Fortunately, that is where we come in. We are familiar with the plans available to most people in the United States, seniors included. We have a general idea of what plans might work out best for them and have some additional information on how to make the most of those plans.
Here are the top cell phone plans for seniors, whether they use their phones daily or need something for the occasional emergency and peace of mind.
There’s more to a phone plan than being “able to call people and watch videos wherever.” There are details in the contracts, service quality differences, and much more. Even the most minute differences can impact how much someone enjoys and uses their phone. This can especially be the case for seniors who might be looking for their first smartphone. So here are our selection criteria for plans:
Coverage and Availability: A plan isn’t worth much if it doesn’t work where you are. We looked at how reliable the plans are, no matter the location and the general availability of plans. This is becoming less of an issue as time goes on, but still a consideration as of this writing.
Price: Many seniors do not have a lot of disposable income, but that doesn’t diminish their need for a phone plan. The cheaper a phone plan is for some seniors, the better. In other cases, it is better to provide good value. While the exact circumstances can differ, it is always important and worth mentioning.
Customer Service: Telecommunications services and good customer service are not things you usually hear about in the same sentence unless people talk about the lack of it. However, some companies are much better than others. A senior must get a plan with a company willing to be patient with them and answer their questions in case of an issue.
Data Allowance: While seniors might not use as much data as people who are constantly on the move for work, a decent data allowance may still be necessary. Unlimited data is best, of course, but such plans are pricey, and a good balance may be required. Ideally, a good plan has a decent price point per GB. Additionally, there should be minimal penalties for going over the allowance if it exists.
Perks and Extras: There are often perks, subscriptions, and little extras that come with a mobile plan. However, in our honest opinion, most of them are not targeted toward seniors. A standard-definition Netflix subscription or a six-month subscription to Apple Music (which is more like a trial) should not be the deciding factor when picking out a phone plan. Nonetheless, those who would use the perks can add a bit of value to a plan.
Major Carrier or MVNO Plan: There are three major providers (Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile), and then there’s everyone else. Mainly everyone can be categorized as an MVNO or mobile virtual network operator. They lease extra bandwidth from the major providers and sell it to customers at a discount. Essentially, you need to know that an MVNO plan will be cheaper, but its users will not be prioritized potentially hindering service.
Contracts, Discounts, and Group Plans: This is where it can get much more complicated. With some carriers, you can cancel service anytime, but others have you prepay for a period of time or set you up with a contract (often one or two years). Each carrier works differently, and you must weigh the discounts and commitments against each other.
There are also group plans, which we’ll discuss later. Just note that they can mean significant savings. However, some carriers encourage them to the degree where a plan isn’t worth it unless it’s part of a group plan. We’ll mention more about this with carriers below.
Additional Factors: There may be additional factors that might affect some people but otherwise might be ignored by most. Seniors who travel internationally may want a phone plan to accommodate them better. Perhaps security is a concern. Some phone plans are better with security than others. There are a few unique quirks about each phone plan, so know that there is one for practically everyone.
Now that you know what to consider, let’s look at five plans we think could be excellent plan for seniors, in no particular order:
One of the plans exclusively for seniors (or at least people over a certain age), the T-Mobile Essentials 55+ is a fantastic deal for those looking for a simpler plan with unlimited data. Unfortunately, it provides two lines at $27.50 a month (plus taxes and fees) with unlimited text, talk, and data. Other than that, it is, for the most part, a basic plan, but for the price and unlimited data, that is a tradeoff most seniors will be happy to make.
We were also slightly split on whether we would recommend T-Mobile’s Magenta 55+ plan or their Magenta Max 55+ plan, but for the most part, we think the extra features are not worth the price for most seniors. However, seniors interested in AAA membership on T-Mobile, more mobile hotspot data, or more travel options might want to take another look.
Visible is a provider that is from Verizon but separate from it, providing lower cost service to customers using the Verizon network. It rides the line between MVNO and non-MVNO, as users might experience deprioritization, yet at the same time, Visible provides a more direct link to the network it works off of. It is among the most well known of the less expensive providers and may be a good choice for seniors looking for cheaper but reliable service, complete with unlimited data. This is a boon for seniors who may like to use data but don’t need the fastest speeds in the world.
Visible has built a good reputation over time and remains one of the best-known affordable providers in the United States. It has earned this reputation and can be trusted by seniors.
There are two plans with Visible, their standard plan and Visible+, but we think the standard plan will better serve most seniors.
For those who are interested in Verizon’s network but are less interested in the lower priority users who get Visible, the Verizon Welcome Unlimited Plan is the best option for most seniors across the country. It strikes a balance between some affordability (though it is still admittedly expensive for a phone plan) and decent speed, though perhaps not as high as some higher-end plans that cost $100 a month (we don’t think most seniors need those).
It is also uncomplicated, especially compared to Verizon’s other plans. Users get unlimited talk, text, and data on Verizon’s network. The data might not be as high-priority as some users, but throttling should not be too common. Hotspot usage is not included.
However, if there are four lines in the group, then the plan only costs $30 per line. That makes it much more affordable than many high-end options, and seniors enjoy Verizon's essentials.
For those who want more perks and options, there are other plans by Verizon that may be a better fit. However, a lot of these features won’t be used regularly by most seniors. A different carrier may also serve these users better.
We went back and forth a bit on which other MVNO plan we would recommend to seniors, but Mint Mobile has one of the best followings in the industry and a good reputation among those interested in what it offers. And better yet, they have a 55+ plan tailored to seniors and highly affordable.
It is a very basic plan, only having 4 GB of data that could be deprioritized. Seniors who would mainly rely on WiFi or do not use the internet much on their smartphones might be interested in Mint Mobile 55+ to save money.
AT&T has quite a few plans on offer, many of them perfect for millions of people, but for the moment, we would like to focus your attention on the AT&T Value Plus plan. It is an option that provides one line to one phone for one person for $50 a month. And while that might seem like a bit for some people, compared to single-line plans from other providers and under other offers, it’s a significant discount for what is on offer. Unlimited data usually doesn’t come so cheap.
On top of the unlimited data, talk, and text, there is SD streaming, 5G service, and unlimited texting from the US to other countries. There is nothing exceptional, but that is by design. It is a by-the-numbers essential plan that seniors will appreciate and get everything out of. And it allows for more independence, being a one-line plan.
However, we would like to note that the facts that make the AT&T Value Plus plan great for seniors living alone without a group-to-join plan make it a lackluster choice for those who can be part of a group plan. In those cases, someone can get more features and potentially better service for the same price. Another AT&T plan might be better for those looking for even more options and perks.
Interestingly, there are several excellent plans for seniors from other service providers, but it should be noted that they are exclusive to Florida or a limited area. We recommend you look into them if you live in Florida, as many seniors do. We have excluded these plans from our list as they are only available to a small portion of the United States population.
In your searches about phones for seniors, you might have noticed some prepaid phones for seniors available or phones with large screens with large fonts by default made for seniors. They might be specially marketed to seniors in catalogs or on specific television channels.
However, while there might be a few helpful features here and the devices and plans are simplified enough, they don’t properly compare to new smartphones for general consumption. The “specialty” devices aren’t as powerful in most cases and should be regarded cautiously. As you might know, prepaid phones will not be any better, having minimal hardware. They’re primarily designed to be used for a bit and then dumped when convenient.
However, it should also be noted that the era of the prebuilt prepaid phone itself is winding down. Now there are more prepaid plans (perhaps like those mentioned above) that can go with practically any phone instead. It might not be as simple, but it offers more flexibility and works better with existing phones. Family members can give old phones to seniors who are less likely to use them, increasing longevity and saving money.
However, while the special options are not something we wouldn’t recommend, there are a few things we like about them. Get a good case for any phone you buy (this is true no matter your age and phone), and make sure the screen is of a high enough quality to last a while. The better the picture, the more the phone can be easily used.
With those notes on phones out of the way, what smartphone should a senior get? As a rule, there aren’t too many phone plans designed for seniors. For those that have special needs, it’s really about the phones. And if you are trying to get the right phone, you need to know what you are looking for.
There are plenty of resources about finding a good phone if you know a senior in need or are looking for a phone and you are a senior yourself. Make sure that the articles in question have your best interests at heart and are not simply trying to sell you a certain product because they don’t think you know any better. Such phones are easy to spot and should be ignored.
We recommend going partially by these resources and partly based on your own needs or the needs of the senior in question. People are different and might like different things from a phone. One person might want to take pictures of their garden and grandchildren, while another might enjoy a larger screen that’s as easy on the eyes as possible. Ask questions, and see what’s out there.
The good news is that outside of some features that must be part of phone hardware, smartphone operating systems, in general, have become much more accessible to people with various disabilities. All one needs to do is go into the settings and turn on those features as needed with some adjustments. For seniors that have difficulties with technology, to begin with, getting some help might be best. Any technologically savvy person in your life you trust should be able to make the changes in a few minutes. This fact makes choosing a phone these days often a matter of preference, not a necessity.
On top of the above plans, someone can get on their own; there is another option: you can add someone to your existing family or bundle plan, significantly reducing the cost per line for everyone involved. If you’re someone getting a plan for a senior, you might be thinking of doing this already. If you are a senior reading this, perhaps ask a family member if they have a spot open in their plan (if spots are limited with their provider). Depending on the plan, it can save someone $40-$50 a month.
Seniors can also get together and get a bundle together, assuming they all trust each other. While they might be often named “family plans,” it does not require that people be family members to be on the same plan. This might be best if a senior would not be a good fit for an existing family plan.
Whatever the situation, it is absolutely worth looking into. Each provider handles them differently, and some providers don’t have much of a group plan, so investigate it properly before committing.
Depending on where you live or which company you are looking at, you might be able to get a discount for being a senior on your phone plan. Before signing the dotted line, check if the provider offers a discount. Note that this is less likely to be available with a group or family plans.
You may also not find a discount directly for seniors from a company but on offer from an organization for seniors. Groups like the AARP might offer discounts for members, and other groups, large and small, might be able to provide similar benefits. Don’t wait for such an opportunity or join an organization just for the phone benefits, but don’t pass them up if they are available.
Seniors need a smartphone plan like everyone else, though they often have different needs and considerations. We hope that this guide helped you find a plan that suits you or someone else in your life. Not every plan will be suitable for everyone, but we’re confident there will be a good choice among those listed above. We wish you the best of luck in finding the perfect plan and getting started, and we encourage you to return to this page as you feel the need.