Best smartphones for seniors

As your eyesight, hearing, or dexterity declines with age, using a smartphone could become a bit more difficult. You might, for instance, find yourself squinting at tiny buttons or struggling with confusing options when you're making a call, taking a photo, sending an e-mail or text, surfing the Web, or using any other feature or app.

But you don't have to switch to one of those clunky-looking large-buttoned phones. Many high-scoring phones in Consumer Reports’ Ratings have easy-to-use settings to accommodate your needs, making them the best smartphones for seniors and others whose eyesight, hearing, or dexterity isn't as sharp as it used to be.

Two of the best smartphones for seniors are the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the Apple iPhone 6 Plus. Both have a large, high-definition display (5.7 and 5.5 inches, respectively) that is easy to read, even in bright light. They also have great cameras and long-lasting batteries.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Easy Mode

The Easy Mode on the Note 4 is a quick way to automatically boost the size of app icons, the numbers on the phone or dial keypad, and fonts in apps such as messaging and contacts. Easy Mode pares down to the essentials the features within critical apps—camera, messaging, and phone. With the camera, for example, it eliminates the manual controls for adjusting white balance and ISO settings while keeping the flash mode and HDR options. Swiping the home screen to the right produces a listing of your 12 most important contacts.

To activate Easy Mode, go to the Note 4’s main Settings menu. To restore the features you eliminated, simply revert back to the standard mode. You can also make additional adjustments in Settings.

Shopping for a new phone? Be sure to check our buying guide and Ratings. Also find out about the best cell phone carriers and choose the right phone plan for your family.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus accessibility

You can make the iPhone 6 Plus less intimidating to use by going to the Accessibility menu in General Settings. In addition to controls for making text larger and bolder, you’ll find a switch called Button Shapes that makes navigation controls more prominent. You can also experiment with the settings for users with hearing and visual impairments. 

The app icons are easy to distinguish on the iPhone 6 Plus’s spacious display, but you can make them even a tad bigger by activating the Display Zoom feature in the Display & Brightness section of the main Settings menu. To further reduce distractions, move the icons for your favorite apps to the home page and stash the rest in a folder in the corner.

And while you’re shopping for a new phone, be sure to select an affordable data plan from one of the providers that got high marks for value in our national survey, which covers Consumer Cellular, Straight Talk, Ting Wireless, and T-Mobile.

—Mike Gikas

This article also appeared in the September 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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