The 10 Best Phones For Seniors
This wiki has been updated 22 times since it was first published in May of 2016. If you or someone you know has difficulty with their hearing or sight, then making a simple phone call can be problematic for them. These phones for seniors are specially designed with features that make staying in touch easier, such as extra-loud call volumes; emergency medical buttons; and large, easy-to-read keypads. They are available as landlines, as well as cellular models. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best phone for seniors on Amazon.
March 20, 2020:
A couple of the models on our previous list had to be removed for a few reasons, including the availability issue that plagues the MaxiAids First Alert and what we perceived to be a lack of top-tier, senior-oriented features on the Panasonic KX and the Jethro Unlocked Flip. We did keep the other offering from Jethro, in the Jethro 3G Classic Slider, but that's because its buttons were just a little bigger than the Flip's, and a minimum button size — even on a cell phone — can help anyone afflicted with arthritis, poor eyesight, and a number of other ailments.
Among the new models we added, you'll find two new cellular options in the GreatCall Jitterbug Flip and the GreatCall Jitterbug Smart2, the latter of which greatly resembles many modern smartphones, and equips seniors with some cutting edge features, the most impressive of which might be the 13MP camera. With its easy-to-navigate menus, many uses should have no problem sharing the images they capture, as well.
A Brief History Of Phones For Seniors
Prior to the popularization of exchanges and networks, telephone subscribers would pay to have a line installed between two or more locations.
Credit for the earliest ancestor of the modern telephone goes to a number of inventors, including Charles Bourseul, Antonio Meucci, Johanna Philipp Reus, Elisha Gray, and perhaps most famously, Alexander Graham Bell.
Bell was the first among those credited with the telephone's invention to earn a patent, which he received in 1876. Bell's first patent is regarded as the master patent for the telephone, and subsequent patents were based on his original.
In the same year Hungarian Tivadar Puskas invented the telephone switch, which would eventually give rise to the exchanges and networks telephones use to communicate over long distances.
Bell's successful telephone design made use of Thomas Edison's carbon transmitter, which translated sounds more effectively than competing technology. The first telephones were often powered by their own battery, and in the 20th century, telephones came to draw current from the telephone exchange, carried over the same wires as voice signals.
Prior to the popularization of exchanges and networks, telephone subscribers would pay to have a line installed between two or more locations. Primitive telephone networks actually called for the user to whistle to get the attention of an exchange operator. Telephone users interested in making long distance calls in the early 20th century were required to make an appointment to use a long distance booth with soundproofing technology.
Phones first took the handset-based desktop shape that dominated the 20th century in 1930, when the Western Electric model 202 was released. With this design, the handset to rests atop the receiver, making it easier to confirm that the phone is "on the hook." Also in the 1930s, the rotary dial became the most popular telephone interface.
After World War II, the popularity of telephone networks boomed, and in 1947, the invention of the transistor greatly improved call quality.
Eventually, telephone networks started digitizing transmissions and sending them across computer networks, using what eventually came to be called voice over Internet Protocol. Voice transmissions over VoIP are considerably clearer than those sent over traditional networks.
The first handheld mobile phone was introduced in 1973 by employees of Motorola. That initial handset weighed 4.4 pounds. In 1979, the first cellular network launched in Japan, and a number of other countries followed suit in the mid 1980s. The first consumer cellular handset hit the market in 1983, marking a new era in communications.
Throughout the 1990s, cellular technology improved with the rollout of 2G digital technology, and in 2001, the 3G cellular standard launched in Japan. With 3G's increased data capacity came an opportunity for handset manufacturers, and in 2002, the first smartphone to achieve success outside Japan was released: the Danger Hiptop.
Soon after, Research In Motion released the BlackBerry smartphone, taking the market by storm. Not until Apple released the multi-touch-based iPhone in 2007 was RIM's cellular phone supremacy challenged. By 2010, however, nearly all smartphones were touchscreen only. RIM, which opted to stick with its hardware keyboard, was left in the dust.
So-called senior phones include variants of both standard and mobile telephones targeted at older men and women. These phones typically feature larger, easier-to-see buttons, and simplified interfaces. They also often offer easy access to emergency services, with many offering a dedicated button for 911.
A Phone Isn't Just A Phone
Phones come in a number of flavors, including the old-fashioned rotary dial, the standard desktop model, and the mobile smartphone.
Smartphones are technically personal computers, with a mobile operating system and abilities well beyond merely placing calls. Modern smartphones can place and receive voice calls, send and receive text messages, and access the internet, where a world of other communications options are available.
Smartphones are technically personal computers, with a mobile operating system and abilities well beyond merely placing calls.
Feature phone is a term describing mobile phones that typically provide voice calling and text messaging, along with limited internet capability. Feature phones lack the operating system and touchscreen of smartphones, and many come in the flip phone configuration. Because they are inexpensive to produce, these phones are sometimes employed as burners — that is, phones meant to be used a limited number of times and discarded. Burners are sometimes used by those engaging in illicit activity to make it difficult for law enforcement to track their movement and communications. Others choose to use feature phones as an emergency option, since they don't require a subscription to place emergency calls.
Kosher telephones are mobile phones approved by Jewish orthodox organizations for use by religious followers. These phones have restricted features, lacking the entertainment functionality and connectivity of standard feature phones and smartphones. These phones are most often used by observant Orthodox Jews in Israel.
About Emergency Telephone Numbers
In the early days of telephones, users in need of emergency assistance picked up the receiver and simply told an operator the kind of help they needed.
In Los Angeles, Southern California Telephone Co. introduced 116 as the emergency number.
As these manual systems switched to automatic, dial-based systems, many users feared losing this service. At first, those fears were founded. In some areas there were dozens of emergency numbers, a condition requiring people to memorize multiple numbers.
In 1937, London introduced the first direct-dial emergency line, using the number 999. In Los Angeles, Southern California Telephone Co. introduced 116 as the emergency number.
In 1968, the U.S. established 911 in Alabama. The first ever call was placed by Alabama's speaker of the house to the city's police station, however, 911 would not see widespread adoption until the late 1980s. The American 911 system was not without its growing pains, and in its infancy it was not uncommon for a caller to dial 911 only to be directed to an emergency service far from his or her home.
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