Jim Miller, an advocate for older Americans, writes “Savvy Senior,” a weekly information column syndicated in more than 400 newspapers nationwide. Based in Norman, Oklahoma, he also offers a free senior e-news service at SavvySenior.org.
If you’ve been toying with the idea of upgrading from a basic cell phone to a smartphone with Internet capabilities but would like to find one that’s easy to use, you’re in luck. Several manufacturers now are offering simplified smartphones. Here’s what’s currently available…
Sold through AT&T for only 99 cents with a two-year service contract, the Pantech Flex (www.PantechUSA.com/phones/flex) is a smartphone with an unusually bright 4.3-inch touch screen, a fast processor and a high-quality eight-megapixel camera.
Its “Easy Experience” mode provides a simple, clean home screen with clearly marked icons and quick access to the phone’s most essential features—your contacts, phone, camera, messages, menu and the Web—along with shortcuts to your favorite apps. It also has voice-command capabilities that let you make a call, write a text message or e-mail or search the Web using your voice.
To help people with diminished vision, the Flex also has very large text and TalkBack, which is a text-to-speech feature that makes the phone verbally describe what you touch, select and activate.
Monthly AT&T service plans start at $39.99 for 450 minutes of talk time (or $29.99 for 200 minutes if you’re age 65 or older), $20 for unlimited text messaging and $20 for 300 MB of data.
The Touch (offered by GreatCallWireless) has a three-inch touch screen—small by today’s smartphone standards—but it also has a full slide-out keyboard with raised, backlit buttons. And when you turn on the phone, you get a simple menu list in large type that lets you access often-used features such as the phone, camera, messages and pictures, along with your contacts and apps.
This phone also offers voice-command capabilities and optional features such as medication reminders, 5Star Urgent Response with GPS tracking capabilities and a live nurse service to answer your health questions.
Available at GreatCall.com or by calling 800-733-6632, the Touch sells for $149 with a onetime $35 activation fee and no contract. Calling plans cost $15 per month for 50 minutes and up to $80 per month for unlimited minutes, text messages, operator assistance and voice mail. Data plans run from $2.50 per month for 10 MB up to $25 per month for 500 MB.
If a bigger screen is key, the Samsung Galaxy Note II Android smartphone (www.Samsung.com/galaxynoteII) has a huge 5.5-inch touch-screen display and can be used with a stylus, making it easy to see and maneuver.
It also offers an “S Voice” application that lets you operate the phone via voice command, large type, TalkBack for low-vision users and SwiftKey technology for easier texting and e-mailing by swiping between keys instead of typing. Its “Easy” mode puts favorite contacts, a small set of your favorite apps and nine frequently used settings on the home screen. It has quick, one-touch access to your phone, Internet, messaging, complete list of contacts and full array of apps.
Available through all major carriers—AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and US Cellular—for $200 to $300 with a two-year contract. Monthly service plans for talk, text and data start at around $80.