How to choose the best iPhone for seniors

Seniors want iPhones too, but they have unique needs.

Credit: Apple

The old trope that old people are hopelessly illiterate when it comes to technology is somewhat unwarranted. The home computer revolution is decades old at this point, and smartphones have been around for over 15 years. Seniors may not operate their smartphones as adroitly as their grandkids, but they aren't just sitting around pining for the days of rotary dial phones. Social media has, in particular, provided a way for seniors to more easily keep in touch with family and connect with friends, and smartphones help make it all possible. It's also an increasingly important part of health-care services. 

In other words, seniors need iPhones, too, but they have may have unique needs. They're often on fixed incomes, and may have difficulty reading small text, or suffer from arthritis or have other accessibility needs. The best iPhone for seniors is one that won't cost an arm and a leg and will continue to be updated for at least a few years. Beyond that, we're going to make two recommendations: a small iPhone for seniors who find large phones difficult to carry and manipulate, and a large iPhone for those who need larger text and images.

Best small iPhone for seniors: iPhone SE (2020)

The iPhone SE is a godsend for seniors or anyone else on a fixed income. Starting at only $399, it gives you a fully modern iPhone with an A13 processor, so it'll likely get iOS updates for another four or five years. Even with just a single lens, the camera is quite good, and some seniors will find Touch ID easier to deal with than Face ID (especially if their previous smartphone was an older iPhone).

The iPhone SE is quite small and only slightly larger than the far more-expensive iPhone 12 mini. If a senior is coming from an old iPhone 5 or 6, that size will be familiar and comfortable, but it also means a small display, which isn't always ideal for the elderly.

Pros: Price, size, Touch ID
Cons: Screen size, single camera

Best large iPhone for seniors: iPhone XR

Not every senior wants a small iPhone, though. A big phone might be harder to hold and manipulate, but the large display will be much easier for old eyes to see clearly. A senior that wants to prioritize a big display while still not spending a ton of money or going too big should look at the $499 iPhone XR

The processor is a step behind the iPhone SE with an A12 instead of an A13, but it's still plenty fast for email, checking social media apps, taking pictures, making FaceTime calls, and everything else a senior wants an iPhone for. And it'll still get several years of iOS software updates. Plus it's got Face ID, which might take a little getting used to, but could prove to be an easier way to secure an iPhone for those with arthritis.

Pros: Price, display size, Face ID
Cons: Older processor, single camera

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Jason Cross

Jason Cross
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