Tech Tip: Choosing a Simple Smartphone Solution

Q. I want to get my dad a smartphone, but it needs to be easy to understand. What is available for older, nontechnical people who just want to make phone calls, get their email and maybe play a game or two?

A. The smartphone experience can be simplified in a few different ways for those who prefer function over form. Possible options include buying special streamlined smartphone hardware, modifying a mainstream iPhone or Android phone model with software that makes it easier to navigate, or using existing features built into Apple’s or Google’s mobile software.

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Alternative app launchers can give a phone’s home screen a more simplified look. The Evie Launcher, left, and Big Launcher Easy Phone for Android are shown here.

Credit
The New York Times

Choosing to use special smartphone hardware can cost about $100 to $200 for the device, plus activation and monthly service charges from a wireless carrier. Jitterbug and Doro are two smartphones aimed at seniors, and each makes a model with a 5-inch screen (at least) that runs a modified version of Google’s Android system. Each phone has a camera and a relatively uncluttered user interface.

If you do not want to get specialized hardware but want a phone that may be more flexible as its user becomes accustomed to it, consider getting a standard iPhone or Android model and customizing it yourself. For this, you can use a launcher app that declutters the phone’s screen so that only the most needed apps — like for the phone, email and games — are front and center. This approach may take some time to set up, but inexpensive apps like Big Launcher Easy Phone, the Evie Launcher and Simple Senior Phone for Android (or Launch Center Pro or Launcher for the iPhone) are among those designed to make the home screen more focused.

You may not even have to add any extra apps to make an Android model or iPhone easier to use right out of the box. For example, Samsung’s Galaxy S line of phones has an Easy Mode for new users that puts just essential apps on the home screen and can be easily reversed. You can also manually rearrange the apps on an Android device or iPhone to simplify the main screen, and Google and Apple have also built in accessibility features into their phone software for making the screen easier to see and use.

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