Smartphones for oldies
October 14, 2010 11:25 AM   Subscribe

What model of smartphone can I get for my mom to easily check email, take calls, and not much else? She's on Verizon. We probably won't wait for the iphone to come to Verizon in 2011.

My mom has just started a new job and is juggling that, other clients, and my father's medical details all at once. She's finding herself on-the-go more and I think she would benefit from being able to check email and SMS from her mobile device. Right now she's using one of the cheapo free phones from Verizon; she's due for an upgrade, and I'm wondering what model phone to recommend she get so she can do these tasks with the least amount of confusion/frustration.


She is NOT tech-savvy. She hardly knows how to text. Sometimes she comes up with hilarious "theories" about why something technical isn't working--recently she posited that a Word doc was loading as read-only because she computer she was using didn't have enough "gigs" to support editing. In other words, this has to be a really simple, user-friendly phone for a person who is somewhat baffled by computers and technology.

She uses comcast email and the phone should integrate well with that.

She and my dad are on Verizon and are not likely to switch.

She has large hands and not-great eyesight, so super-small keyboards (including touchscreen ones) are probably not ideal. I would say the Droid X would be a likely candidate for its big screen, but the onscreen keyboard might kill that idea.

What would you guys recommend? Thanks for your help!
posted by prior to Technology (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Honestly, sounds like a candidate for a Blackberry to me. Inexpensive, and if the tech-averse people at my company can use them, I'm sure she can too. And it's just about perfect for emailing and phone calling and nothing else.
posted by General Malaise at 11:34 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

my eyesight-faded, tech-hapless, just-wants-calls-and-email-and-camera, stubborn Verizon customer mom really, really likes her Droid Incredible. She was pretty worried about the onscreen keyboard but it turned out to work fine for her - I guess she can adjust the contrast enough that the small keys are easy to see and hit accurately. And she says the interface is easy to get around in, which I find mindboggling given that I can't find a goddamn thing on the website.
posted by peachfuzz at 11:35 AM on October 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe look at an iPad. Nice and big, zoomable screen, so easy on the eyes. Does email, but not SMS. Data service is reasonably inexpensive. Bonus, she can carry job/client/medical docs around in PDF. Keep the cheapie phone for phone calls.

It is one more thing to carry around, but maybe she's already carrying a bag and some books and it's a net improvement.

Con: more expensive initial outlay than a smartphone, but the lack of monthly data plan probably makes up for that quickly.
posted by chazlarson at 11:50 AM on October 14, 2010

Most regular phones with keyboards also check email. Keep in mind that any smartphone will add $30 a month onto your bill
posted by majortom1981 at 11:50 AM on October 14, 2010

Best answer: I have an Samsung Alias 2. It's only an additional $9.99 data plan, and it flips two ways. It flips vertically like a standard clamshell phone for calls, and then you can flip it horizontally for a full (button) keyboard for checking emails. It alerts you when you have an email, so that you just have to hit one button to check emails.

One thing I would recommend is to go into a store and play with all the phones--then order the phone you want over the Verizon website. The website runs MUCH better deals--my Alias was free on the website, but would have cost me $75 then some really complicated rebate deal for a final cost of $25 in the store. All the rebates are automatic on the website!
posted by catwoman429 at 12:02 PM on October 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 2 things:
1) ipad will be on VZW in the near future per gizmodo, so that is actually a potential option (well ipad wifi + mifi for the same price as ipad 3G)

2) it really sounds like a BB is the way to go...the BBs with trackpads are wayyyy better than the BB w/ rollerball fwiw. the physical keyboard is unbeatable. email/sms is flawless. universal inbox cannot be beaten. can do minimal web browsing if you wish to do it...

BB also has the advantage of probably being more hardy than most phones IMHO...just get a soft otterbox and screen protector and its pretty much good to go.
posted by knockoutking at 3:59 PM on October 14, 2010

I am not personally familiar with BB's, but I also know a lot of non-tech savvy individuals who are happy with theirs. That being said I would recommend against the apple products because your mother would have to sync them up with her computer manually, which needlessly (imho) adds an extra step to the process and therefor adds another layer of things that can go wrong.

You can strip down an Android phone pretty substantially, it handles email fantastically (especially if your mom is on Gmail, or if you can set up imap for her), it never needs to go near a PC if you dont specifically want to, but it can become more complicated if you mom desires that in the long run.

You have some options, perhaps WinMo7, but I dont know enough about that platform to suggest it.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:17 AM on October 15, 2010

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