What phone plan works for my bewildered old parents?
October 29, 2017 6:48 AM   Subscribe

My parents both need phones and they know nothing about technology. They seem to be getting ripped off by their current plan. What plans or companies or types of phones would you suggest for someone like that?

Thanks in advance for your help. My father uses his phone once every couple of weeks, and he has a hard time hearing, and he's basically a Luddite. I would love to find him a cell phone that converts incoming speech into text, and that allows him to speak into it, but even more than that I'd like to find him a cell phone plan and a phone that is: 1) cheap, and 2) extremely simple to use.

My mom is a little bit less out of the loop with this stuff, but I worry she's vulnerable to what seem like essentially scams, from larger providers like Verizon and so on; she's been persuaded, for instance, to pay a monthly fee to Verizon for her tablet computer, and I can't tell what it's for, and she has no idea what it's for. If for no other reason than that, I'd like to help her cancel her Verizon plan.

But I'd also like to find her an easy-to-use smart phone and a plan that she can share with my father, and one that doesn't cost much. Would you please be so kind as to suggest anything?

Thanks again!
posted by cthlsgnd to Technology (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
How about a Jitterbug Smart Phone?
I think it would be PERFECT for both of them, and it's inexpensive to boot.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 7:09 AM on October 29, 2017

Well, the old stand-by for simple (but not cheap) cell phones is Jitterbug. I happily pay for my Gram’s phone & service because they make it SO easy for her. She can press a button to get to a customer service person who will do things like dial a call and add/remove names from her contacts. I am authorized on the account and can check her minute usage and charges to make sure everything is going as planned/desired. It is much more expensive per minute, but I don’t get calls every two days asking how to use the phone.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 7:10 AM on October 29, 2017

Consumer Cellular has reasonably priced plans. It looks like currently their cheapest plan is $15/month. If you want data, that's more, but the cheapest data plan is $5/month. For $15/month you can add a second phone to a plan. If all they want to do is make calls, that's no cheaper than having two separate plans, but if they want data too, it would make sense to share. They market to the over-50 crowd and they have a couple of flip phones they describe as simple to use, plus a variety of smart phones. Their customer service is good.
posted by Redstart at 7:34 AM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

For plans, I highly recommend US Mobile. They use T-mobile towers and tomorrow, I believe, they will be adding Verizon.

Second the Jitterbug phone, as long as it works with T-mobile or Verizon
posted by luvmywife at 7:41 AM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

T-Mobile has an unlimited plan for customers over 55 - two lines for $60/month. You can BYOD, so maybe find a couple decent phones on Swappa or Gazelle? Plus there is a hilarious online ad about other services. Works for us.
posted by dbmcd at 8:10 AM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have bad hearing and have best results with Motorola phones. Google voice transcribes voicemail, which is a huge help, as voicemail is often crap quality. There are apps for using phones as a TTY (device used by deaf and hard-of-hearing), but I'd teach him to use Messaging. if he uses his phone that rarely, something like tracphone - pay-as-you-go (PAYG) makes sense. Buy a year of service and 100 minutes. Tracphone charges to text, data use, etc., and not sure it allows you to use wifi, prob. depends on the plan. Do they have wifi? I use Republic, bought my own phone, it uses wifi if possible. I think the plan with unlimited talk/text and 1 gb data is 20 or 25/month. Verizon has god coverage, but their marketing is awfully aggressive, I got hosed by them years ago and would prefer to do business elsewhere.
posted by theora55 at 8:45 AM on October 29, 2017

For your father at least I would look into Ting...it's pay-for-what-you-use and their pricing is simple and easy to understand (they charge in chunks for voice,data, and text...like S=1-100 texts, M=100-500, L=500-1000, etc) and the line charge is only $6/month (so if you don't use the phone at all your bill is only $6...it's basically like a rental fee for the phone number itself). I use mine a fair amount and my bill is usually $33/month and there's an app where you can track your current usage. I get excellent coverage...they use the sprint network, but also include free roaming on (I forget) either verizon or t-mobile. It's BYOD, but they have a store with all kinds of new and used options, even iphone.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:48 AM on October 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

My husband and I already had a pretty hefty family plan for all our gadgets, and adding my parents to it didn't change our monthly bill, we just had to buy them phones.

That doesn't solve your technology problem, but it does solve the billing problem.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:05 AM on October 29, 2017

Have you considered TracFone. I have that (and am 87 years old). 1 year of service including data is $99. And tracfones are as cheap as they come. Some under $25 total, even.
posted by JayRwv at 9:56 AM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I set my mom up with an Android phone on Boost Mobile. It's only $35 a month for unlimited texting and calls. She doesn't get hounded to buy any extra packages or anything -- I personally had Verizon once and found it way overpriced and the service was poor for me. Setting up Boost Mobile on the phone was initially a pain, but it's been fine ever since.

I got her an Android phone that was similar to mine so I could walk her through it as needed. I did try to find an app or a phone that was easy for seniors or people who are bad with technology, but I couldn't find a great solution. Instead, we had "training sessions" over Christmas when she first got the phone, and the more time she's spent with it, the better she's gotten at it. I also put a TeamViewer app on her phone so if I need to, I can remotely use her phone on my computer or my own Android phone. (I also have TeamViewer on her computer so I can do the same thing there, plus access to her Gmail and Facebook accounts so I can go in and help her with those.) She's pretty self sufficient by now, but I can still help her with questions easily.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:01 AM on October 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

If your parents are going to be interacting directly with the provider, another vote for Consumer Cellular, mentioned above. My mother has been pleased with their call center help.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:49 PM on October 29, 2017

I would beware of the jitterbug smart phone. I got one for my mom last december - the phone itself worked fine, but the customer service was so terrible. It took them hours of being on hold to get it set up, and then, even though they repeatedly assured me that it would work when my parents came back to Canada for the summer, it totally died as soon as they crossed the border. If you are on hand to take care of all the phone setup and they never travel out of the country, then it may work, but I can't recommend it.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:23 PM on October 29, 2017

Seconding Ting.
posted by bongo_x at 2:46 PM on October 29, 2017

Thirding Consumer Cellular, they have excellent support and lots of videos that step you through basic operations.
posted by 445supermag at 3:01 PM on October 29, 2017

Response by poster: Oh wow, I didn't think anyone would actually see this. Thank you so much, I am really grateful for all of your help. Thank you. You are all incredibly kind.
posted by cthlsgnd at 10:47 PM on October 29, 2017

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