lightweight iPhone for someone with neuropathy?
September 28, 2021 10:19 AM   Subscribe

A friend is considering their first smart phone, mostly for ebooks and podcasts. They have some neuropathy (numbness and discomfort in the hands). Is there a lightweight, comfortable iPhone?

My friend is not very techie. They have a Mac currently.

They do not use Facebook or other social media and don't want to start.

They are unlikely to text.

They probably would appreciate having a phone for emergencies (they have a minimal cell phone now, and it might be nice not to lug two around), and GPS for when they get lost, so I think a phone would work better than an iPad.

I think a larger screen would be good for enlarging ebook text and maybe to allow a larger area for touching items on the screen.

I worry because modern iPhones seem pretty heavy and hard to hold.

Refurbs and used iPhones in good condition are fine.

Any suggestions?

posted by kristi to Technology (26 answers total)
Best answer: What's your price range?

If two devices are a possibility, an ereader is going to be quite light and a much more pleasant reading experience (I have a Kindle Paperwhite). Then the phone screen size would be less important - the SE 2 is the smallest and most affordable current model, you can definitely find it used/refurb. There are also older (cheaper) iOS devices that still work, especially if they're not planning to have stuff like email on it where security is a bigger concern.
posted by momus_window at 10:36 AM on September 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The newer iphones are big but they are not particularly heavy. Macrumors' buying guides will have details. Might want to get your friend one of those styluses to help with the screen. If your friend doesn't need a cell phone, I might suggest an older ipad just because the screen will be bigger and it will be easier to touch things on the screen; I definitely hear what you are saying but the screen size is really a big difference. You can change the settings in the Accessibility section of iOS to make it better for people who have challenges touching the screen for the "right" amount of time. Highly recommend Swappa for buying older model iphones and ipads. Me and my partner both bought iphone SE (2020) models from them and they are SO light but not the right screen size for you. Would also recommend a shock proof case to protect against accidental drops. Also highly recommend the Overcast podcast app compared to the built in apple one. Costs a few bucks very worth it.
posted by jessamyn at 10:37 AM on September 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I would recommend the most recent iPhone SE for your friend. They are lighter than the 11 / 12 / 13 series, and cheaper to boot.
posted by vitout at 10:53 AM on September 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: momus_window - sorry, I should have specified price range: my friend is price-sensitive, but I think quality is more important than price in this case, so please respond as if price is not an issue.

If two devices make the most sense, I'll suggest that to my friend.

Thanks for the answers so far!
posted by kristi at 10:53 AM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: I have some hand issues and I've found using a pop socket lets me hold my (gigantic) iPhone more easily. (I also use one with my Kindle, which is much more lightweight.)

There are a million different styles. I use just the basic type.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:58 AM on September 28, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: There are all sorts of straps and grips, sometimes integrated into cases, that might make holding whatever they get easier.

What would their use cases be for the device(s)? If they'd often be using them at home, maybe try out some kind of stand to see if that's easier on the hands.

Also sometimes a larger case or phone size can actually make gripping the thing easier. Might you be able to go to a store where they can try out a bunch of models and see how the different phones feel?
posted by trig at 11:00 AM on September 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have an iPhone XR and absolutely love it. They're pretty affordable, too. It's shockingly light, it's fast, does everything well.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:01 AM on September 28, 2021

Why an Apple device instead of a 2nd hand big Android with a larger display?
posted by DarlingBri at 11:02 AM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: Also, I find the iPhone XR to be a perfect size -- it's big enough that it's easy to read things on it but it fits my small-ish hands well.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:03 AM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: I don't have great grip strength. I have an iphone XR which is one of the smaller phones. I initially purchased one phone case for its looks, but found that the case was just too big and clunky for me. I hated the size of my phone until I bought a slimmer, grippier case. (I think it's this one.) My point being that the case can make all the difference.

As thin and light as my phone feels, when I use my husband's SE 2nd gen, his phone feels even lighter and easier. But your friend may not like the home button, if double-clicking is difficult, for example.
posted by hydra77 at 11:07 AM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: The iPhone 12 mini is much smaller and lighter than the other current iPhones, and also better value. The screen size is still better than the old iPhone 7, despite the overall size of the handset being smaller. A++ would buy again.
posted by JJZByBffqU at 11:16 AM on September 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

My last paper white kindle lasted more than 10 years including travels around the world and living in a very dusty region. I would recommend it again and again. The longevity and better quality screen for reading seem like a much better option if your friend is somewhat price sensitive and doesn’t really can about a phone anyway.

You can also get a kindle with ads which is a price difference of $20, and then pay the difference later to have it removed.

I get all my books through Libby and my local library, so they may need help, a computer, or a smart phone to access that.

Really I would choose a kindle and then an off brand unlocked cell phone for any additional needs.
posted by raccoon409 at 11:24 AM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: All the iPhones these days are ridiculously light. Sometimes it seems like the cases weight more. I'd suggest going to the Apple store or Best Buy or Target and having your friend see how they feel. Then you can find something of similar size.

I have an iPhone 7 Plus, which cost me $149 a couple of years ago. You can find the 8 for the same price now, and the XR is a little more expensive. When you're looking at used phones, you'll just want to make sure it's compatible with whatever their cellphone carrier is.

"and GPS for when they get lost, so I think a phone would work better than an iPad."

You need a cellphone plan on the iPad for the GPS to work, and that's a big added expense for one feature.

"Why an Apple device instead of a 2nd hand big Android with a larger display?"

I think since the friend already has a Mac, getting an iPhone makes a lot of sense, since they will share contact lists, calendars, etc between devices. This makes even more sense since the friend is not techie.

"They are unlikely to text."

They may not want to initiate texts, but SO MANY things are done via text these days. Doctor appointment confirmations, pharmacy notifications, etc. Getting the friend set up with iMessage so that they can get those kind of things on the phone and their Mac seems like it would be a huge help for someone with limited dexterity.
posted by jonathanhughes at 11:38 AM on September 28, 2021

Response by poster: A few quick responses:

My concern about readers (Kindle, Kobo) is that they wouldn't let them also play podcasts. Are there ereaders that also play podcasts?

DarlingBri, I was thinking an iPhone would be easier for them since they currently have a Mac, and if anyone's going to help them with this device (long distance) it would be me, and I know nothing about Androids.

Thanks! Please keep the excellent suggestions coming!
posted by kristi at 11:41 AM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: I have some hand numbness in my right hand, and have found that a pop socket plus a slimmer Otterbox works well for me with my iphone XR. It's not light, exactly, but having the pop socket means I can slot it between two of my fingers and it stays put.
posted by PussKillian at 11:45 AM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: Texting can also be done via Siri commands. "Hey Siri, send a text message to X saying Y". I use this feature more than typing because I am all thumbs and find typos and autocorrect infuriating.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 11:51 AM on September 28, 2021

The iPhone 12 mini

My wife LOVES her iPhone 12 Mini.
posted by Hey, Zeus! at 11:52 AM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: I've liked my kobo readers. Any e-reader is so much more pleasant than a phone. Kobo (and I expect Kindles) can play audiobooks, but not podcasts. Kobo has a built in store, and can also connect to public libraries in the US via "Overdrive."

Ultimately an iphone seems appropriate unless ebook reading is a strong priority. I never assume that they won't be too complicated for people though.

Swappa is great. The 2nd edition SE is quite nice. Beyond pop-sockets, I imagine there are certainly cases with lanyard attachments for accidental drops.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 11:58 AM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: The size and weight of available iPhone models, both new and refurb, are what they are, but (as jessamyn mentions above): Assistive Touch and accessibility settings in iOS let a user with limited dexterity control things like responding only to touches of a certain duration, preventing unintended swipe gestures, treating multiple touches as a single touch, responding to the first or last place they touch, etc. Here's a video demo.

If there's an Apple Store your friend can get to, it's possible to go in and mess with the accessibility settings on a floor model to see if they are going to be helpful for what they need the phone to do.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:27 PM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: Definitely a phone and an ereader. iPhones may be light these days, but any eReader is going to be even lighter, with a bigger screen and faaaaar longer battery life.

I have Paperwhite and an iPhone XR. I can (and do) read ebooks on the XR, but for long-term reading I prefer the ereader. I find an XR to be a very comfortable phone, but because it has a glass back, it needs a case to avoid sliding around when laid down. I have a very simple, cheap, light-weight transparent case that makes it easy to hold.

Definitely get the phone that will be easiest for you to support. The savings in frustration will be immense.
posted by lhauser at 12:34 PM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: Texting can also be done via Siri commands.

Yep and I use speech to text for nearly everything on my iPhone. This is a regular old feature but make sure your friend knows about it because it will make a big difference. A Kindle Fire could also load a podcast app but it's a decent amount of work (I've found) to get out of the Amazon universe with them though it can be done. But yes Libby + a library account is a magic combination.
posted by jessamyn at 1:39 PM on September 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just upgraded a relative to an iPhone SE gen. 2. It's a great little device, and I went new so that it would could easily stay with them for 5-6 years with gentile usage.

We went for the SE over say a mini because I think the home button is easier to use than swiping on the current full screen models.
posted by nickggully at 1:56 PM on September 28, 2021

There are e-ink Androids that would be perfect for reading ebooks and listening to podcasts. In particular, the just-out Boox Nova Air

--weighs 8.5 ounces,
--is as good to read on as a Kindle (and can use the Kindle app),
--can use the Libby app or any other reading app
--and has both a USB-C headphone jack and stereo speakers.
posted by hungrytiger at 3:10 PM on September 28, 2021

Best answer: I have an iPhone for a specific app, don't love it; you really have to embrace the iverse. I have arthritis in my hands, and any phone will get dropped. Get a good case, have it available when the phone arrives. Ideally a case to which a wrist strap can be added. Larger phones easily fall out of pockets or hands, a strap makes life much easier. I have to jury-rig the strap, but it's a big help.
posted by theora55 at 4:21 PM on September 28, 2021

iPhone 13 mini just came out. Buy that.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:36 AM on September 30, 2021

Response by poster: These are all SO helpful - thank you ALL for the great answers!

I'm especially appreciative of the comments about pop sockets and cases and grips and straps. I hadn't been thinking about any of those, but they could make a real difference.

I also had completely forgotten about using Siri for things like sending texts, and that is a GREAT idea - along with the various Accessibility settings - so thank you all for adding those excellent suggestions.

I'll be talking with my friend and seeing what might work for them. All this information will be an enormous help.

Thank you!
posted by kristi at 11:22 AM on October 1, 2021

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