The way seniors use phone plans greatly varies depending on interests, needs and distance from friends and family. Many seniors need data to use their favorite apps while others eagerly await for calls, texts and photos from their long distance grandkids. For seniors that only use their phone for staying connected to loved ones, an unlimited talk plan is necessary. For others, a phone is for safety and a basic flip phone with a basic plan will do in case of an emergency. No matter the priority, cell phones are a necessity for seniors' mental and physical wellbeing. In fact, a recent Pew Research study found that 92% of seniors over the age of 65 own a cell phone and therefore must know how to find phone plans tailored to their needs.
From unlimited talk to extra data, cell phone plans are easily customizable around slower paced, senior lifestyles. Many seniors have wearable devices that require extra data usage. Other seniors may not utilize much data but depend on reliable cellular service and/or WiFi. Both talk or data can be accommodated into the right cell phone plan.
With so much to think about and so many options, this guide explains what to consider when choosing the best phone plan for seniors.
Cell Usage vs Data Usage for Seniors
Before you choose a phone plan, it's important to distinguish between cell usage and data usage. This will help to narrow down the best cell phone plan for your needs. (For tips on figuring out how much data you need, click here.)
Talking and texting is cell usage. Most cell phone plans nowadays come with unlimited talk and text — unless you choose a pay as you go option. Some cell phone companies now offer WiFi calling too. For those seeking unlimited talk to keep in touch with family near and far, the amount of cell usage your phone plan offers is an important consideration.
Scrolling through Instagram, reading the latest news, or listening to music on Spotify all means you’re using data—and that's where your phone plan can get expensive. It's also where you'll find that an inexpensive, old-fashioned cell phone won't work, and upgrading to a smartphone with mobile apps is a must. Keep in mind that when connected to WiFi, whether you’re at home or in a coffee shop—WiFi usage does not eat into your data usage.
What types of cell phone activity take up the most data?
- Checking email
- Posting and scrolling on social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc)
- iMessaging (texting for iPhones)
- Using Google Maps
- Browsing the Internet
- Spotify streaming
- YouTube or Netflix streaming
Best Cell Phone Plan Options for Seniors
As most cell usage is unlimited, seniors should focus on the data usage when comparing phone plans (while taking into consideration access to Wi-Fi). Keep in mind that wearable devices, such as an Apple Watch, use data so that must be taken into account when thinking about where data usage fits into the plan you choose.
Budget is also a key factor when seniors look at the amount of data their cell phone plan provides. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t spend more than $25 a month per line if you're a light user. Note that some senior phone plans will include 24/7 emergency response.
The most affordable choice for seniors is a pay-as-you-go option. That’s a data plan where you pay for a certain number of minutes and have 30-90 days to use them or else they’ll expire. Certain carriers have longer timelines for using your minutes before they expire and will let you use them up to one year after purchase. Make sure to read the fine print before you go this route for your phone plan.
Low cost undoubtedly sounds good for seniors looking for a budget phone plan, but this has some definite challenges, not the least of which is that you're often assigned a new phone number each time you purchase additional minutes. Pay-as-you-go plans only assign you the phone number with the minutes you bought. Once your minutes expire, your access to the phone number is revoked. Think of it as a throwaway phone or in-between phone versus a permanent solution.
Further, with a phone plan like this, it's possible that you may run out of minutes — or they'll expire — without you realizing it. Imagine you’re running late to meet your family for dinner and your cell phone's not working. Not a good scenario as undoubtedly, that will cause worry that could’ve been avoided with the right cell phone plan.
While pay-as-you-go and pre-paid plans are used interchangeably, they are not the same. With pre-paid plans, you pay in advance for the month, and you use up the phone plan until it’s done. In essence, you’re pre-paying your cell phone bill before you use it instead of at the end of the month (most cell phone plans advertised are post-paid plans).
Depending on the cell phone provider, seniors can prepay for 30, 60, 90, or a full year. Some providers offer unlimited minutes, text, and even data, while others limit you to a certain number. Some pre-paid phone plans even offer lower rates if you set up automatic monthly payments with them.
It doesn’t require a contract, but just like Pay-As-You-Go, you keep your phone number, bring your own phone if compatible or purchase one of theirs.
The next level up is a metered access plan, where you pay for a minimum amount of data each month. With this type of phone plan, seniors can have peace of mind in knowing that when they need their cell phone, it's ready to go.
You get a phone number of your own, and whether you leave the phone powered down in a drawer or have it always firing up your favorite apps, seniors can then connect to the rest of the world when they want, on their terms.
While this is a more expensive option, particularly if there’s only phone line on the account, XFINITY Mobile offers an affordable plan, especially if you're already using Xfinity for Internet service. With Xfinity Mobile’s By the Gig data option, you can choose between three data amounts: 1GB, 3GB, and 10GB. If you go over your data amount, you'll be charged for each additional GB.
If you’re a senior that uses a good amount of data each month, and find that the new Samsung, Google Pixel, or iPhone is quite compelling, an unlimited phone plan may be right for you. XFINITY Mobile offers an app that allows you to monitor your data usage. After a week or two of what you imagine is fairly typical use, check the app, project your monthly usage, and if an unlimited data plan is the most cost-effective choice, we can help you switch. The XFINITY Mobile unlimited plan introductory pricing starts as low as $30 per line, per month.
There are many upsides to unlimited phone ans, including an assigned number and an all-you-can-consume data plan that lets you stream movies or TV, watch your grandson's crazy TikTok videos, and upload your own photos from anywhere.
Finally, one more cost-saving possibility is for seniors to ask friends or family if they can join their cellular plan. XFINITY Mobile has a zero per-line fee (up to five lines), so a family member can add their senior family member with no hassle. You get all the advantages of your own assigned number, but you don't have to worry about high monthly fees.
Choose the best Senior Phone Plan for You
Whatever phone plan you choose, take the time to understand the different options and choose the one that's best for you and your usage patterns. If you're not a senior social media maven and don't use your cell phone much at all, your needs are going to be quite different from your friend who can't wait to get their hands on the latest gadget.
Light Cell Phone User | Motorola moto g 5G
The Motorola moto g is a straight-forward Android phone that is great for seniors to consider due to its excellent battery life, 6.5-inch HD+ display so you can read everything clearly, water-repellent design to protect your phone, and high quality camera. It is also has a talk back feature and it is M3/T3 hearing aid compatible. Just enough features to keep you updated on the latest.
Always Plugged in Smartphone User | iPhone 14 Pro
For seniors who always post new content from their latest travels or check up on the grandkids via TikTok, the new iPhone 14 Pro is for you. It comes with a 48MP camera, video stabilization, a beautiful display, and is available in four colors.
Click here to find the XFINITY Mobile plan that's right for you.