Really simple phone (for old people)


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Jun 20, 2011
I found out that searching for a phone for my old grandmother is like a walk in hell...

there are plenty of "phones for old people", but actually no one of them are "for old people", all of them have menus and sub-menus, and at least 2 keys for options, and all... actually, the Nokia 3210 was MORE SIMPLE to use than these "old people phone"...

The only things that make them "for old people" are the big buttons and the big font on the display... but are not simple at all to use, especially for a person who is used to just take the telephone receiver up, do a number and put the receiver down...

Anyway many "old people" just need to call a bunch of numbers and that's it... so why so many buttons...

I'm referring to this kind of models (don't mind 3G, bluetooth, etc...), there are plenty like these, even clamshell but still with same menus and buttons:

But then, while raging out, I found out something perfect O_O something incredibly simple with just what it is needed:


This thing can be personalized while buying it, you can chose how many buttons you want and what phone numbers associate to them !!
And it's just that !! No menus at all !! Just the buttons to call !!

The bad thing is... it's only made for UK :°(

I hope one day to see something like that more visible around the world...
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I can certainly see some merit in this sort of thing. One of my relatives has a 'Doro'-brand clamshell phone, and finds it exceptionally hard to use, despite being both intelligent and sane.
This is largely due to exceptionally poor context information in the UI.
It does like bring up a screen "Delete? Yes/No" without telling the user what they're deleting!
(I also recall it having some kind of charging dock thing that didn't work despite being a straight passthrough with no active components.)

Although there is headway to be made in the field of simplified portable electronics, I think this may be making the mistake of equating simplicity and lack of functionality.
Not being able to enter an arbitrary phone number seems like a major shortcoming, even for the most technologically inadept of users.
That's not to say that that there isn't a market for these things, nor that there aren't users for which an ownfone is the ideal choice - I just suspect than most people's grannies could cope with and benefit from something a little more complex.
Wow - finally a company that gets it (at least it looks like it..). They should expand their portfolio to other countries and other technologies. Most seniors (and not only older folks btw) don't need all kind of fancy features they need something that takes disabilities (bad eyesight, trembling, bad memory, bad hearing or just technically impaired) into account.
I bought a senior phone for my father a while back with large buttons - that was basically the only senior thing about it. The menu was terrible - I even had troubles setting it up - and the worst thing is that the sound was very low even at loudest setting.
I had one which was credit card sized, but literally had nothing but the numbers and the call/end buttons. With a single line display for the number.
Cheapo thing, but was smallish buttons too so not ideal perhaps for elderly folk?

This Ownphone looks sweet though, I kind of want one for myself, as a spare handset or one to take when out somewhere like paintball or camping.

There's another one worth considering, from the Dutch and is available around the World.

John's Phone

Simple, decent sized numbers and a call/end

The number last called is shown on the top edge


...Which glows up for good visibility too


What I like too, is that for those old skool types who just want a proper pen and paper, not some "digital" address book .... this has got you covered!
Check that back panel, it opens to reveal a hard copy address book and pen. Excellent.


Also available in GOLD :)


Full details:
John’s Phone is the world’s most basic cell phone. John’s Phone allows you to make and receive calls anywhere in the world: no frills and no unnecessary features such as a camera, text messaging and an endless number of ringtones. John’s Phone keeps things simple.

John’s Phone requires no explanation. Use the phone to call and hang up, turn the sound up or down, and lock or unlock it: it couldn’t be any simpler. The speed-dial feature, which allows you to save speed-dial numbers under every number key, makes John’s Phone perfect as a kids’ cell phone.

Phone is a large-key phone. The back of the phone features a flap containing an address book and a pen – this makes John’s Phone perfect for older users too.

John’s Phone was designed by John Doe Amsterdam, making the cell phone a unique piece of Dutch design.

John’s Phone is available in 5 colours:
I like the John's Phone idea, but seems so strange to see real paper there...

But I can steal a little the idea and think about how the ultimate phone for old people could be:

- let's take the ownphone as a base
- add to it the possibility to open it, to reveal a full numeric keyboard
- put on the back an SOS button connected to some assistance service 24h (if you want, or else set it to call a series of numbers you choose)
- (optional, a simple display for the number called or received)
John's Phone looks like what I would want if I didn't need to send text messages. I suppose I am old. At present I carry a smartphone (died yesterday and won't power on now, so may switch to another of the same model I have) and a pen and tiny book instead of a pen and paper in a mobile phone.
I'm working for Doro, on the software of the smartphones. We've recently released the 825, an Android smartphone that aims to have an intuitive interface. For example if you want to send a message, you just need to press "Send" and then "A message". Sure, it's still not for everyone (but you'd be surprised at how some seniors get used to touchscreens), but I think it's quite interesting.

I agree that the clamshell featurephones aren't necessarily the easiest to use. They're just similar to old featurephones but with bigger text and buttons. And the need for bigger text means that the texts need to be short, causing stuff like the "delete?" question. Though the Doro 580 might be interesting to you. It has 4 preset contacts and clear answer/hangup buttons along with some emergency features.

Anyway, it's not that easy to design a "phone for old people", because not all "old people" are the same. We've got people who are 80+ and call the support because they want to activate tethering on their smartphone... And also nowadays we've got more and more seniors who wants to be able to use Whatsapp/Facebook/Skype in order to communicate with children and grandchildren in foreign countries.
@ElPoco : I can understand the point to make phones for the most broad audience possible, but there's always some niche market that wants to be filled too :p Anyway the Doro 580 seems interesting.

I had a look at the 825 too, but I don't think it could be simple to use for my grandmother, the "google apps" and "more" virtual buttons are too near to the call buttons and she has to triple check where she puts her finger (and if she goes to a submenu will start the panic-rage), also it has something that I hate too, and it's present in almost every smartphone with touch screen, the bottom buttons are too near to the end of the phone and the screen is too large... there's no way to hold firmly those phones without pressing inadvertently something...
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