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Ask HN: What 'smartphone' should I get my mother?
8 points by dnautics 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments
Some background: My mom is 78, lives alone, and is very bad at technology. She has difficulty using a mouse, lost the password to her chromebook, and cannot remember where she puts the wi-fi password for the home, so currently is disconnected from the internet.

She says she wants a smartphone so that she can stay in touch with the world. I'd like to get her one so that she can keep up with news, write emails, but I want information egress to be as limited as possible (to prevent identity fraud or asset theft). Even if I tell her to never input her email address, I don't want her to click on a link that will download an app, for example.

Are there any non-obvious solutions to this? Otherwise, would IOS or Android be better? (I use Android, but consistency with me is a secondary factor)

Get her a feature phone (a 'seniors' phone with the large buttons) and an iPad.

Use parental controls (now called 'Restrictions') to lock the iPad down. You can prevent app installs and limit their permissions. See: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201304


It's much harder to screw up on there than on Android (where she can be tricked into enabling unknown sources and installing a malicious APK), and overall the experience feels simpler - an iOS device will always feel like an iOS device, where as Android changes between manufacturers (which could be a problem if you need to replace the phone and buy a different brand).

We got my 80yo grandma a low-end android (I think it runs 3.x android?) tablet with keyboard-cover. It took some learning on her side and sometimes answering some really confusing tech-support questions on my side (i.e. I was reading news and suddenly everything dissapeared, how do I get everything back?)

She basically uses the tablet as her Hangouts machine and sometimes she reads news. She likes the keyboard-cover, as she was a touch-typist when still working 25 years ago.

In your place, I would probably talk to her, if the chromebook she already has wouldn't be the best solution, re-configuring it in a way that the she wouldn't need to remember the login password and wifi-password should be doable.

If she really wants a phone, I would buy something with large enough screen, sturdy, with a good grip and affordable enough to be replaced once every year. I would choose operating system I would be able to do tech support for on the phone.

Mi phones come with a Lite mode -- aimed at senior users.


I'm considering buying the recently-released Nokia 8110 for each of my parents.

Good things:

- 4G

- Physical keypad

- Google just invested in KaiOS, so the main Google apps will probably be available on the device


- Limited apps, e.g. there are rumours WhatsApp will be available soon, but I haven't seen any announcement.

- No QWERTY keyboard, even on screen.

Get her an Android phone since that is what you use. You'll be her first line of tech support. Also, if you don't live with your mom, look into software that you can use to remote access her phone in-case you need to do any troubleshooting.

Jolla will be launching new version of the Sailfish OS this quarter, aimed for 4G-enabled feature phones. You could try that.

I'm currently using Sailfish OS on my Intex Aqua Fish and the experience so far (last 1.5 years) is so good that I've decided to never use Android phones in future. (Brief - No home and back button wasting your time, just have simple gestures to navigate to different menus etc.)

PS: Sailfish OS can also run almost all Android apps.


Maybe your mom doesn't need an iPhone?

After Iphone 4s announced. Its my best decision to buy iPhone for my mother, now she can do everything.

i would say ipad.

1. Bigger display.

2. Lesser chances of clicking the unknown.

3. When things are bigger, they look more friendly.

Also at 78, she is probably farsighted so needs to see bigger text. There's an iOS setting for that. But it doesn't work so well for browsers.

I wish mobile browsers would let you increase text size and not magnify/zoom. I remember old Android browsers let you before. And of course there is the Javascript Safari hack. It's just they aren't permanent.

On a side note, would amazon echo or google home be a better option?

I don't think it's ready for prime time and you can't read email on it.

iOS my mum struggles with the android. She doesn't understand how to get her photos/videos off it cause of the folder structure. I wish I got her one.

How about an iPad?

I would recommend windows phone.


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