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I'm looking for a smartphone for an elderly person who is familiar with PCs (and is a long-time Linux user), but has not used a mobile phone before. They tried a basic phone¹ and found the screen too small and the interface too unwieldy.

The anticipated use of the phone is primarily as a telephone, perhaps to send and receive SMS, to listen to the radio, and some web browsing. Photography and games are not relevant. Other uses may be discovered when they have the device.

Budget is not a primary concern, but a low-end phone is preferred so that it says “not worth stealing”, not “mug me”. The phone will be bought and used in France.

Must haves:

  • As light as possible. This is more important than battery life.
  • Not too damage-prone, as long as it doesn't increase the weight.
  • FM radio.
  • Android, without fancy OEM software. The phone is likely going to run whatever OS the manufacturer has put on it, not some mod (I don't want to have to do tech support on non-official system components). It must be sold with, or at least upgradable to, at least Nougat 7.0.

Preferences:

  • Size is a bit of an unknown because it's difficult to relate until you have the object in hand. But it needs to be easy to hold in one hand and to fit in a reasonable-sized pocket, so smaller is better (up to a point where the screen is too small).
  • A fingerprint reader to simplify logging in while keeping some security would be a plus.
  • A removable battery is strongly preferred.
  • The possibility of using a stylus would be appreciated.
  • Reasonable perspectives for Android upgrades. The user does not want to change their phone all the time.
  • While I think the device will run the original OS, the possibility of improving privacy guards and ad blocking may be a reason to root the device.

¹ I.e. a phone that's only a phone, usually with a keyboards with digits and a few function keys, without the ability to install applications. You can see some basic phones in https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/feature/mobile-phone/best-basic-phones-of-2018-3641218/ . Most flip phones are basic phones.

  • Could you please state what is wrong with stock Android. There are plenty of stock Android phones. In terms of updates nothing really official by the OEM updates 2+ years except Google & Samsung. I'm sure there are exceptions. Removable batteries have gone the way of the dodo and don't exist in typically. Also you said a normal phone is to small. Hmm you mean flip phone? My carrier no longer sells these in stories but that is my assumption. – William Mar 26 '18 at 21:42
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    @William Uh? I don't understand your comment at all. I'm asking for something that is stock Android or close. What are you calling a “normal phone”? A basic phone (is that what you call a “flip phone”?) is too small. I've never seen Android phones that small. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 26 '18 at 22:02
  • I don't understand what you mean by basic phone. And what research have you done on this? This reads like a list of what you want but don't want to do any of the work yourself. – user1691 Mar 27 '18 at 13:28
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    @SiXandSeven8ths Must be a generation gap. I guess basic phones are disappearing. I've added an explanation. Regarding research, well, I've looked at phone comparison sites which give me thousands of models and no useful them to filter them. I've also given some idea of what I know won't work. “This reads like a list of what you want” — well, yes, that's the point of this site after all. Please take a minute to read the question quality guidelines. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 27 '18 at 14:41
  • @Gilles Thanks for the explanation. Sorry for sounding condescending, its a good question but too many always come off as "here's what I want, you do the work" and I like to see what the asker has discovered on their own because it can help sift out an answer that isn't wanted. – user1691 Mar 27 '18 at 15:59
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I've not run this specific model before but I've had good experiences with Xiaomi - and they have an android one model this year. Even if you don't go with a xiaomi - android one phones are likely to be what you're looking for. They're essentially "Google" phones like the nexus and pixel series, but designed to be cheaper and stripped down, with a mostly stock google experience and a fairly typical 3 year upgrade cycle.

The cons here? The 1a's an iphone clone design wise, with a stock android experience. It probably looks more expensive than it is. Its got an aluminum body, a fingerprint scanner and more or less most of the features you'd find in a older flagship phone. It even does USB C. No removable battery but that's a pretty uncommon feature

The pros? Xiomi's hardware is pretty good - I've got a xiomi 1s that's still running years on, and since its android one, you get a mostly stock android experience optimised for an older phone. And 5.5 inches is pretty much the 'sweet spot' for a modern phone, and its big enough for most things.

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  • Are there phones in that range with a fingerprint reader yet? It strikes me that this may be a plus — the sequence of gestures to log in (swipe, type PIN or pattern) are a bit complex, especially in an emergency. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Mar 28 '18 at 15:17
  • that one does - its at the back though, like many newer phones. Not sure why since it has physical buttons and the centre button's traditionally used for the fingerprint scanner – Journeyman Geek Mar 28 '18 at 15:23
  • I got the Xiaomi A1 since 2 months. It's a very good one, easy to use and very cheap. I bought it for around 170€. For the updates, I got the last one from google on march. – dpfauwadel Mar 29 '18 at 14:22
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I suspect its a little too small but at least in theory the unihertz jelly pro probably checks off most of your boxes. I have the non pro version, and have had to use it as a primary phone for short periods of time

enter image description here

budget armoured up oneplus 3 for scale.

That's the jelly compared to a fairly standard 5.5 inch phone/

Its a bit on the fat size but very light - I have it as a backup phone and fits in a jeans coin pocket with the optional rubber case.

Its all plastic, right down to the screen - this actually makes it more drop resistant than many fancy modern phones.

Runs a fairly stock android, with 7.0 out of the box

Replacable and removable battery.

2.4 inch screen - its a bit on the small side but works alright even with fairly big hands.

No stylus but any capasitive stylus should work, and you get one for a few dollars.

I'm not sure how long unihertz intends to support the jelly for but there's a planned 8.1 update, and it ships with 7.0

Camera is terrible but I run it as a secondary phone.

My dad uses his and... is slightly ambivalent towards it so it might be a little too small.

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  • unihertz jelly pro link is broken – Michael Nov 21 '18 at 2:15
  • This is an intriguing phone, but sadly they claim to not support Verizon despite CDMA bands being listed... – Michael Nov 21 '18 at 2:48

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