What to know about big button mobile phones

Although touchscreen smartphones are now firmly the standard in the mobile phone industry, there is still a wide selection of big button mobile phones available on the market. While these may not be as appealing as they once were to the mass market, this type of phone can still be a suitable choice for audiences like the elderly, due to their relative simplicity and lower costs compared to many smartphones.

What are the key differences of big button mobile phones?

These phones are often more in the style of phones popular around the 2000s with physical keyboards. They will offer more of a no-frills experience than smartphones, with additional features often extending to things like a basic camera or apps (e.g., calendar, calculator, etc.). Lots of these phones will come with their own operating systems, which will limit (if not prevent) the ability to download additional apps in the same way users of Apple or Android smartphones could.

Big button mobile phones may be smaller and lighter than many smartphones. With the keyboard taking up a lot of the device’s space, its screen will be smaller and text displayed on it will likely be larger to compensate for this. Menus may come in simpler written lists, rather than pages of icons as they typically are on smartphones.

Lots of phones designed for elderly users come with a charging dock (like those that come with wireless landline phones) rather than a charger plug. This should make charging the phone easier given you can simply place it in its dock. Many big button mobile phones will come with features designed specifically for elderly users. Commonly included features of this type are an emergency/SOS button, hearing aid compatibility and loud volume functionalities.

Which big button mobile phone should I buy?

Be aware that a large amount of existing big button mobile phones only operate on 2G or 3G networks. This is likely as they are designed primarily for calling and texting, so the faster network performance of 4G may not be deemed necessary.

However, most UK network providers have already begun the process of switching off their 3G networks, following a government announcement to do so. This includes Three, whose network powers SMARTY. Therefore, getting a 2G or 3G device now could result in you getting a device that does not get signal or only does for a brief time, so we would advise you to look for a device that is 4G-VoLTE compatible to ensure you can get a full-service moving forward.

Find out more about SMARTY’s 3G switch off in our All you need to know about the 3G switch off blog post or on our Switching off 3G support page.

With that in mind, here are three suggestions of big button mobile phones with 4G-VoLTE capability that we have found.


The VOCA V140 is suitably equipped to make it a good all-round option for elderly users. It is a small bar-style phone. At only 12.7 centimetres in length, 5.08cm in width and weighing just 80 grams, it is a lightweight product that users will be able to easily always keep with them. The phone’s keyboard is simple, with clear buttons to start and end calls, navigational buttons, and icons on keys to indicate the additional functions you can use them for. It also comes with a dedicated SOS button and the option to allocate five contacts’ numbers for speed dial, making it well equipped for any emergencies. The phone comes with simple additional features including a torch, FM radio and calendar. Finally, it comes with a charging port rather than a plug, as well as the functionality to text contacts when its battery reaches 15%, making it easy to be sure the phone always has sufficient charge. The V140’s many features make it a strong all-rounder and you can buy the phone for around £60.

Doro 5860

Doro offer a wide selection of easy-to-use mobile phones, with the 5860 being on the cheaper end of their 4G offerings at the £80 mark. With a length of 12.8cm and width of 6.6cm it is a little wider than the VOCA V140, also coming in at a slightly heavier (yet still reasonably low) weight of 112g. The 5860 offers many of the common features of mobile phones designed for the elderly, such as a large display and assistance button. It also includes hearing aid compatibility and talking number keys, making the phone a reasonable choice for users with hearing or sight difficulties. Perhaps the standout point of the 5860 is its In Case of Emergency feature, which allows you to store medical details like next of kin details and medications should a first responder need quick access to such information. The 5860 comes with a charging port device and additional features include a camera, torch, and utility apps like a calculator.

Alcatel 3080

In addition to various mid-range smartphones, Alcatel produce a series of big button mobile phones in bar or flip styles. Their 3080 is another compact phone with basic features. It is not specifically designed for elderly users, so it is worth noting that it does not include features like a dedicated SOS button if this is something you are looking for. The 3080 has a basic 1.3MP camera (capable of recording video) and a headphone port, so you could use the phone to listen to music if you wish, although it’s storage is very limited at 128 megabytes – the phone does however have an SD card slot, so this can be addressed if you have a suitable SD card. Its battery should last approximately 300 hours on standby, or about seven and a half hours on call. While the phone is not the most powerful, it is a simple and cheap option, retailing around the £40 mark.

SMARTY’s cheapest SIM only plan

If you are looking at buying a big mobile phone just for texting and calling, you will not need a plan with a lot of data. SMARTY’s 4GB plan is our cheapest for just £6 a month. That £6 a month gets you unlimited calls and texts, which you can even use abroad throughout the EU at no extra cost – and if you have to leave us, all our plans are one month rolling plans, so you can cancel whenever you want. That’s less malarkey, more SMARTY!

  • SMARTY Team
  • April 10th, 2023