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Simplified Smartphones for Boomers and Seniors

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Pantech FlexIf you've been toying with the idea of upgrading from a basic cell phone to a smartphone that offers Internet capabilities, but would like to get one that's easy to see and less complicated to use, you're in luck.

Several manufacturers are now making simplified smartphones with features designed primarily for older users who have limited experience with modern gadgetry. Here's a rundown of what's currently available.

Pantech Flex: Sold through AT&T for only 99 cents with a two-year contract, the Pantech Flex is a 4G Android-powered touch screen smartphone that has a bright 4.3-inch screen, with a fast 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 8 megapixel camera.

But what makes it ideal for older users is its Easy Experience mode which provides a simple, clean home screen with large fonts, clearly marked icons, and quick access only to the phone's most essential features – your phone, camera, messages, menu, Web and contacts, along with shortcuts to your favorite apps.

It also offers several convenient features that make the phone easier to use, like voice dialing and voice commands, and SwiftKey technology that predict the next word you want to type to make texting faster and easier.

Individual monthly service plans for AT&T start at $39.99 for 450 minutes of talk time (or $29.99 for 200 minutes if your 65 and older), $20 for unlimited text messaging, and $20 for 300 MB of data. And their mobile share plans start at $85 per month for unlimited talk, text and 1 GB of data.

Jitterbug Touch: Offered by GreatCall Wireless – the same company that makes the Jitterbug big-button cell phone – the Touch is actually a Kyocera Milano 3G Android smartphone that's been rebranded and loaded with GreatCall's simplified user interface software.

Jitterbug TouchIt has a 3-inch touch screen and a full slide-out keyboard with raised, backlit buttons that many older users appreciate for typing messages and browsing the Internet. And when you turn the phone on, you get a simple menu list with large fonts that let you access often-used features like the phone, camera, messages and pictures, along with your contacts and apps.

This phone also offers voice dialing, a 3.2 megapixel camera, and optional features like medication reminders, 5Star Urgent Response with GPS tracking capabilities that let you call for help and be located when needed, and a live nurse service to answer your health questions.

Available at greatcall.com or 800-733-6632, the Touch sells for $149 with a one-time $35 activation fee, no-contract, and calling plans that cost $15 per month for 50 minutes, up to $80 per month for unlimited minutes, text messages, operator assistance, and voicemail. And their data plans run between $2.50 per month for 10 MB up to $25/month for 500 MB.

Samsung Galaxy Note IISamsung Galaxy Note II: If a bigger screen is the most desired feature, the Samsung Galaxy Note II 4G Android smartphone has a huge 5.5-inch touch screen display and can be used with a stylus, which makes it easy to see and maneuver. It also offers an Easy mode feature which simplifies the home screen providing one-touch access only to key functions like the phone, text messaging, Internet, contacts and your favorite apps.

Available through all major carriers – AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular – for $300 to $370 with a two-year contract, monthly service plans for talk, text and data start at around $80.

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