US Senior Mobile Plans should be available outside Florida

What Do I Need to Know?

  • Smartphone adoption and daily use among seniors is catching up to that among younger consumers
  • Every US mobile operator offers an unlimited plan aimed at older consumers, at a discount compared to its regular plans
  • T-Mobile’s proposition is the most complete, offering three tiers with different benefits and available throughout the US
  • AT&T and Verizon offer unlimited plans only in-store in Florida
  • AT&T also caters to seniors who don’t want smartphones with its Senior Nation talk-only plan

Background

As the number of adults aged 65 and over in the US surges toward record highs, the pace of technology adoption in the demographic is catching up to younger generations, those more typically associated with “early adopters”. For example, AARP research has found that 94% of adults aged 50 and over use their smartphones each day, mostly for email, directions, online searches and social media. Accordingly, mobile operators have begun to design plans especially for consumers aged 55 and over.

Aged 18-4992%
Aged 50-5986%
Aged 60-6981%
Aged 70+62%
Smartphone penetration by age group

The factors behind the increase in smartphone penetration among older consumers are complex. The most important is the fact that these age groups aren’t all exactly the same. While broad trends can characterize how a certain age group responds to technology, there are members of all age groups, including those under 50, who are more comfortable with technology and more willing to seek it out than others of their own age.

Another important factor is how consumers age into different groups over time. The tech aptitude and acceptance of those over 50 changes as users who we associate with high knowledge of tech age into the 50+ demographic. For example, a woman who will turn 55 years old in 2021 would have been 41 when the iPhone was introduced in 2007, and therefore in the group that would have had the interest and purchasing power to try out the new smartphone technology.

A third factor is the decrease in non-smartphone options available to consumers, whatever their age. Most of the large manufacturers have pursued consumer demand for smartphones, leaving only a few manufacturers to continue making and selling feature phones, some (but not all) of which are explicitly aimed at older consumers. This trend has also led mobile operators to offer fewer feature phones and associated plans, or even to eliminate these devices and plans altogether.

What are operators offering?

AT&T

Senior NationAT&T Unlimited 55+
200 minutes, $0.45/minute overage
0 texts/data
$29.99/month
Feature phones only
Unlimited data, voice, text
Throttled during congestion
$60/month
Florida residents only, must buy in-store
Senior Nation includes 500 nights & weekend minutes, unlimited AT&T calling

T-Mobile

Essentials Unlimited 55Magenta Unlimited 55Magenta Plus Unlimited 55
Talk, text dataUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
RoamingTextData & text2x data speed & texting
Mobile hotspots3G3GB LTE20GB LTE
Mexico & Canada2G data5GB of 4G data5GB of 4G data
OverageThrottled during congestionThrottled during congestionThrottled during congestion
Price$40/month[per line]$50/month[per line]$90/month (must buy 2 lines)
Magenta Plus Unlimited 55 also includes unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi, Netflix and HD streaming

Verizon

Verizon 55+ Unlimited
Unlimited data, voice, text
Throttled during congestion
$60/month
Florida residents only, must buy in-store

It’s perhaps inevitable that if the operators’ standard plans all offer unlimited talk, text and data, their senior-focused plans should do so as well. As a result, the only way to differentiate their plans is with add-ons, such as roaming or hotspot access. In this respect, T-Mobile is the clear winner, as each plan includes benefits beyond unlimited talk, text and data, and these benefits are clearly defined at each tier.

One key benefit at the top tier, Magenta Plus Unlimited 55, is Netflix “on Us”, offering HD streaming on up to two devices. Adding Netflix subscriptions to mobile plans is an existing strategy for its standard, non-senior-focused plans (when a consumer takes out two lines), so it makes sense that T-Mobile would offer this benefit to its top-tier senior plan. Including free Netflix streaming also helps T-Mobile compete with non-senior-focused plans from AT&T, which includes HBO Max in its top-tier plan, and those from Verizon, which feature free subscriptions to Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. 

T-Mobile also wins in terms of price proposition. If we assume that lower prices are a key aspect of senior-focused plans, owing to the reduced buying power of customers who have retired or are streamlining their expenses, then all three of T-Mobile’s tiers present a more attractive proposition than the plans from AT&T or Verizon. That said, none of these senior-focused plans is as cheap as signing up to a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO): the cheapest plan from H2O Wireless starts at $18 per month, while Mint Mobile’s unlimited tier costs $90 for the first three months, as an introductory rate.

Finally, T-Mobile has the advantage in geographical terms, since its plans are available throughout the US, whereas AT&T and Verizon only offer their Unlimited 55+ plans in Florida. Offering their senior plans in only one state unfortunately makes AT&T and Verizon’s plans feel like afterthoughts, as does forcing customers to go in-store to sign up for these plans.

That said, AT&T’s Senior Nation plan is the only one aimed at a clear niche user, specifically those who don’t want smartphones or the inflated monthly bills that accompany them. The plan offers no data and no texting, and apart from in-network calls it offers just 200 Anytime minutes per month, so at $29.99 per month it’s expensive for such a limited plan. However, AT&T is right to identify that not all older consumers need or want smartphones, and to offer them a stripped down plan.

On the other hand, since it’s the only senior-focused plan from AT&T available outside Florida, the operator is in danger of ignoring the equally important cohort of older consumers who do want smartphones and data plans. With this cohort set to grow in the next few years, AT&T and Verizon would be unwise to continue ignoring them.

Reference

Population Reference Bureau’s Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States

AARP’s 2020 Tech Trends of the 50+

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