What do I need to know?
- Most senior-focused mobile plans are discounted versions of regular plans
- Italy is the only country in Europe where operators offer dedicated plans for older users, at different price points and data allowances
- AT&T Senior Nation, in the US, is the only plan that caters to those who want a simple feature phone plan and aren’t interested in data or smartphones
- While the plans in Italy tend to be the cheapest, those in Germany and Sweden offer larger data allowances, and those in the US typically offer unlimited data
- US plans from AT&T and Verizon are only available in Florida
As the populations in the US and Western Europe age, companies are looking for ways to address the needs of people aged 55 and over. Given the importance of keeping in touch with social networks, mobile operators are in a unique position to cater to this demographic, by providing plans and phones designed for the needs of older consumers.
Older consumers, meanwhile, are growing more interested in tech every year. Smartphone adoption among users aged 55 or over has grown consistently, and this has led them to adopt other mobile technologies, like tablets and wearables. The cliché about older users demanding feature phones and having trouble with touchscreen smartphones is being dispelled, though it’s also true that most device manufacturers could better design smartphones for use by those with declining vision, hearing or fine motor control.
Types of Senior Plans
In general, most senior-focused plans are discounted versions of those normally offered by mobile operators, although AT&T’s Senior Nation in the US, and the plans in Italy, are examples of plans explicitly designed for older consumers. The Italian plans are differentiated from the operators’ standard plans by their lower prices, lower data allowances and apps that are zero-rated. Whereas younger users’ plans zero-rate “fun” apps like music and maps, those for older users zero-rate apps for keeping in touch, like chat and VoIP apps.
Senior Nation, meanwhile, is the only plan that targets the specific niche of users who don’t own or want smartphones or data. At first glance, this can appear patronizing, given that smartphone penetration is still growing among older users. However, Senior Nation’s simplicity and relatively low cost will appeal to users who don’t want to pay for data they don’t use and who just want to be able to call their loved ones on phones with physical buttons.
As mentioned, senior-focused plans in the US are typically discounted versions of mobile operators’ regular plans, offering unlimited voice, SMS and data. The most notable feature of the AT&T and Verizon Unlimited 55+ plans is that they’re only available to residents in Florida. As a result, both plans feel more like afterthoughts than genuine attempts to court the senior market.
|AT&T Senior Nation||AT&T Unlimited 55+||T-Mobile Essentials 55+||T-Mobile Magenta 55+||T-Mobile Magenta Max 55+||Verizon 55+ Unlimited|
|Feature phones only||Florida residents only||SMS abroad, 3G hotspots||Data & SMS abroad, LTE hotspots||2x data speed & SMS abroad, Netflix included||Florida residents only|
T-Mobile is the only operator that offers more than one unlimited plan aimed at the senior market. The tiers are differentiated by add-ons, with the highest tier enjoying more roaming data, more data at LTE hotspots and free Netflix streaming. The operator recently rebranded its plans, offering more hotspot data for the top two tiers and allowing a single customer to take the top tier (previously one had to buy two lines to get the top tier).
The notable exception is AT&T’s Senior Nation plan. At $29.99 per month it’s the cheapest senior-focused plan in the US, but that’s because it doesn’t include any data, and it only works with a feature phone.
Mobile operators in Italy do offer distinct plans aimed at older consumers, but are notable for including less data than the plans aimed at younger users. However, since the previous report on Italian senior-focused plans, each operator has increased the data allowance of its lowest-priced plan to 50GB and in some cases reduced the monthly price. Even with these improvements, older users may be paying less per month for their plans, but they’re still paying more for each GB of data than younger users.
|TIM 60+ Senza Limiti||Vodafone Facile||WindTre Silver 60 con EasyPay|
Vodafone appears to have discontinued its Facile plan, but it’s been included here for comparison purposes.
O2 is the only German operator that offers a discount to users over the age of 60. The discount is EUR10 off the monthly price, like its youth plans, but unlike those plans the discount is available for only three plans, none offering unlimited data. Contrast this simplification with its youth-focused plans, which offer the same discount for all of O2’s price tiers, including its unlimited plans that are differentiated by download speed.
|Free S Boost||Free M||Free M Boost|
Similar to O2 Germany, Tele2 Sweden offers discounts to older users who sign up for all plans (other than the entry-level plan that offers 3GB of data). The discount is 20% off the regular price of the plan and includes its unlimited data plan.
In a side-by-side comparison purely based on price, the cheapest plans, both overall and among those with limited data allowances, are the ones in Italy. However, these plans feature smaller data allowances, so that each gigabyte in the plans from TIM, Vodafone and WindTre ends up being more expensive than one from O2 Germany and Tele2 Sweden’s plans.
A further complication is that O2 charges a high connection fee for all of its plans, for a one-time charge of EUR39.99 (US$47.49) on top of the monthly fees paid over the life of the plan. The plans in Italy also feature connection fees, though these typically cost EUR5 (US$5.94), from TIM and Vodafone, or EUR6.99 (US$8.30) from WindTre (however, if a WindTre customer terminates their contract before 24 months, they are subject to the full EUR49.99 (US$59.37) connection fee).
|Operator||Price (US$)||Data (GB)||Price/GB (US$)|
Turning to the unlimited plans, the question of which ones are the better deals depends on the extras they include alongside the minutes, texts and data. Each plan, whether in the US or Sweden, includes 5G access, though the operators’ 5G networks are still being built out and coverage isn’t nationwide. Tele2’s plan offers better roaming, with 50GB of data in the EU and in 25 other countries worldwide, as well as 1000 international minutes. AT&T and Verizon offer unlimited talk, text and data in Mexico and Canada, and AT&T includes free texting to over 120 countries. T-Mobile’s roaming options depend on the tier, with the Magenta Max 55+ plan offering faster data and texting abroad, plus 5GB at 4G data speeds in Mexico and Canada.
T-Mobile also has the strongest offering in terms of entertainment, with Netflix Basic (only on one screen) included in the middle and top-tier plans. Verizon’s plan comes with free Apple Music for six months, but neither AT&T nor Tele2 offer equivalent streaming video or music options.
As a result, T-Mobile’s offering is probably the most competitive, at least among unlimited plans. Unlike AT&T and Verizon’s plans, which are only available in one state, it doesn’t assume that all older consumers are the same, and it’s done a good job of defining the benefits of its tiers. Since our previous report on senior-focused plans in the US, it also changed its top tier plan to allow single users to buy it.
Among plans with defined data allowances, the plans in Italy, and particularly from TIM, stand out. Although TIM’s data allowance is one of the smallest, it zero-rates the chat and voice apps that it believes are most important for its target audience, and it also offers a further discount to those who also have TIM broadband at home. Since our previous report on Italian plans, it has also increased its data allowance from 4GB to 6GB, though with a rise in its monthly price.