Mobile phones are available in various shapes and sizes, supposedly designed to suit everyone. Some users will be positively potty about the pixel count, and others will go bonkers for battery life. However, for many, button size and how that enhances usability is a more significant concern.
For such phone users, they prize a prominent and ergonomic button layout above most other concerns. However, that's not to say that such issues as loud volume, robustness and display are irrelevant. What we're after is something that gives a performance as outstanding as its buttons. So let's see what's out there in the large-button mobile world.
I like big buttons and I cannot lie
As Sir Mixalot nearly had it back in 1992, big buttons are where it's at. But, while some may ache for something sleek in their cordless corner, a growing number of people make ease of use the top consideration.
Not just big
So, buttons need to be big, and they need to be easy to get to. Crucially, there should be distinctiveness so you can feel where one button ends and the next starts. If there's a little space between them, so much the better. The layout is paramount. There's no point having buttons the size of dinner plates that tax your ability to find them when you're dialling in a hurry.
Who uses big buttons?
You'd be mistaken if you think they're just for older people. There’s a whole bunch of others who might like to get their fingers on a keypad that's bold and in your face.
Great for people with vision impairments
There are currently 2.28 million people in the UK with sight issues who aren't going to want to waste time on a bijou-buttoned bantam. Big buttons are more visible and are often backlit for extra prominence. Some even talk to let you know which one's been pressed.
Excellent for people with manual dexterity issues
There's a huge constituency of people for whom the march towards miniature is proving problematic. For instance, dyspraxia, which makes fine motor control very difficult, is reckoned to affect as much as 10% of the population. So to have controls that don't require the dexterity of a micro-surgeon is a big plus for those with such issues.
And, yes, fantastic for senior users too
For some, including older individuals, basic is often best. It might be that our faculties have diminished a little. Or it could be that we've got priorities other than being able to have their move-busting posted on TikTok.
The requirement to learn stacks of stuff to do with complicated controls is not what most of us want to deal with. A big buttoned phone has lots of intuitive features. For example, it's obvious what you must do to make a call, so it's ready for action without you needing to learn anything.
You might be in a position where you want such simplicity. Or you might want to find a phone with straightforward controls for somebody you know who's not that big a technophile. You may want to ensure your parent has a reliable communication method to get hold of you, especially in an emergency. Big-buttoned phones are well worth considering if you're in any of these situations.
Let's look at some of the best phones with large buttons. Note that all can make emergency calls when locked and feature SOS buttons, hands-free use, and charger docks. Most have ICE capability too.
Incidentally, there's more information on Android phones recommended for over 50s in our article here. Meanwhile, bring on the big buttons.
A nice-looking dual SIM number. It’s still equipped with large area buttons, but they’re a little less prominent than the others on this list. For this reason, this one might not be the best choice for those who struggle with their dexterity.
Internet-ready via a mini-browser and with a 0.3 megapixel camera, the Nokia 2660 Flip gives you a certain amount of image-sharing action. And for audiophiles, you’ve got an FM radio and MP3 player built-in.
The battery life is truly extraordinary - up to 26 days standby time and up to 19 hours gsm talk time, which should be enough for a catch-up, even with somebody not on speed dial.
It’s not immediately obvious that Alcatel’s SIM-free specimen is a member of the big button club. Its dialpad looks pretty average-sized on first inspection. However, the buttons are not only a little larger than on some phones - they’re also nicely spaced out for ease of use.
The Alcatel 20.20 delivers a lot of the call functions you’ll find elsewhere but it does so in a very light and simple package. How light? 80g. Which is the same as 11 pencils, give or take a rubber tip.
So, what does it have to offer? It’s 2G, so don’t expect to be doing any net surfing, but it’ll get you in touch with people reliably and, with a battery that gives you 350 hours of standby, you won’t be running out of juice just at that crucial moment.
Now onto a big name in big buttons, Doro has become a popular manufacturer of phones with a lot going on upfront. This model, the Doro 780X, is all about the basic.
Functionality is stripped so that the visible features on the handset are pretty much limited to a screen, three buttons for contact quick-dial, pick-up and hang-up, and an OK button. It’s about as simple as phone design gets, unless you’re using a tin can on a length of string.
Display size is good, at 43.2mm x 57.6mm (or 2.8”) with adjustable brightness. There’s a selection of 22 volume adjustable ringtones, all augmented by vibration. The volume of the caller’s voice can be adjusted too, both on speaker and via the earpiece.
Functionality is limited to voice calls and SMS (incoming text messages only), with no internet connectivity. The battery’s no slouch and will give a pretty long talk time (up to 8 hours). 4G compatible and fully waterproof, this is a simple mobile phone that nevertheless meets the needs of those who just need to be sure of a way to keep in touch.
A great benefit of a flip (or clamshell) phone is that while it’s folded safely in your pocket, you’re less likely to dial somebody in error. Let’s face it, we’ve all done it. Then, when you’re ready for action, it folds out to reveal a display size of 2.4”.
It’s got 4G capability, a talking keypad, a 500 entry phonebook, and, for linguaphiles, a choice of 12 languarges. The battery’s pretty good, giving 3 1/2 hours of talk time and 90 hours of standby. In short, there's no need for the hard sell with this cell.
Giving you all the bells and whistles you get with regular phones, the TT970 does it with an extremely well-designed button array.
When unfolded, this android flip phone reaches a length of 20.5cm, but when folded compactly in a pocket or handbag, it comes in at a trim 10.8cm x 5.7cm. The display's a decent 2.8", plus there's a smaller display on the back that tells you who's calling without your having to open it up. Weight-wise, it's 132.5g, which, if you're struggling to process, is a bit more than a mid-size bar of Dairy Milk but a bit less than a chubby hamster.
The TTfone TT970 has excellent hearing aid compatibility 4G compatibility, excellent internet connectivity, and some social media lite apps ready for you to share pics from the pretty nifty 8 MP camera.
The battery's got decent life between charges - it can stay on standby for up to four days before it goes flat. It will also give three hours of talk time. Talking of talking, you can boost the volume on this model to an extra loud 105.5 decibels. That’s about the volume of a chainsaw, so unless you're making calls from a lumberjack camp, you should be OK with this!
Finally, a really nice feature of the TT970 is the photo contacts facility. You can store a telephone number under a photo, so you just press the picture to make the call. No having to remember who’s who, or confusion from having lots of people in your life who will insist on having the same name.
This one's a straightforward non-flip model that delivers fun and functions. For a very basic call-maker, it gives you a bunch of other features.
You've got an FM radio, a flashlight and a calculator built into this pocket pal. You can't go online with it, but that might not matter to you. All that fake news and pictures of people's lunches. Who needs it anyway?
But back to the phone. The Mercury 2 TT200 has a reasonably modest 1.8" screen size, but it's clear and has large fonts. It's pretty compact overall, at 10.2cm long by 5.2cm wide, so as "candy bar" phones go, think Breakaway or Club rather than a duty-free Toblerone.
Most of the front is given over to the dial pad, and the buttons are consequently very nicely sized. It works on GSM and has space for a healthy coterie of 300 contacts. As for the battery, it gives five days of standby and three hours of talk time.
If there were a mobile phone beauty contest, the red Star TT300 would go home with the tiara, although it's also available in grey and white. A flip phone, it folds into a very restrained 9.32cm x 4.83cm and opens out to give you a 2" screen and nice chunky buttons.
You get an FM radio, flashlight and calculator, but the main things to bear in mind with this little beauty are its very light 78g weight combined with its extraordinary ring volume of up to 114.5 decibels. This is a similar noise level to a motorbike opening up its throttle.
So, if you’d like what sounds like a Harley in your pocket with the streamlined looks of a Ferrari in your hand, this is the phone for you.
Push the Button
Regardless of excellent ad campaigns and celebrity endorsements, the best mobile phones give the user what they want. And these three can undoubtedly do that. So whether you're after a high contrast clear display or a surefire way to secure peace of mind by having a sound and reliable way to keep in touch with loved ones, one of these mobiles will deliver.
They're robust and have batteries that will keep you connected, even if you're away and without your charger for a night or two. On the subject of charging, all the phones featured here have prominent and practical dock chargers, so you need never worry about mislaying a fiddly little lead. And they don't look as purely functional as they might. We started with a 90s rapper. Let's finish with another by saying that there's nothing Notorious about these BIG buttoned belters. Most of them win top marks for style and get the job done. In a world full of unsubstantiated claims, these ring true.