GrandPad Tablet Review: Video Calls, Music, and More for Older Folks

We had trouble contacting my mother-in-law for months during the lockdowns. Like many older folks, she still relied on a landline phone. When she didn’t pick up, my wife would wonder whether she was out, couldn’t hear the phone, or was unable to answer. And when she did pick up, we’d still wonder if she was really OK.

She was a professional musician before she retired and can still turn out an impressive tune on the viola, but she lacks confidence with technology. She has a mobile phone, but she insists on turning it off most of the time, despite our protests that doing so renders it useless.

We’ve tried to set her up with Skype for years, to no avail, and we’ve spent hours trying to get her up to speed on WhatsApp—only to discover she had forgotten her Wi-Fi password and hasn’t been online for months. Nothing worked until the GrandPad, a walled-garden tablet for seniors.

Designed for Elders

Photograph: GrandPad

“Smartphones are designed by 30-year-olds for 30-year-olds,” said Scott Lien, GrandPad’s CEO and cofounder. “We set out to design a product from scratch for someone who is 80.”

Lien started the company because his elderly mother struggled to use smartphones and computers. He recruited advisers in their eighties and nineties to learn what they wanted from a device and identify common usability problems.

The GrandPad is an Acer tablet that runs a heavily customized version of Android. The specs are dated. It’s about the size of an Apple iPad Mini, with an 8-inch screen, an HD pixel resolution, a Qualcomm 625 processor, 2 gigabytes of RAM, and 32 gigabytes of storage for apps and files. Both the front and rear cameras are rated at 5 megapixels. 

The tablet comes as part of a monthly subscription that costs a hefty $79 per month or $696 for the year, but it’s a complete package. There’s 4G LTE connectivity out of the box, so no need to worry about Wi-Fi passwords, and it offers ad-free music streaming—with access to more than 30 million tracks (provided by 7Digital)—radio stations, “safe” web browsing, unlimited photo and video storage, and a library of games and puzzles that includes solitaire, sudoku, poker, and crosswords. If the GrandPad is ever damaged or lost, you’ll get a replacement device. 

The tablet rests on a wireless charging cradle with a long power cable that’s permanently attached. My mom set hers up on the table in her living room. The screen comes to life automatically when she opens the folding cover, so she doesn’t have to worry about turning it on or off, and she quickly got used to popping it on the charging stand after use to keep the battery topped up. She finds it much easier to use than her phone, thanks to the larger screen and simple interface. 

The front-facing speakers aren’t just loud, they are tuned to a frequency that makes it easier to hear for those with hearing loss. The interface features enlarged icons with text clearly labeling everything, and the contacts have photos with names beneath. There is also 24/7 support available with a real person who talks through issues and provides remote tech support when required. 

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