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Accessibility

GrandPad Review

This tablet is great for seniors if you don’t mind the subscription price

Grandpad Accesibility tablet displaying call, email, phone and camera functions on screen. Credit: Reviewed / GrandPad

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GrandPad (available at Amazon) occupies a curious space as one of the only tablets specifically designed for the senior generation. While mainstream products like Apple’s iPad or Amazon’s Fire Tablet can certainly be retrofitted to better support older adults, this product is meant for those over the age of 75 who truly know little to nothing about technology and don’t have the ability or desire to master the complexities of app stores, account passwords, or firmware updates.

Chances are you or someone you know fits this description, and GrandPad aims to capture that niche market with a completely tailored, subscription-based experience with just similarities to a feature-complete tablet.

$400 at Amazon

Given the litany of lackluster tablets made by unfamiliar brands looking to cash in on the remnants of the tablet fad, I was skeptical of the GrandPad at first, but parts of its unique philosophy exceeded my expectations. It’s a product with some obvious faults, but it’s still a decent tablet for a certain type of customer.

The basics of GrandPad

Given that the GrandPad is mostly marketed to ages 75 and up, it’s no surprise its specs lag behind those of the latest tablets from more mainstream manufacturers.

  • Chipset: Octa-Core Qualcomm MSM8953-3-AB (2.0 Ghz)
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB
  • Rear-facing camera: 5 MP
  • Front-facing camera: 5 MP
  • Connectivity: Wireless and 4G LTE
  • Display: 8-inch Full-HD screen with 1920 x 1200 resolution

Anyone who knows technology will likely agree these specs are paltry compared to higher-end devices, but, for the simplified experience promoted by the GrandPad, the performance results are surprisingly good. The GrandPad has a fully customized OS that features around 16 apps that are instantly accessible right out of the box.

  • Calendar: Admins can add events for users to remember.
  • Internet: A Firefox-based browser that only navigates to specific favorites by default, but can be unlocked to feature an address bar.
  • Call: Make and receive phone calls from approved contacts only.
  • Email: Send and receive emails from approved contacts only.
  • Photos: View camera photos or photos shared by approved family members.
  • Moods: Listen to a small collection of soothing sounds.
  • Camera: Take pictures using the front or rear camera.
  • Articles: Read stories from specific categories from Current Events to Cat of the Day.
  • Weather
  • Radio: Listen to default radio presets and those added by admins. This includes access to most radio stations near major cities, but more rural areas may be hit or miss.
  • Music: Listen to music by genre.
  • Games: A collection of 19 ad-free games including Checkers, Solitaire, Blackjack, Slots, Bingo, and more.
  • Lookup: Look up items via a dictionary or encyclopedia.
  • Toolbox: Includes a magnifier, flashlight, and calculator.
  • Zoom Video Call: Enter Zoom meetings via an emailed Meeting ID.
  • Help: Offers quick access to training videos and your human support assistant.

For any apps that require administrator use, that’s accomplished through an intuitive companion app for Android, iOS, or desktop computer. It allows more technically inclined loved ones to add events, browser favorites, contacts, photos, radio presets, and more for seniors to use. Video and audio calls can be made using the companion app as well.

Whether you’re using the companion app or the tablet, GrandPad is meant to be a heavily monitored and simplified device. Users who may feel bound by the above-listed restrictions may be better off trying a competitive device. But, for the truly tech-illiterate, it’s a unique concept in practice.

What I like about GrandPad

Simplified accessibility

Homescreen of GrandPad tablet with calendar, internet, call and email functions on screen.
Credit: Reviewed / Christopher Groux

The GrandPad is a senior-friendly tablet that allows users to surf the internet, make calls, manage their day-to-day schedule and more.

From hardware and software perspectives alike, GrandPad is an impressive little device with regard to its accessibility. On the outside, its user-friendly packaging tells the customer which side of the box offers the easiest opening.

Lift off the top, and you’ll find a small tablet that already has its clamshell case permanently attached. To charge the device, place it on the included pedestal in any orientation. A sound will chime, and a large light will display to let users know charging has begun.

$400 at Amazon

From there, using the GrandPad tablet is a pick-up-and-play user experience. Unlike other tablets, this one doesn’t have a million firmware updates or installs to wait through in order to start having fun. Just open it up and tap the app you'd like to use. There are no passwords required either, which works in this case, because the tablet isn’t capable of storing anything too sensitive other than some possibly spicy photos.

While more advanced users may find the setup a little unorthodox compared to similar modern devices, calculated design decisions like these absolutely take into account persons with dexterity, visual, auditory, or cognitive limitations.

On the software side, buttons are big, colors are bright, and most text can be enlarged beyond its standard 16-point bolded font. Emails and photo captions can also be recorded via dictation, which is a help for those who have more severe dexterity or visual disabilities.

Stopping short of offering the full-fledged screen reader you’ll find on competing Apple or Android devices, GrandPad is a very accessible product. Though, if you absolutely need a screen reader, we suggest considering something like an Apple iPad Pro.

Courteous technical support

Person user finger on Grandpad tablet in order to contact technical support.
Credit: Reviewed / GrandPad

With 24/7 personalized customer service, every question and concern can be addressed in a timely manner.

One of the biggest benefits of paying for a monthly ($65) or annual ($780) subscription to use GrandPad is its access to 24/7 customer support. While preparing this review, I’ve had an outstanding experience reaching out to several polite agents who helped me access administrator functions and explained the tablet’s finer features.

Pullquote: “I never had to spend a single second on hold to find a solution to my problem.”

I never left a phone call with my issues unresolved, and I never had to spend a single second on hold to find a solution to my problem. The GrandPad brand is all about offering a folksy approach to sophisticated tech, and its scrappy support team truly delivers a personalized, neighbor-like experience. That excellent treatment costs money, of course, but it’s absolutely perfect for the over-75 crowd. In the event your most tech-savvy loved one isn’t available, a professional is always one tap away.

Hassle-free games

Screenshot of crossword puzzle on Grandpad tablet.
Credit: Reviewed / Christopher Groux

GrandPad does an excellent job of making gaming very accessible.

Anyone who’s dabbled in mobile gaming knows how predatory App Store and Google Play apps can be. Between being bombarded with ads and being begged to pay for dubious digital currencies, there’s the constant possibility a less-discerning individual might wind up navigating to an unsafe website or inadvertently paying for things they don’t actually want.

The collection of games on the GrandPad is small, but it removes these potential pitfalls for a completely clean gaming experience with large buttons for those who need them. The games themselves aren’t anything to write home about, but they’re totally acceptable recreations of pastimes a senior would know. For what it’s worth, some of the featured crossword puzzles are actually challenging, so GrandPad may be a nice gift for the retired wordsmith in your life.

The gaming experience on the GrandPad serves as a nice reminder of what mobile gaming should be, and it’s safe for folks of any age to use.

What I don’t like about GrandPad

Mandatory 4G subscription is expensive

Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the GrandPad is how expensive it is to use long term. Beyond the $400 base price of the tablet, the full suite of apps also requires a $65 monthly or $780 annual subscription.

While it’s possible to use Wi-Fi in the event you live in a rural area where 4G coverage is spotty, the apps themselves still require a subscription to fully use. There is technically a free plan available, but it locks users out of almost everything, including the web browser.

As great as the on-call service of the GrandPad is, it comes with a reasonably high price tag for most budgets. That said, if your loved one likes the product, it’s a cost you might be able to split between multiple family members if it’s too rich for your blood alone.

Sycing and alerts are hit or miss

Whenever someone with administrator privileges makes changes to add new items to the GrandPad, the device is supposed to sync once per hour to push the required update. In my testing, however, this regular check-in didn’t prove to be effective. More often than not, I had to manually trigger a sync by holding the power button to restart the device for any tweaks to take effect.

It’s like magic when changes from the companion app are quickly reflected, but you may need to show your loved one how to restart the GrandPad in case the sync doesn’t happen. This shortcoming was also reiterated to me by a support professional.

Very limited streaming

Person watching video on tablet using YouTube.
Credit: Reviewed / Christopher Groux

Although the GrandPad's display is incredibly clear, its streaming options are a bit limited.

Other than YouTube, popular streaming services like Netflix or Hulu do not work on the GrandPad’s browser. Streaming has become an increasingly accessible form of entertainment for everyone, so it’s a huge miss that you or your favorite senior won’t be able to watch any shows on this serviceable 1080p display.

Should I buy GrandPad?

There are lots of truly terrible budget-priced tablets on the market, and I’m proud to say the GrandPad isn’t one of them. It’s a product made with accessibility in mind, and it hits almost all the right notes despite its limited specs.

If there’s absolutely no chance you or your loved one has any interest in a screen reader or streaming apps, this is a completely sufficient device. Its subscription price is a huge bummer considering what you can do on competing tablets with a standard Wi-Fi connection, but not everyone has the skill or patience to learn Android or iOS.

Make no mistake about it: the GrandPad is probably best suited for the strongly tech-averse or those suffering from severe cognitive disabilities. If the user can learn to use an iPad, they’re probably better off, but there’s nothing else like the GrandPad for those who need heavy-handed help navigating a touch screen. This is a unique and helpful product for a very niche audience.

$400 at Amazon

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.