Ask LH: Should I Buy A Tablet Or Digital Photo Frame For My Grandma?

Ask LH: Should I Buy A Tablet Or Digital Photo Frame For My Grandma?

Hi Lifehacker, My grandmother has recently been lamenting that she doesn’t have many recent photos of us, because now they’re all digital. Initially I thought I’d buy her a digital photo frame (a quick eBay check suggests you can pick one up for $99 or less). But then I thought I could just buy her a cheap or second-hand tablet instead.

That would give her greater control over browsing photos, and it doesn’t always need to be plugged in, so it would probably use less power than an always-on photo digital frame. There may even be a possibility of hooking it up to her TV to see larger pictures. I’m pretty sure my grandmother would have no trouble using the tablet to look at a gallery of images on a tablet, but I’m curious if you have any thoughts on this approach, or what other readers have done. Thanks, Picture-Enabling Grandchild

Tablet photos picture from Shutterstock

Dear PEG,

Go for a tablet. I purchased a digital photo frame for my grandparents a few years ago pre-loaded with family photos dating all the way back to the 1930s. (It was a good excuse to dust off my neglected scanner.) While they loved the gift, they were slightly disappointed that it had to be kept plugged in. Apart from wasting electricity (always an issue for pensioners), the lack of an inbuilt battery meant they couldn’t take it down to their local RSL to show their geriatric buddies.

An Android tablet is a much better solution and only slightly more expensive — these days you can pick up a no-name model brand new for under $100. Unlike most photo frames, you can easily tailor a tablet’s UI to make navigation as painless as possible. We recommend increasing the size of the icons, placing the gallery/slideshow app in a prominent position on the screen and uninstalling anything that’s likely to hamper or confuse their experience. As you mentioned, a tablet gives them the option of viewing photos and videos on their TV which is sure to be appreciated, especially if their eyesight isn’t what it once was.

You can also add other useful files and features to the device such as old movies, ebooks and pensioner-friendly games (crossword puzzles, chess, brain trainers, etc.) Hell, you could even set them up with a Facebook account so they can see all your new photos in real time, although you’ll probably need to convince them to get off dial-up internet first. A Wi-Fi connected tablet opens up additional uses, such as local news and sports apps, email capabilities and Skype.

That said, the key is not to bombard them with too much technology to begin with — around seven or eight applications in total should be more than enough for them to get started on. Make sure everything is available on the home screen and properly labelled (i.e. — rename each icon to indicate its purpose rather than some alien-sounding software title.)

On a final note, try and find a compatible stand so they can display the device like a photo frame when the mood strikes them. Hope this helps!


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  • Or… maybe print the photos and put them in a nice album?
    doesn’t require electriciy and is portable, also takes the level of tech savviness out of the equation.

    • Actual photo albums are better in every way for this particular purpose. Not only is it cheaper, less effort, less confusing and more tactile, but you can make it a regular annual gift: they get a photo album of the past year, plus something nice to consume (alcohol, chocolates, whatever their vice is). Everybody wins!

    • Hell, you can also print out decent looking photobooks at harvey norman and other shops, and there’s a few online ones that deliver.

      Makes a great coffee table book. Down side is some of the tools require you to design a lot of the layout, and people can be, well, bad at design (guilty).

  • If you have an old monitor just grab an MK808b or similar android dongle.
    Make a nice wooden frame for the monitor after removing the front plastic one and you have a great picture frame.
    I just made one for my Mum for xmas from a 22″ LG 1080p monitor picked up on grays for $50, $45 for the MK808b and a USB stick I had lying around for the photos through OTG. Dayframe app for the slideshow.
    22″ 1080p 16gb storage for about $100. No way at all you’ll get one that looks as good off the shelf and the fact I made it will make it a lot more special.

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