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Apple’s launch: how about something for US seniors?

Apple launch – the mountain shuddered.  Apple is a phone company – the majority of their revenue comes from the iPhone, now to be sold directly on 24-month $32 payment plans – never mind having to buy that $768 phone from those pesky carriers.  There were plenty of excited selfies taken at the big event – read this nasty review to get a fresh (that is, not fawning) perspective from a writer who owns all Apple products, ironically. So what was new from the phone company?  A smarter Siri, a camera that catches up with Samsung, a tablet similar to Microsoft Surface, and 3D touch  -- enabling an activity within device context, so from the home screen, now you can launch straight into selfie mode. But this 3D touch might have been be the most useful feature for older adults with any hand tremor – it enables a deliberate pressure versus accidental swipe – the bane of devices that lost their buttons (and pressure sensitivity) years ago. Note cell phones ‘designed’ for seniors.  Note the read-the-manual response on Apple’s Support site about use of the iPhone for seniors used to flip phones.

So Apple fans and fawning aside, how does Apple serve older adults in the US? Actually, not too much – selling iPads to senior housing companies, maybe, indirectly through programs in the healthcare space, maybe. As for new products, except for the most committed, the watch is too small and too linked to an iPhone and is yet another device to charge. The phone is too expensive for seniors on a fixed income, and the user interface requires a manual for the uninitiated. The iPad could be a wonderful boost if Apple’s program from Japan were replicated in the US.

Apple should launch an iPhone-for-Seniors US program.  There is a reason why clamshell phones don’t disappear – despite hiding them on the back shelves of carrier stores. Usability matters to everyone and everyone struggles with their initial encounter with a smartphone –that’s why there are so many how-to-use sites with videos.  New features baffle and/or are discovered to be pointless data hogs. Maybe Apple should try something new with some new US partnerships -- how about a pre-configured device along with customized training -- distributed by AARP (or its partners), NCOA, or the USPS. For this new ready-to-run smartphone, usability for seniors will be built into the configuration, and the training video will be shown on a television (real, not Apple TV) channel. 

Intutive usability is no longer a core value. It is assumed now that we have all seen a smartphone and thus, we expect them to be the complexity nightmare that they are -- to customize, integrate, and absorb new features. The AARP-Georgia Tech activity tracker failure showed that 'universal design' and 'design for all' are words that sound great, but tech designers don't really think those words apply to what they're doing.  That's why we have subways that aren't accessible, car dashboards and TV remotes that are inpenetrable. Ironically, there will always be seniors.  We should remember -- there willl always be senior wishing to keep using the device (or car) they are comfortable with using.  Likewise, there will always be new user interfaces that will startle and confound. The missing link is the migration path to comfort levels that make the transition worth the time, money, and trouble. Of all types of tech companies, Apple has the cash, the confidence, and the capability to help seniors in the US get the most out of all of the technology it produces.

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I have an iPhone 6 that I can only get out of my pocket fast enough to answer about 1 in 3 times.

I need a flip phone that I can get out of my pocket and answer fast enough so the caller is still there. It should have blue tooth to give all the appropriate data to the iPhone 6 in my other pocket.

If I need to use the iPhone 6 to find the nearest bar for example, I do that. If I have trouble get it out of my pocket, maybe I shouldn’t be drinking anyway.

John Boden


Hey John,

I think a blue tooth headset would work great with your iphone instead of another phone. You can simply press one button and it will answer the call. There are many options and styles but i would check out amazon and read reviews. 

I still carry an LG flip phone, and I want to replace it with the same type when it becomes necessary. I've been using this one for over 4 years already and it does exactly what I need it to do,call and receive, and that's all. I have a 7" tablet for all the other stuff. My little LG has actually been getting a few envious looks lately, from people who can't figure out where the heck to keep their big smartphones. Pockets are too small, carrying them on a belt is more than a little uncomfortable. Keep the clam shells coming!