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Cell phones for older individuals -- more features, fewer features, or smarter?

Don't get me wrong -- I love my BlackBerry.  Really for no reason except that it fairly reliably buzzes wherever I am so that I can read e-mails, 80% of which are basically junk. Which makes me a true junkie, I guess. Otherwise, my PC is vastly preferable -- with its big screen, connected to the fiber that I am lucky enough to have connected to my house. My cheap cell phone is a (slightly) better phone and doesn't make me feel like I am talking on a calculator.

Smart phones -- smart for older people? Which got me to thinking about smart and not-so-smart phones triggered by this article mentioning the touch screen HTC Hero Android smart phone. The 63-year-old interviewed likes the touch screen, likes the keyboard for texting with her grandchildren, and she appreciates the bar code scanner for in store price comparison. She didn't mention voice quality -- hopefully she uses the headphone jack so she doesn't feel like she's talking on a calculator. And she says: '"I'm retired for seven years, so I have the time and patience to play with all the stuff on the phone." Thankfully.

Not so smart cell phones have 'apps'.  Now let's think about the so-called apps available for dumb cell phones as described today in the NY Times, including: "Puzzle games, a mobile e-mail application, a navigation application and an instant-messaging client, YouTube, Tetris, the restaurant locator Urbanspoon and a range of expense-tracking and calorie-counting apps." Hmm, what age group do you think they're targeting?

The Japanese are making a smarter 'dumb' cell phone. Now let's look at a Japanese cell phone feature list and wonder why no US manufacturer or distributor has duplicated the list of this Fujitsu Raku-Raku (Simple to use) phone? After you take a look at this list, think about the Doro, Jitterbug, the Samsung Knack. It's all about 'big buttons. The Clarity -- all about amplification.  Hmmm. Think about the creativity of cell phone marketers targeting kids, you know, the teenagers who text with their eyes closed.

Shouldn't cell phones be as smart and simple as the Raku-Raku to serve a large boomer/senior market in the US that is not getting what it needs from smart and dumb phone choices? And maybe our wise-guy smart phones are too smart to be really useful for those among us who may be getting older and may have a bit of trouble seeing, hearing, or manipulating their small-buttoned keyboards or swiping touch screens.

But I suppose smart and dumb cell markets will converge soon and as they do, hopefully they'll pick up a few of these Raku-Raku capabilities* as described by Fujitsu:

  1. Super-Clear Voice 3 and Super-Double Microphone
    "Super-Clear Voice 3" noise-detection automatically adjusts the volume of the other caller's voice according to the surrounding noise level, making them easy to hear even in a crowded environment. The phone's "Super-Double Microphone" feature automatically detects when users are in a noisy environment and suppresses background noise to ensure that their voice is transmitted clearly.
  2. Open Assist for easy one-handed opening
    The feature to open the phone at the touch of a button has become much easier to use. It can also be closed halfway to allow users to conveniently view TV.
  3. Light Indicator Guide shows users how to operate the phone
    With blinking buttons and on-screen icons, the improved "Light Indicator Guide" reveals to users the steps they should take to operate the phone, resulting in fewer user mistakes
  4. Smart Map Rotation
    The phone comes equipped with "Smart Map Rotation" software that constantly aligns the map with the user's direction of travel. This makes it easier to keep track of one's destination, even when visiting a location for the first time. An electronic compass application is also included in the software package, useful for hikers who wish to check the direction of their path.
  5. Exercise Monitor to help manage health. Based on the latest health guidelines proposed by Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the phone is equipped with an "Exercise Monitor" that makes it easy to track one's daily exercise routine. It can distinguish between different levels of physical exertion, such as the difference between walking on a level road or up a hill, significantly increasing its usefulness in preventing lifestyle-related diseases. 
  6. Slow Voice. Embedded software that slows the other person's voice speed, and "Clear Voice" noise-detection, which automatically adjusts voice and ringtone volume according to surrounding noise level. Enhanced "Read Aloud" audibly announces the name of the caller or e-mail sender and provides audio readouts of i-mode™ pages, while "Simple Mail Generation" offers preset messages for quick replies to e-mails."

* Some of the above capabilities are in BlackBerry and iPhone apps today.




Laurie - you covered everything! I tried to do that a few years ago:


Off the record: I just ordered a Verizon/Samsung Convoy. I fiddled with it in a store - big and sturdy, comfy to hold. Some nice features (but not too many), no QWERTY or touch screen - but apparently a great mic, great speaker, and surprisingly good camera. Great battery life.

So, boring Chuck should be happy.

I guess I qualify as an older individual at 60+.

For the last couple of years I have been using a Net10 pay as you go phone, 300 minutes every 60 days for $30, with rollover. Incoming and outgoing phone calls only. It does have texting capabilities, but I have turned that off.

I have several laptops and desktops for anything other than making calls, and even my 12" laptop is much better for doing anything other than phone calls, because I can see what I am doing better.

Steve Costello
Computer user groups keep users informed, join one and become an active participant.

My 81 year old Mom just went back to Jitterbug. Big Buttons, Big Display, few features, easy to use and less than $20 per month.

Great article!
I would love to see a button on a cell phone like medical/personal alarms systems (ex. Phillips Lifeline) have that users could push to signal for help if they fall and cannot get up. It would dial emergencies services and provide their location via GPS.
Medical alarms are great for individuals in their home but those out for a walk are forced to rely on using a cell phone that may be difficult to operate.


Lifewatch-usa.com sells a cellular medical alarm w/gps one simple touch of the red button gets help. Two way voice conversation from the simple cellular medical alaert help button with their EMT certified monitoring center and GPS location.