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Personalized smart phones -- guaranteed to make a grown person cry

There’s a phone for you based on your susceptibility profile.  So you know about so-called personalized medicine – here is one definition: "Personalized medicine research attempts to identify individual solutions based on the susceptibility profile of each individual." I do like the word 'susceptibility' as an analogy for the Samsung Galaxy S III phone I just acquired, one of the latest (for a few minutes at least) in smart phones. Two full days and a total of 200 setting choices for just 3 screens with 16 icons each, I am overwhelmed and reduced to a state of anxiety and blathering -- widget? App? Which home screen am I on?  "Advanced, intuitive, simple" says Samsung’s website -- without irony.

The phone gets high marks from geek sites.  One website referred to this phone as the Ferrari of mobile phonessuch an apt description. So who among us might have gone into a show room for fun, gotten into a Ferrari, started it up and just drove off?  Assuming a sales rep would let you touch the key and sit in the driver’s seat, that is. I bet that if one could afford the car, one might take the starter course and learn how best to drive it. That is so true of this phone for the very smart (I hesitate to call it a smart phone). And that brings me to the problem that this particular phone represents – along with the next and the next, not yet invented. Because a feature can be added, it will. Because some are willing to spend hours on customization, the device HAS the plethora of customization features patient users will tune to call it their own.

But is it a floor wax or a dessert topping? So we know that only 11% of the 65+ population uses smart phones – pretty much the same as a year ago. I can relate to this hesitation – a few minutes in the store with the phone's feature demonstrations could discourage those who were already doubtful. The settings on this particular phone were pre-selected as defaults -- but those defaults were not based on different levels of dexterity, visual acuity, finger size, tapping strength -- or patience with the preset cutesy beeps and chirps of various sounds. (The first setting I searched for was SILENCE). Yet this is a device that may be the only phone in the home of 30% of the population and that percentage is growing.  So it is a small computer, for sure, but it is also a cellular telephone, a texting device, a book reader, a game console, a point and shoot camera, a video conferencing platform, a device for home banking ("Front of the Check, now Back of the Check"), shopping (in-store and at home) as well as a credit card replacement (see more about NFC). And on and on and on -- beyond imagining. No wonder users risk falling into manholes, bumping into walls and driving off the road.

There are apps aplenty – but each behaves poorly in its own special way.  It’s not surprising that mobile apps are so different, so unusable and many are so downright horrendous. So many apps (700,000 for the iPhone alone!) have been created, but the market is terribly overcrowded and turns out that  the developers aren’t making any money. It may be, as with Web and eCommerce software, that it will take a long time to shake out proper usability standards, launch online training programs that can keep up with devices AND transcend silliness sites like Dummies.com. In the meantime, we must sit patiently with our new gadgets that are, sadly, not part of any design for all carefully considered ecosystem – but are really just disposable junk-to-be – it is no wonder that two year contracts are the norm.


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Laurie, you've addressed one of my favorite subjects again! I joked last week that the only thing left in my house that I fully understand is my garage door opener, and it has to be replaced soon. The new one will no doubt have security settings, codes, and preferences, and I'll have trouble getting into the garage in the rain. Even setting my alarm clock has become an intellectual challenge!

We're in the process of redeveloping our Memo memory assistant as a mobile app, expected to launch Dec. 1st, but we've maintained simplicity as the organizing principle. There are dozens of suitable ten-inch tablets out there now for customers to choose from (not to mention refurbished and used choices) and each one will perform miracles. But when the end user is 80 years old, with at least mild dementia and very limited ability to learn new things, dozens of buttons and icons and choices are merely the source of confusion and frustration. We'll stick to a simple display of information which has been input by family members, with the option of a few touchable icons for weather and the like, with navigation simplified to a single loop that always goes back home. That's enough!

Merilee Griffin
President, Memo Touch

I got my mom a Galaxy S3 and used this launcher to simplify things a great deal:

The main purpose was so I could keep track of her location using this awesome free service:

BTW, the family locator isn't great on an iphone because it doesn't run as a service, which means if you reboot the phone, or it closes, it doesn't start right back up. Of course on an iphone, you can use 'find my iphone'

Thanks for this great resource.
Mike in Philly!

I've just finished teaching my second 4-session, 8-hour class in introducing older adults to modern technology - a consumer's guide. Few older adults are "geeks," nor do they necessarily need or want the latest and greatest. That notwithstanding, I was one of the lucky ones to acquire an "unlocked" Google Nexus 4 phone during the brief period it was available on-line, and I find it a wonderful pocket-sized all-purpose communication device. I also just acquired an "obsolete" (by geek standards) Lenovo S2109 tablet that was on-sale at Office Depot for $220. It gives me features not available on current state-of-the-art devices priced under $500. As I have often taught, sometimes buying last-year's technology can be a very good idea.

Thanks for the original post. peace

Vic Ward ‏@vwward
Make mobile devices easy to set up and use -- intuitive, maybe. http://wp.me/p1IlO3-gz via @vwward @ipadtutor #ipad #smartphone #tablets