A cell phone designed for seniors

1 Jul

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By Geoff Meeker

July 1, 2013 – Marketers positively drool over the 18 to 34 market segment, apparently the largest-spending swath of consumers.

However, senior citizens have the largest numbers and their ranks continue to grow as baby boomers enter their golden years. Companies that develop a product that seniors want and need stand to profit handsomely from their enterprise.

Enter Doro AB, a company from France with a new technology product aimed specifically at seniors. On Wednesday of last week, Doro released the PhoneEasy 620 and 520X, incorporating what it describes as “the latest in accessible mobile technology.”

“Approximately 80 percent of people over 65 years of age now have access to a mobile phone,” the company says in its media release. “Half the population of seniors want a reliable, stylish and easy-to-use feature phone according to a study conducted by IPSOS for Doro. Additional statistics reveal that most people over age 65 report experiencing vision problems, while 29 percent report some level of hearing loss and 42 percent report challenges with gripping and handling objects.”

The solution? A phone with bigger buttons, a large visual display (with adjustable font size) and a handset that’s easy to hold, along with excellent audio quality (according to the release) and hearing aid compatibility.

I spoke last week with Jerome Arnaud, President and CEO of Doro, who called all the way from France to talk up his new product. He was quick to draw my attention to the phone’s user-friendly features, particularly the one-touch emergency text and call feature.

“For personal safety and security, we have an emergency button on the back of the phone, allowing the user to send a text message to relatives and call them as well, in sequence,” Arnaud said. “You just press one button and the phone automatically sends a text message and then calls a preregistered number in the phone. It will answer in hands free mode so the caller can respond, even if they can’t hold the phone. It also comes with a GPS inside, which allows authorities to locate the user no matter where they are, as long as they have a signal.”

These are notable features, given the tragic stories we occasionally hear about seniors who fall, injure themselves and are unable to get up. Keeping this phone handy could save one’s life.

The phone also comes with a camera and flash, flashlight and FM radio receiver. (And that’s an innovation – I know of no other phone with an actual built-in radio. Most use applications and Internet streaming to receive radio signals.)

The phone has text messaging capability and can send photo attachments. It’s a locked device, so you can’t add new applications and functions – a liability for the younger set but probably an asset for older users, who want simplicity from their phones.

But what about those boomers who are already comfortable with smartphone technology, but as they age are encountering problems with dexterity, vision and hearing?

“That is something we are working on as well,” Arnaud said. “We launched our first smartphone in Europe last year and are now working on simplifying the smartphone in a similar way… we will announce more on that later.”

The Doro comes in two styles: the 620, which is a clam shell or flip phone, and the more durable, one-piece 520X. The 520X has a slightly better camera – three MP versus two in the 620 – but otherwise they have similar features.

Rogers is the only carrier offering the phone in this province, so signal availability outside the Northeast Avalon will be an issue. The phone is priced at $100 for a straight purchase, or $20 on a two year contract, which can range from $18 monthly (100 minutes, voice only) to $30 (200 minutes, unlimited texting). These are senior plans but Rogers doesn’t ID its subscribers – the phone and plans are available to customers of any age.

Doro kindly shipped a tester unit but it did not arrive in time for this column and that’s probably just as well – I don’t have space to elaborate in more detail or the time to properly try out the product. Perhaps I will identify someone in their target market – I’m not quite there yet – and get some firsthand, practical observations on how well the phone actually works.

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