Smartphones for Seniors Get Little Traction
Demographics don't always correlate with the realities of the market. Smartphones for seniors seems an obvious niche given the expanding penetration rate of smartphones and the growing elderly population. However, it appears there's been limited demand for such devices.
Yesterday, Doro, a Swedish phone manufacturer specialising in handsets for seniors, reported that its smartphone makes up only 7% of its mobile device sales. The company's portfolio has several simplified, big-button feature phones and one smartphone: the Liberto 810. Doro has stripped away levels of complexity in its user interfaces and made the hardware large and clear, with screens optimised for older eyes and sound optimised for older ears.
The Liberto 810 is a 3G Android device tailor-made for seniors and their families. It has a four-inch 800 x 480 touch screen, a simple five-megapixel rear camera and front VGA camera, GPS and Wi-Fi, and runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean on a single-core 1 GHz processor. It's a few years behind its time, but the goal isn't to break new ground. What it lacks in horsepower it makes up for in ease-of-use — the user interface is a grid of large icons, and the home screen is optimized with quick access to three contacts. It retails for about $200, unsubsidized and unlocked.
What makes the Liberto 810 interesting isn't the hardware, but rather Doro's remote management service that enables the user's family to remotely maintain the smartphone. This includes the device's layout, contacts list and apps. It's an appealing feature which the company should highlight above the usual handset specs.
The fact that Doro finds few seniors upgrading from feature phones to smartphones isn't surprising. A converged device like a smartphone is likely to have limited appeal to the elderly, while dedicated feature phones are more similar to fixed-line phones. Many younger seniors such as those in their 60s have been using mobile technologies and the Internet for more than a decade. This means that many are already comfortable with smartphones — the modern-day older generation is hip and IT-ready. Given the large number of low-cost smartphones and tablets available, the window for smartphones optimised for seniors is closing.
Nonetheless, CCS Insight believes that handset makers and platform providers should pay attention to the ageing population and look to add features to their existing products which could benefit older users (see Phone-Makers Must Improve for an Ageing Population). It's important to cater to the realities of the market, and accessibility is about more than creating goodwill. Products on the market will now have to mature with their users.