A while ago it was released that Prince William showed his granny, the Queen, how to use social networks. Surely, you have found yourself in the same situation with your granma who after getting used to them was able to reconnect with childhood friends or (if the woman is a widow and young-spirited enough) spark again the flames of love with her old teenage sweetheart. She would be delighted and amazed with the so-called “technology progress” instead of ranting about how difficult the whole thing is, right? Once old people has learnt the basics of some gadgets or applications is easier for them to see the advantages technology brings to their lives. But, first of all, those products must be accesible and easy to understand to make that learning possible in any circumstance, because you won’t always be there to help your elder ones. Mobile devices are a classic example of this.
For mobile manufacturers, simplicity and usability has always been a must, especially when it comes to reach the over 55-year-old target in the market. It was like that in the pre-smartphone era and it is like that now in this deep blue see of touchscreen devices and apps. While most devices are becoming more and more sophisticated, pushing the boundaries of design and software, manufactures seems to stop that progress when they made products to cover the old age. Tacky design, big, thick buttons and fewer features ala Alcatel One Touch Easy are still the main parts of a trinity in which simplicity overshadows everything else in order to achieve a good perfomance by old people. In our opinion, this implies a high risk of exclusion and, most importantly, a handicap to improve 55+ smartphone usage. Let’s ilustrate this point with some lovely data.
According to Nielsen last report, related to the third quarter of 2011, 55-64 age group reached a 30% of usage in the United States while 65+ oldies figures drop to 18%. These data are far way from the commercial groups: 18-24, in which the penetration rate is 54%; 25-34, with the highest numbers (62%); and 35-44, with almost the same result as the young adults slot (53%). In the middle of nowhere is the 45-54 group, that reached an 39%. But what is most striking is the evolution of this figures from the last quarter of 2010 to the last quarter of 2011: every age group grew an average rate of 15%, with exceptional cases located precisely in the elder slots. On one hand, there is the most promising growth in the 55-64 target that practically doubled the results of 2010 (from 17% to 30%), but on the other hand, there is a much less ambitious improvement in the 65+ group with just an 8% of difference in between (from 12% to 18%). Still, this latter one is a great figure for only one year, but it pales in comparison to rest of age groups.
So, what to do? Simply (or challenging) as to reach a balance and making more intuitive and more battery-wise durable devices adapted to old people’s needs but at the same time keeping the smartphone fancy design. This is not a matter of buttons vs. screens, but a matter of combine the best of both worlds in order to introduce a supposedly reluctant audience to a new landscape of possibilities that may improve their everyday life. Said possibilities, of course, also have to come in app packages aimed to this purpose. In Androidzoom you can already find tons of game apps targeted to children and parents as creative games to keep them entertained, so it would be excellent to find something similar indicated for their grandparents. Mind games to work out mental and arithmetic skills are not breaking news, but so it would be an app that allows them to monitor their pill plans, schedule their next doctor appointments, or even record their medical history. In short: something handy that allows them to be as independent as possible. Or doesn’t your granny or granpa sometimes shush you to let them stand up by themselves?
Mobile companies, app developers and public and private institutions have a great playfield to work on and keep innovating.
Mar G.P. is our latest incorporation as editor and reviewer. She’s taken it seriously.