Smartphone Design: Asian and European Senior Citizens
A Japanese cell phone manufacturer needed to create a cell phone for the Asian and Western European senior citizen market. This company, a leader in worldwide smartphone sales, had made two other ‘senior’ cell phones in the past, but both had fallen flat in the sales department.
Rebel began by watching seniors over 74 years of age who use phones in their everyday lives. Many were still using landlines to make/receive calls, while a rare few were using iPhones like their children or grandchildren. But no matter what they were using or how proficient they were, their experiences remained true to the following:
- More than half were unfamiliar with the need to press a key to start a call. They wanted to simply pick up the phone and start talking or dialing.
- Seniors were used to hanging up a phone by putting it on a cradle of some sort; NOT by pressing an ‘end’ button.
- Most had trouble seeing detail on a smartphone due to small type or, more often, lack of proper contrast. Black text on a green background was OK (many caller ID stations still use this high-contrast lcd screen).
- 90% wanted to know who was calling them.
- Most did not possess the physical dexterity to manipulate apps, let alone a touch screen.
- All wanted an audible and tactile responses to accompany the press of any button.
- Many had a need for increased volume.
- Most wanted a phone that was easier to hold than most thin smartphones on the market.
- 75% of those tested wanted a speakerphone feature.
- Presets, address cards, calendars, and personal information about friends and family were absolutely UNimportant. Seniors don’t think of phones as a storage device for information.
The industrial designers at Rebel used these results to design our senior phone. We created a phone design 18mm thick with one small, green lcd screen for caller ID; very large hard-rubber buttons that made a pleasant-sounding beep when pressed, and a feature that hung up the current call by simply setting the phone down on any flat surface.
This phone comes with a charging cradle instead of a cable, and does not require a keypress to turn it on: lift it from the cradle and the user hears a (simulated) dial tone and the phone is ready to dial a number.
Sales recently exceeded every goal in Asia and Western Europe. While the phone was never made available in the United States, the design was purchased by Samsung in late 2017… so maybe we’ll see it here soon.