You would have thought that the last people to need to worry about battery life were the users of big button mobile phones. While an iPhone struggles to get through a day, and any other smartphone is deemed to have great battery life if it lasts more than two days, something like the Doro 410 has a standby time of more than a couple of weeks.
The iPhone user dreams of having battery life approaching that of a big button mobile. The reason it doesn’t is the way the phone is used. Constantly looking for email, downloading applications – some of which then download data. And this changes the way you think about the phone. It’s so important to you, keeping it charged is very important. I’ve heard iPhone users talk about finding a power socket as being a life essential like sleeping or using the toilet.
Users of big button mobile phones have a very different attitude to their phone. If it goes flat it’s only a minor inconvenience. They can wait until they get home to make a call, and their friends know to try the landline if there isn’t an answer on the mobile.
You can see how mobile phone networks might have a problem with this. The mobile generation could happily live without their landline. It’s only in the house because they want broadband. If the phone rings they think “what’s that noise”. To the people who make financial and strategy decisions at the mobile phone networks customers hanging onto the landline is a disaster.
There is an obvious way to counter this: better battery life. If a phone lasted four weeks instead of two then it reduces the chance of the phone being flat. There are a number of ways to do this. One is a better antenna. When mobile phone networks were run by engineers the radio performance of the handset was paramount. Today they are run by marketing people and so what a phone looks like and brand have become the most important aspect. As a result the ability of a phone to be a phone has been subjugated by what it looks like.
Getting the radio performance right will help improve the battery life. So will looking at new screen technologies. One of the most promising is e-ink. It’s what is used in the screen of the Kindle, which should appeal to older users. The Amazon Kindle is unusual in that the early adopters are generally older members of the population. E-ink gives a very crisp display, it’s more like looking at print on paper than a screen. The downside is that it cannot be back-lit. It’s also fantastically low power. While a traditional phone screen needs power all the time, e-ink only needs a little bit of power when bits of it change.
But the real solution to making sure that an older person’s phone is always charged isn’t just to make it use less power. It’s about education. In some ways it’s easier for the iPhone user who has to plug their phone in as soon as they get home. It becomes routine. Even if the battery lasts five weeks it might be easier to remember to charge a phone every Friday than when necessary because ultimately people are creatures of habit.
Creating that charging habit means making it easy to do. Desktop chargers are a great way to do this. Many phones, including the Doro 610 and Geemarc CL8400 come with desktop chargers If all you have to do is drop the phone into a cradle by the front door when you walk in, it will be there and ready to go when you next walk out.
Emporia had a brilliant idea to promote this. The charging cradle for the Emporia RL1 big button mobile phone has a screw mounting so that the cradle can be fixed to the wall.
Even better is the Beafon S700. This has a desktop charger but it’s also a cordless home phone. That means it gets used regularly in the home and is kept charged. Adding the habit of picking it up and taking it with you is a very simple one to adopt. I’ve spoken to quite a few telephone companies who see this as the ideal way to get their less techie customers, mobile.