Some time ago I looked at how the senior market lags behind early adopters.

Back then I looked at 3G but the principal can similarly be applied to smartphones. There have been rumblings for a while, not least the interesting work Ribot is doing with the Threedom phone which gives an easy to use, three button user interface to Android phones. Threedom is very interesting but not yet commercial.

There is an explanation of Threedomphone here

Threedom – Friends from ribot on Vimeo.

What makes 2013 special is that there are two Android based Smartphones specifically aimed at seniors being launched. The Doro 740 is much anticipated and was arguably the star of the Mobile World Congress in 2012. A slider with a big keypad it’s a smartphone where you don’t have to use the touchscreen, and when you do use it there is no pinching, swiping or other action that requires excessive dexterity.

The Doro 740 has a simple user interface

The Doro 740: Android like you've never seen it before. The User Interface ahs been built from the ground up to be simple and easy to use.

The new entrant into the UK is Fujitsu, a company which has been making senior phones in Japan for a very long time. These sell on the Raku-Raku service, which is aimed at older users. The word “Raku” is usually translated to mean “easy”, but it can also mean “comfortable”, and the first Raku-Raku smartphone is simply called the Fujitsu Raku-Raku Smartphone. It’s been on sale in Japan since August and is coming to Europe and the US soon, although it will be significantly modified and may well bear a different name.

To enable users not acquainted with a touchscreen to operate the phone with the same ease-of-use as a conventional mobile phone, the screen is configured to detect differences between a finger stroke and a tap. When the user touches an icon, the colour of the icon will change to let the user know that it has been selected, and if they continue to press the icon, the phone will vibrate to confirm the selection. The handset is able to discern when a user is scrolling or when they are performing a touch operation, helping to reduce mistakes and improve accuracy of input. Even if the user’s fingers accidentally touch the edge of the screen, it will not result in mistaken input and interfere with operations. This lets users grasp the unit firmly. When users use the phone with a single hand they  often accidentally press the area below the button they want to push because they are looking at the button, not their hand. Omakase Touch automatically corrects the user’s input to ensure that the correct button is pressed, helping to reduce input mistakes.

As with the Doro 740, the Fujitsu has a closed ecosystem, it comes with a number of bespoke applications aimed at seniors and you cannot download applications from Google Play.

The phone has a  loud-volume telephone receiver speaker that provides clear sound and adjusts to eight settings for clear voice reception with minimal distortion. It also offers a built-in “Echo Cut” feature, even when using the phone in a place where sound echoes, the handset cancels out reverberation from the voice transmission. Another feature is the AWASERU VOICE 2 which corrects the audio based on hearing relating to age, SUPER HAKKIRI VOICE3 which enhances clarity, YUKKURI VOICE which slows down the speed of a user’s voice, and other basic Raku-Raku Phone functions.

The launch is part of Fujitsu’s expansion strategy. Although Fujitsu was at the top in mobile phone shipments, including smartphones, in Japan in fiscal 2011, “As the Japanese market has already hit a peak, we have to sell devices overseas to increase our sales numbers.” Said Fujitsu president, Masami Yamamoto.

There is an excellent look at the phone here:

I’ll post details of pricing and availability when I have them.

 

Simon Rockman