The Stylistic SO1, a smartphone for seniors has been announced by Orange France. There have been rumblings that Fujitsu was planning an announcement for its Raku-Raku based Android phone which has been very successful in Japan. Ice Cream Sandwich has been given a  user interface   layer which includes extra large buttons and a simplified layout.

The Stylistic has one hard key and is a full touchscreen phone, but includes a number of senior friendly technologies. The screen requires a button-like press to avoid accidental input. It’s quite common for people not familiar with touch screens to brush other parts of the screen while trying to tap on a particular icon and this can lead to unexpected results. The Stylistic needs a definite push in the right place and then provides tactile feedback.
Audio has been made senior friendly, our hearing typically takes a dive in out fifties and the Fujitsu phone slows the speech and lowers the tone of the audio. This is something Raku-Raku does in the network and it will be interesting to see how well it works in the handset and with a language other than Japanese.

The market for phones for seniors has been much overlooked outside of Japan, where it has been a huge success. Orange France, which has been under significant pressure from low cost rivals needs to explore new areas. The French MVNO Bazile  has been quietly successful in the senior market and Orange as the host network will have seen this.

The first raku raku phone for Europe
It’s a great opportunity for Fujitsu which has a deep understanding of the senior market and some great sensing and health care technologies to roll out into a market where differentiation is very difficult for new Android entrants.
There are some significant challenges, perhaps the greatest is staff training. When Vodafone launched the “Simply” handset, skewed at older users they invested significant resources in staff training. Orange has not announced anything about the service element of the deal but they will need to do something similar and perhaps look at a custom tariff and helpline. The phone will support “Orange et Moi” which is an online account management feature but this will need to be designed in an inclusive way if it is to be right for the target market.

Vodafone has also been looking at the Senior Smartphone market with the Smart Accessibility Awards  but there is a danger that both companies are being too ambitious, research from Forresters showed that in the US only 8% of seniors had a smartphone and only half of those had downloaded an app.
It’s hasn’t been said if users will be able to download apps from Google Play, the usual practice in the senior market is to have a closed ecosystem to ensure apps are easy to use. Swedish manufacturer Doro has been doing this for a few months with the Android based Doro 740.

The Stylistic S01 launches in France in June.