Mark Bridge writes:
Here’s a statement that’ll come as no surprise to anyone who works in the UK mobile industry.
For many people, their mobile phone isn’t just a communication device. It’s a personal statement.
Of course it is. Why else can you buy a gold-plated iPhone, a diamante-encrusted Blackberry or a Samsung Galaxy SIII in colours “inspired by the Earth’s richest materials”?
Then there’s the design. Are you working outside? Perhaps you’d like a rugged phone. Film buff? Choose a large screen and Dolby sound. Busy sending messages? You might want a QWERTY keyboard.
However, there’s one demographic that many manufacturers shy away from. Seniors. Older people. The aging population.
I can’t really blame many of those companies. Produce a device that’s tailored for people with age-related challenges and there’s a good chance you’ll be condemned as patronising. Even consumers who’d benefit from larger buttons and bigger on-screen icons don’t always want to admit it.
Doro is a company that’s successfully walking the tightrope between ‘too simple’ and ‘not practical’. Having originally started in the fixed-line business, it now produces a range of mobile phones that are sold in a number of countries. At one end of the scale is a handset that has four large buttons to store four essential contacts - and at the other is a touch-screen smartphone that goes on sale this month. I recently caught up with Chris Millington, managing director for Doro UK & Ireland, and asked him to explain more about the new device.
“This is the Doro PhoneEasy 740 - the product is designed to be an easy-to-use smartphone. It can do many different things; it’s a camera, it will also do email, internet access, and everything on the device is seamlessly backed up to the cloud. It’s therefore very easy to push information onto the device and from the device to other people. So if you wanted to share family pictures it’s incredibly easy, if you wanted to update your calendar you could do it from a computer or somebody could update it for you.”
“We recognise that not everybody can deal with touch-screens so we build in a keypad underneath; you slide the product up, you’re able to access an alphanumeric keypad. That means the buttons are nice and big and it’s easy to dial a number.”
However, even the best phones won’t sell particularly well if retail staff aren’t interested in talking about them. I asked Chris what kind of reaction he’d seen from retailers.
“When you first start off in this sector of the marketplace it’s clear that what people consider the ‘senior market’ is not exciting to an industry that’s looking at 4G and the fastest processors. So it’s been an interesting journey. We have people like Carphone Warehouse and O2 working really well with us, getting the staff to understand they shouldn’t talk down to a user group. Just because somebody doesn’t want a smartphone or wants something that’s easy to use doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy their device as much as anyone else does. So we’re working extremely well in partnership with key players and they’re able to get that message across. O2 are delighted, Carphone are delighted, Orange (Everything Everywhere) are absolutely delighted with the results they’re finding with our products, as are Tesco. The products are selling very well and the feedback that the retailers are getting is also extremely good.”
We went on to talk about Doro’s plans for smartphones and tablets, including the possibility of using Doro devices as part of a mobile healthcare or telecare solution in the future. You can listen to the full interview on our website audio player, via iTunes or by downloading the mp3 file.