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Senior Friendly Guide to Smartphones

Elder Friendly Features of a Smartphone:

Simple Interface, Lightweight, Bluetooth, Large LCD Screen, Easy to Use Buttons

Smartphones are more than just your typical cellphone. They are equipped with advanced operating systems, relatively larger displays,and QWERTY keyboards. Smartphones are surely preferred over traditional cellphones if you need access to email account on the go, want a device to keep track of your contacts and schedule, or just plan on browsing the web from remote locals. You also have easier, quicker access to news, games, multimedia, and weather information. In addition to calling functionality, smartphones offer the the most basic features of a personal computer.

Currently, over 45.5 million people in the United States own smartphones; it also happens to be the fastest growing segment of the mobile phone market. It is no wonder that general interest for many seniors has started to shift from basic, bear-bone phones like the Jitterbug towards smartphones. Of course though, not all smartphones are made equally. When looking for a new smartphone, there are a variety of features which seniors should be aware of. Seniors are prone to a variety of age-related deficiencies and bio-mechanical problems; to a certain extent, there are a number of features that can help compensate for these sorts of problems.

What to Look For in a Smartphone:

I. Simple Interface –
Generally speaking, smartphones are a bit harder to operate than traditional cellphones. With so many options for functionality, it is no surprise that efficiently maneuvering a smartphone might be a bit difficult for certain seniors who aren’t familiar with the technology. Though, it doesn’t always have to be this way. Certain smartphones are designed with ease of use in mind. Seniors with relatively slow cognitive processing might want to look for a smartphone with simple, easy to use, intuitive navigation.

The iPhone 4

The iPhone is known for a number of admirable features, like its apps and wonderful customer service. Though we should note that it is a pretty darn easy phone to use as well. It only has one button, the home button, and the rest of it works off a touch screen. Apps icons are color coded and arranged to help maximize identification. Overall, the design is quite intuitive; making calls and sending texts can be done in two to four clicks.

II. Lightweight –

Word to the wise about smartphones; you don’t want the unit to feel cumbersome or weigh you down. While smartphones are equipped with a number of interesting and useful features, they also have the potential to be infamously heavier than your typical traditional cellphone. The fact of the matter is that users need to move the phone around with ease, whether that be up to the ear to talk or up to the eyes to take a picture. Thus, for seniors who might have weak muscles, we suggest that they look for lightweight models. In terms of lightweight, it seems as if anything that weights less than a pound is a solid purchase. Palm Pre Plus The Palm Pre Plus is a gem for seniors who might want a lightweight smartphone. It weighs under a pound but by no means does it skimp on additional features. It has a great camera, a good speaker system, a reliable keyboard. Surely recommended if you are looking for a new quality smartphone but don”t want to feel like you are lugging around a bag of bricks. III. Bluetooth – Broadly speaking, Bluetooth functionality refers to wireless technology that allows one to exchange data over short distances. In references to smartphones, Bluetooth has two main functions: a wireless bluetooth headset allows you to engage in a conversation on your headset and a Bluetooth synced cars allows you to have a conversation while driving through the car”s stereo system. Both cases help to make life easier for aging adults, who don”t need to worry about holding up  phone to a his/hear respective ear. This is particularly important for driving seniors, who should always keep both hands on the wheel while driving. In sum, we deem effective Bluetooth functionality on a smartphone a senior friendly feature. HTC Droid Incredible Android Phone Known as one of the best smartphones on the market, the HTC Droid Android Phone comes equipped with effective Bluetooth capabilities. Specifically, the phone supports Bluetooth v2.1+ EDR, which allows for easy connection with hand-free headsets and speakerphones. IV. Large LCD Screen – It is no real surprise as to why seniors might want to look for a smartphone with a large LCD screen. A decline in eyesight happens to accompany the aging process and one might have a more difficult time reading text. Large LCD screens for a smartphone can help compensate for this age-relate sight decline. Thus, we suggest that you look for screens that measures at least three inches diagonally. HTC Touch HD The screen on the HTC Touch HD measures 3.8 inches diagonally, which is far and away larger than most comparable screens. The text — whether that be numbers or letters — are easy to read and the icons and pictures are easy to identify. We would also like to note that the large screen nicely compliments the 5 megapixel camera for still photos and video. V. Easy to Use Buttons – While many smartphones comes equipped with touchscreens (see the iPhone for example), for some seniors the touchscreen interface is too difficult to effectively use. Because declines with eye-hand coordination frequently accompanies age, one who can”t properly use a touch screen but still wants to have a smartphone can opt for the keyboard option. A good smartphone QWERTY has buttons that are large enough to see and soft enough to press, though still outlined by a definite shape. BlackBerry Bold 9700 Phone The BlackBerry Bold 9700 features a full 35-key QWERTY keyboard, with buttons that are easy to identify and simply enough to activate. The buttons are  slightly raised and come equipped with ridges, which enables the user to physically differentiate between each button. We should also note that when you press down on a button, your push is met with spring-like feedback.

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7 Responses to Senior Friendly Guide to Smartphones

  1. jane haman March 4, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    big drawback with the above mentioned HTC Touch HD smart phones is that you have to download the manual. First, for the money spent, I want the whole manual in the box not just the quick start guide and second this manual is 200-300 pages! Ridiculous to suggest this is easy to use for seniors.

  2. TonyDonaldson March 4, 2011 at 12:24 pm #


    Though I agree that 299 pages is excessive for a manual, Android phones are easy enough to use that with a simple demonstration, most people, even seniors, can navigate them and use them without the manual. Smartphones still have a way to go before they’re absolutely simple to use, but with the interface, they’re not that hard.

    I just looked up the manual, it is 299 pages. It does cover almost everything, but most of what you need is in the first part of the manual. I’m not totally defending HTC nor Google for the complexities of the Android and that particular phone. Senior or not, if you’re not comfortable with a device that can do so many things, you are better off with a simpler flip phone. Choosing any device is a matter of thinking what you want to do, then finding a device to help you do it.

  3. TrudiN August 23, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    I’m rather relieved there are seniors that are starting to make use of touch screen phones, and smart phones, although, for all intensive purposes I can’t see my mother making use of even half the capapbilities available to smart phone users. I would love to ween my mother off her SVC tracfone, which although excessively cheap, and basic, I do think she would benefit from the apps available on the market, and wouldn’t actually be paying all that much more. As is tracfone have just added some android driven phones, and if I can convince her that the monthly cost would be the same, she could use the wifi to be even more in contact (at the same price of her monthly SVC plan). – make sense?

  4. Greta Lee November 21, 2011 at 3:41 am #

    I think this website, while useful, is offensive — it constantly talks about the “deficiencies” of seniors (no ages mentioned), as if we’re all physically and mentally incompetent. Hello — we’re not dummies and we don’t appreciate condescension. Please get yourselves a good editor who can describe smartphones and other gadgets that are easier to use and can respect the reader while doing it. As an occasional professional editor, I’ll even volunteer for the job.

  5. doctablade December 18, 2011 at 5:44 am #

    I do agree seniors have, at times, special needs. I know I do.

    And I’m not that old!

    For me with my narrow peripheral visiion, a touchscreen droid x works exceptionally well.

    I was reading this doing research on what to get my mother. And I can’t tell you what she has because of HIPAA. But now I know to look for simplicity of use. I can program her touch screen to call son, call Mrs.doctablade, call office, call intercom. etc. but the fewest options that she has to contend with at a time, the better. Large physical buttons would be great too, but not a physical QWERTY.. That feature was not presented?

    Every patient with illness, regardless of age can tap into the technology available that makes their life more accessible.

  6. E. Ward March 8, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    Here, Here for Gerta Lee!

  7. Linders Hansen March 9, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    Max Baumgarten wrote a useful article that courteously mentions multiple ways in which various functions of the body decline with age and which phones are helpful. My BS detector only went up having to listen to the rants of a PC-afflicted ageist threatened by honesty. There was absolutely nothing offensive about the authors’ inclusions, nor does he ever condescend to seniors with typical age-related impairments in a fashion that could be termed dummying-down. I’m just 51 yrs old and was grateful for this article.

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