Thursday, January 7, 2010

And the time to explore it

I see Laurie Orlov was also posting about phones the other day, ( and she has a great quote from a woman who loves her smartphone but notes "I've been retired for seven years so I have the time and patience to play with all the stuff on the phone." This brought up two thoughts related to my Nexus/iPhone post.

First, the quote seems to reinforce that the affection for "all the stuff" came after the purchase of the phone and was discovered because she had the time to play around. The phone is a source of entertainment. I've noticed for years that those of us in the middle, heavily involved in our work lives, are the ones who are the least adept at our gadgets because we have the least time and inclination to explore.

And this reminded me of a trend in the adoption of digital photography. Even before digital cameras became mainstream, consumer photo quality scanners and inkjet printers and related software applications made their way to the affordable end of the market. And, it was commonly the grandparents who adopted the technology first. They began to use them to make calendars, albums and cards using their travel pics and particularly pictures of the grandkids. It was the 50+ crowd that was often at the forefront this adoption cycle, with many of the rest of us only adopting once it had gone mainstream and one was built into every phone.

So, to temper my last post, perhaps time is a factor here--will we see a rapid uptake in more user friendly smartphones not because of specific applications, but because the abundance of apps is inherently an entertainment and relaxation opportunity for those with the time to play with it?

And, once they become mainstream in this way, will they start to serve more age specific purposes like monitoring, fall alert, etc?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Google Nexus and Apple iPhone—assistive tech?

I was following the hoopla about the new Google Nexus phone and happened to notice the image on the Google site—this phone’s user appears to be “helping Grandpa get his tech on.” (It's down next to the weather icon.) It got me thinking, are these new generations of phones particular well suited to the aging among us? Could Google even be targeting the new phone for such users?

ElderGadget ( has posted several related articles on Elder Friendly iPhone and iTouch apps. I like what I see in that most of the applications are not things designed just for “old people” but rather are apps intended to be mainstream but with particular application or pertinence for seniors. Brain Games, for example, are stimulation exercises that can benefit anyone, but brain stimulation does have particular merit for seniors. While the original post fell into the trap of focusing primarily on health and emergency related apps, later posts have branched out to include apps for relaxation and mood lifting.

But, don’t I really have to be an iPhone user before I would experience these apps and find them useful? I’m not sure that many seniors would adopt the iPhone form factor in order to get the apps. The would adopt the iPhone for the same reasons people of any age will—because it is fun, interesting, engaging, well marketed and “cool.” But if there is anything about the iPhone, Nexus or their emerging ilk that does anything inherently to be more age appropriate and “help grandpa get his tech on” is that they have larger screens and single touch, icon driven operation rather than the small keypads and screens of more traditional cell phone offerings. It’s the basic design that provides the real benefit.

The Wii has generated widespread adoption in senior communities because the interface and opened up a whole world of virtual activities that seniors can easily adopt. I’m not sure that the touch screen interface of the newest phones has married to the software to the same degree.