Cell phones for seniors need to meet the needs of two distinct groups of users; there are those who have never used a cell phone in their life before, and there are seniors whose eyesight and dexterity is failing.
A cell phone lasts on average for two to three years. Of course most are replaced every year or less, by fashion conscious customers who must have the latest model. Every time you buy a new phone you have to get used to new menu systems, a new keyboard and new features. Having to set up a new phone is one reason that seniors are reluctant to change their cell phones. Any manufacturer who comes up with a system to import settings from a previous cellphone will be onto a winner.
It is very easy to forget that a cell phone's main purpose is to allow people to talk to each other when they are away from their homes. This is the main reason older people want a cell phone; they want to be able to talk to relatives and friends, and they want the assurance that they will never be out of contact if they fall or have an accident.
Cell phones have been targeted at young people, because this group spend a lot of money on their cell phones, making more profits for the phone companies.
Older users have been largely ignored until the past few years. Phones have become smaller and smaller, with buttons so small that a 12 year old girl has trouble not pressing two buttons at once. Menus default to icons rather than a list of menu items. The icons are meaningless to most 40 year olds, let alone someone in their 80s.
That has now changed and there are now several cell phones specially designed for seniors. Basically, these phones are a lot more user-friendly than the fashionable ultra lightweight, ultra tiny phones that teenagers hanker after.
There are 3 cell phones for seniors available on the US market:
Pantech Breeze II (AT&T)
This phone has a blue body, 2 inches wide, 4 inches long (folded) and nearly three quarters off an inch thick (folded). It weighs 3.5 ounces. It claims a talk-time of up to 3 hours and has an email and Internet browsing capability.
It is clearly aimed at anybody with dexterity or eyesight problems it is not just a cell phone for seniors, it is for anybody who struggles to read tiny text displays and buttons. Its display screen is 2.2 inches across.
The Pantch Breeze cell phone for seniors has all the bells and whistles anyone could desire, including camera, video capability and a GPS that talks to you.
The cost depends whether you are looking to take it on a contract (Free on a 2 year contract) or if you want a no-commitment package ($189)
Samsung Haven (Verizon Wireless)
This phone is black, is 2 inches wide, a touch less than 4 inches long (folded) and just under three quarters of an inch thick. It weighs 3.5 ounces and claims a talk-time of up to 5 hours.
The Samsung Haven is a cell phone, period. It has no email or Internet browsing capability.
The cost is $40 with a 2 year contract
This phone is white, it is also 2 inches wide, 4 inches long (folded) and the same three quarters of an inch thick (folded). It weighs 3.9 ounces. No information is available on claimed talk-time. The phone has a 2 inch display and very large, easy to read keys.
This is another basic cell phone, perfect for seniors who value simplicity of design and purpose.
The cost is $75 from Amazon, with no contract
Those are the only three cell phones for the Senior market currently available (October 2010) but two more phones are expected to be released shortly
This phone is black, marginally narrower than the phones above at 1.92 inches wide, marginally longer at 4.05 inches long and a lot thinner at 0.58 inches thick.
This is NOT a folding phone. It looks like a child's first calculator, with large, clear buttons, but the display is quite small.
Not many details are available, except it is a quad-band phone and cost is expected to be around $120 unlocked
PCD CDM 8635 (US Cellular)
This phone is slightly narrower and shorter than the three currently available phones, at 1.9 inches wide and 3.9 inches long. It is almost a brick at 0.8 inches thick, though. Talk time is claimed to be slightly over 4 hours.
This is another folding phone design, with a built-in camera
Cost is expected to be around $160, unlocked
The choice of cell phones for seniors is still extremely limited and it is going to need the big players like Nokia to come onboard to encourage a bit of competition. These phones seem overpriced for the features they have. Seniors are being asked to pay more because they need a bigger phone, just as teenagers are forced to pay more because they want a smaller phone.