Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Expanding Cell Phone Services for Seniors

The potential of senior citizens as a niche for mobile phone services became evident with the release of the Jitterbug cell phone that marketed as a simple device for the elderly. Mobile phone carriers have now launch programs directed towards seniors. These programs have also proven to be valuable not only to the elderly but also to those who have some sort of disability. Let us take a general look at the mobile phone services that are devoted to seniors.

Verizon Wireless is one of the carriers who have expanded on the concept of a cell phone for seniors. The carrier marketed it's own handset for older folks known as the Verizon Coupe or the UTStarcom Coupe 8630. This phone turned out to be popular even though it's a simple handset. It turned out that some consumers were not very interested in modern services like V CAST videos.

The carrier supplemented the Coupe with a wireless plan that is designed explicitly for seniors. Called the Verizon Nationwide 65 Plus offers 200 anytime minutes and 500 nights and weekends minutes for a monthly fee of only thirty dollars. Only seniors with the appropriate a proof of age can get this plan.

Sprint Nextel also made some steps to take advantage of the senior citizen market. However, the carrier opted to take a different approach and do not market to the elderly directly. Instead the carrier targets "basic communicators" and "voice dependents." These consumers are interested in no-frills handsets that are devoted to making calls.

Music downloads, web surfing and other high-end features are not the priority of these users. Sprint's Nextel Direct Connect phones like the Motorola ic502 have proven to be popular to seniors because they need to push one button to connect to family and friends.

Other Sprint phones that are not part of the Nextel Direct Connect like the Samsung M300 and Sanyo Katana II are considered good mobile phones for seniors. These handsets are no frills basic phones with big buttons that are ideal for frail persons.

Unlike Sprint, AT&T has been more aggressive in their campaign to attract senior cell phone users. For instance, the carrier launched the Senior Nation 200 plan which rivals Verizon's Nationwide 65 Plus as the best plan for the elderly. This plan offers similar features and pricing as Verizon's senior plan.

AT&T effort to reach senior cell phone users are not limited to wireless plans. The carrier has also embraced Universal Design. This is the practice of designing products and applications that are usable by the broadest possible range of consumers including the elderly.

This approach produced two senior-friendly products called the Mobile Magnifier and Mobile Speak. These are dessign to be beneficial for both customers with disabilities and senior citizens. Mobile Magnifier is a full-screen magnification application that helps users with poor eyesight while Mobile Speak is a screen reader that helps blind users detect useful information.

These are just some of the programs that have been created to cater to the needs of seniors. I'm sure that carriers will continue to develop devices and programs that will help senior citizens. I will feature this services in my future posts.

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