June 1, 2009
Design for Purpose: Handle Easy
PURPOSE: Cell phones for seniors
It is safe to say that seniors in the United States have an uneasy relationship with cell phones. One of the first products actually targeting them, the aesthetically uninspiring Jitterbug, has, like so many other “assistive” devices, the awkward look of an afterthought. But last November, the Swedish telecom company Doro introduced two notably refined options “for Baby Boomers and active seniors.”
The HandleEasy 330 is an unfussy four-inch brick with bold graphics, while the HandleEasy 326i, noticeably longer with plain-as-day keys, looks a bit like the handset of a home phone. “You cannot treat seniors as one group,” says Maria Benktzon, the accessibility expert from ErgonomiDesign who helped create the 326i, which is intended for elders with vision, memory, or dexterity impairments. It performs only the most basic tasks—sending and receiving calls—and its bells and whistles top out with four direct-dial buttons. An ear hook, available in the coming months, will make it hearing-aid compatible.
“The 330 is more about recognizing people who already use cell phones but are now beginning to struggle because that technology has small, fiddly buttons, complicated menus, and difficult-to-read displays,” says Chris Millington, Doro’s global sales manager. The 330 has additional features that younger seniors demanded: text messaging, an alarm clock, and an FM radio. Doro plans to expand its U.S. distribution and to introduce a new series of further simplified phones in the next six months. “Because this is such an untapped area, the learning curve is very steep,” Millington says. “Our products are always evolving.”
Design for Purpose: