THE BLOG

New Gadgets for Seniors Emerge From 2014 Mobile World Congress

03/03/2014 16:05 GMT | Updated 30/04/2014 10:59 BST

In Barcelona, at this year's Mobile World Congress, a smattering of new gadgets have emerged to titillate technophobes. While most mobile-makers at MWC are concerned with piquing the interests of early adopters, this year's MWC has showcased a number of gadgets and gizmos designed with a different customer in mind - the older generation.

A recent article in the Financial Times asserted that older people were some of the fastest to take up internet banking, and supported this notion with some stellar research from Deloitte. Banks such as Barclays now have their own digital champions to help older people who are new(ish) to the web to get up to speed with carrying out ordinary activities online that the rest of us take for granted.

What's clear from this is that too many of us are underestimating silver surfers and, in particular, how much they are using and need to use the web in their daily lives. With this in mind, it's worth examining what's on offer for older people at this year's MWC - namely, phones.

First up, it's German company Emporia Telecom. Known for bringing phones to the over-60s market, its latest offerings are the new emporiaEUPHORIA, emporiaGLAM and emporiaPURE handsets.

The aim is obviously not on aesthetics (although the clamshell Glam does look sleeker than its siblings) or having all the latest flashy apps. Emporia seems to be pioneering the preservation of 'tactile buttons', which are easier for older users who may have poor or limited eyesight or arthritic conditions.

Research by Emporia showed that three in 10 smartphone users over the age of 40 said they dial the wrong number more often with a touchscreen - I'm sure many under 40s would probably agree - and 38% prefer to make calls using a traditional phone with keys.

What's good about the Emporia brand, is its willingness to take on board this feedback while its peers are all about touchscreen mobiles. However, it has combined both a touchscreen and a keypad in some of its models, which could prove confusing for users.

What clear is that Emporia has designed some well thought out gadgets. The Euphoria and Pure phones have clever safety buttons on the back - press this button once and it will call five user-defined numbers until someone answers and help can be sent for. Although I can't help but wonder if, in an emergency, you wouldn't just dial 999.

Also on show at this year's MWC is the rather bizarrely named Yezz Andy AZ4.5. Run on an Android platform, Yezz Andy's unique selling point is its tiled touchscreen interface that 'talks' as you touch - reading out numbers as you dial them for example.

Like Emporia's phones, it has an SOS button on the back that can be set to call someone or send a text message to up to 10 people.

It's not without fault, however. Whilst on 'elderly mode' most of the time, Yezz Andy trips up when users try to add apps using the Google Play Store. This has not been in anyway altered for easier access, which may lead to confusion for those new to smartphones.

It's good that headway is being made in the field of gadgets for older people, but there is still a good deal of work and research to be done in order to get the very best for those who need it - and ensure silver gadget offerings aren't low-tech or patronising.

My own device, the tablet service Breezie, is constantly evolving, and that would not be possible without feedback from the very people who use it - the older generation. Late-adopters aren't to be ignored.