Time： 2018-05-09 11:41:27
Features that characterize cell phones for seniors (called as senior phones in this article) to date are still large print, big buttons, high-volume speaker, and hearing-aid compatible (HAC). These features have been around for several years. It's a pity that few of innovative features are added into senior phones while tremendous changes from APP store to FaceID in iphone X have taken place for smartphones. The lack of progress for senior phones is because people in mobile industry were too involved in competition of smartphones. While competition of smartphones gets more intense, there must be companies like us that start to focus in niche markets, which will benefit the industry of senior phones and senior electronics. How will senior phones evolve in the future? And what do companies need in order to win the competition of senior phones?
Image: Big buttons of senior phones
Image: Large print of senior phones
1. Equip senior phones with more features specific for the seniors
What is highly anticipated is that senior phones will be integrated with more features designed for the seniors and their family members. Phones, as a tool to communicate, are the most common electronics for the seniors; therefore, adding more values into senior phones lead to a much less cost to educate the seniors than creating a completely new electronic product. As long as the features can solve the seniors' pain points, they can be possibly integrated to phones.
Take several uncommon features from first-tier senior phones as examples. GPS helps locate the seniors and ensure that help is sent to the right place when an emergency happens, which thus brings peace of mind to their family members.
Remote control allows designees (most likely family members of the seniors) to change settings of senior phones from afar, which offers a way for the family members to help the seniors when needed.
Currently, these features are only available in the mobile phones provided by first-tier brands, such as Doro from Europe and Jitterburg from the US. Technologies behind these features above come from diverse domains other than just telecommunications. Therefore, in order to spread out these features and keep designing innovative ones, brand owners who understand market needs have to collaborate closely with product developers (most likely in Shenzhen, China) expertized in product development and manufacture. Work flow of traditional mobile phone industry (from IDHs to ODM/OEMs to traders and finally to brand owners) cannot be employed in this case. The traditional work flow includes so many companies that poor communication may occur and even lead to product failure. It must be the brands with full support of experienced product developers that will win the competition of senior phones.
Image: Traditional work flow of mobile phone development is not suitable for innovation
2. Connect senior phones to more health sensors to address health concerns
What's next after senior phones are equipped with innovative features to benefit the seniors more? Health is one of the most important concerns of the seniors and their family members. Moreover, it's also the concern disturbing governments. According to UN report, the number of people over 80 years old is going to triple by 2050 globally. China, a developing country, has over 2.2 billion of its population as over 60 years old now.
Image: UN World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision
What's worse is that working age population is decreasing relative to seniors globally. Most of the governments are going to face the fiscal pressures caused by ageing population. Thus, digital healthcare will become extremely useful. Mobile phones can be connected to different health sensors, such as pedometer and blood pressure sensor. Accurate data from sensors will be sent to the cloud and be fully analyzed by machines or doctors. Deviation from regular patterns will be found and the seniors will be warned even before a health problem happens. Also, personalized advice can be offered. Therefore, ability of senior phones to interact with different health sensors (whether the sensors are embedded in or connected to the phones) and to connect to the cloud with AI will be the key elements to strengthen brand owners' products. Only with powerful products can brand owners attract more consumers, gather more data and have the opportunities to collaborate with different social or medical resources.
Again, in order to develop senior phones capable of interacting with different sensors and the cloud, brand owners must have full support of experienced product developers. Product developers must have experience playing around with different sensors to ensure that sensors can measure accurately and are power-efficient. Moreover, brand owners or their product developers must be able to integrate hardware and software resources well; otherwise, they cannot create the systematic solution discussed above.
3. Do not miss the opportunity of IoT and gradually become part of it
Smart home will be extremely helpful and provide seniors at home with comprehensive protection. Take the smart home solution provided by Hong Kong Senior Citizen Home Safety Association as an example. The system currently insists of smoke sensor and flood sensor. Just in case that the seniors fall asleep when they’re cooking and the bathroom is too wet and slippery.
To conclude, senior phones will gradually equip with different innovative features to solve pain points of the seniors and their family members. Next, senior phones will be connected to different health sensors as well as the cloud to help monitor the seniors’ health and to give personalized advice, which will ease the concerns of the seniors and their family members. Senior phones will become part of digital healthcare that reduce pressure due to ageing population faced by governments. In the anticipated future, senior phones will be part of the systematic approach to Smart Home and provide seniors at home with full protection and support. In this development process, brand owners need to fully collaborate with their product developers, re-design the work flow of product development to avoid poor communication, and integrate hardware and software resources so as to become the winner of this niche market.