In terms of the amount of eager anticipation it brought, it ranked a close second behind the birth of the Royal Baby. I’m talking, of course, about the Apple’s latest iPhone launch.
In case you missed it, Apple announced yesterday the release of the iPhone 5C. This cheaper version of its flagship iPhone will allow Apple to win the favour of currently untapped markets like people who live in developing countries and, it has been speculated, the elderly.
Whether or not the Applie’s iPhone 5C smartphone catches on with seniors remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, when it comes to smartphones, older people have been slow to get on the bandwagon.
A 2013 survey by Pew Research Center found that while 56% of the American adult population own a smartphone of some kind, only 18% of Americans over the age of 65 own one. This discrepancy begs the question, why?
If you were to ask my husband, he’d tell you in a heartbeat that it’s because the screen display is too small. At 53, he hasn’t yet crossed into the category of “senior” but like many of us who are middle-aged and over, reading anything with small print is a challenge. Maybe reading a smartphone display is just too darn hard to make it worth the while of many seniors.
Laurie Orlov, the guru behind the Aging in Place Technology Watch blog thinks it has more to do with usability, or more accurately, lack thereof.
“The usability of smart phones is pitiful,” says Orlov. “I should know. I’ve had several in the past few years. And I am highly motivated to use the device, regardless of who makes it. I have pinched, swiped, pressed, zoomed, dragged icons around, tipped the device vertically and on its side. I’ve navigated to-from, here and there, and occasionally I even speak marginally well-understood instructions. I’ve searched blogs for tips on how to accomplish tasks. Each time, I’ve tried to shape the phone’s apps into the set of tools that I need to be comfortable. Each newer phone has sucked hours out of my life and tested my tolerance for frustration. As my angst has grown trying to make the phone do what I want (which, so help me, is to be more like the last phone that sits broken nearby), my hands begin to shake. I curse, I search for a manual. Oh yeah, there isn’t one with this phone – but you have the option to download it if you like. Why no manual? Because the arrogant nerds who develop and review the product think that its use is, and of course you know I am not kidding, absolutely intuitive. “
I offer a third hypothesis; perhaps it’s because older adults don’t understand what’s in it for them. Having lived with a phone for most, if not all, of their life, it’s not a big stretch to grasp the benefits of a mobile phone. But a smartphone? Some may wonder why they need such a “fancy” device and if Apple is indeed hoping to reach the large over 65 demographic who have yet to purchase their first smartphone, Apple may have to speak to them as much or more about functionality as about price.
What do you think? Why have seniors been slow to adopt smartphones?
– Posted by Karen