Friday, July 20, 2007

Firms snub 'mobile for elderly

According to the BBC, UK stores are refusing to stock a mobile handset aimed at the elderly because it "fails to fit their customer target", says the phone's distributor.

Charities for the elderly have accused the mobile industry of ageism.

"We are in discussion with a number of retailers, but particularly when it comes to the mobile networks, they find it hard to see where this kind of device fits within their brand," said the MD of the UK distributor.

"Currently they're very much driven by the youth market or the business sector because that's where they make their revenue. It's difficult to see where a product like this would fit within their portfolio," he added.

O2 (a large mobile network provider) denies any accusation that it is discriminating against older people.

"That is absurd. We already offer a handset (Jet handset) that is ideally suited to older people. We don't directly market it at them because that would be a bit patronising," said an O2 spokeswoman.

As a good consultant I sit somewhere in the middle on this issue. The phone is supposedly targeted at the 50-plus. From the look of the thing (not the most atheistic device I have ever seen) it is really designed for the 70-plus. Also, it is expensive.

O2’s claim that the Jet handset is – “ideally suited to older people” – is plain daft. All of the reviews I have read about the phone stress it is for the ‘businessman’. O2 needs to employ some new copy writers if it thinking this list of ‘top features’ are going to set the hearts of older people racing:
- Exceptionally long battery life
- Quick keys for features such as Bluetooth
- 65k colour screen
- Bluetooth & Quadband
- Includes docking station, in-car charger & protective skin
Bottom line is this. The phone is probably ideal to the technologically averse 70-plus. Is this a worthwhile market sector – probably? If O2 has got any sense it will be the good citizen and either stock the thing or refer enquiries to another supplier and stop suggesting that the Jet phone is an alternative. It could even think creatively about cross subsidizing the phone by offering a deal to get the older person’s children onto the O2 network. Dick Stroud

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