July 8, 2010

Just5: Cell phones for Luddites?

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They say they're targeting seniors, children, and the vision- and hearing-impaired, but Just5's new mobile phone line is really best explained as a talking device for Luddites.

"We want to open mobile phones to specific populations that may have difficulty using the latest and greatest mobile gadgets, especially the current generation of 'baby boomers' who need a safe, reliable phone," Alex Petrov, vice president of operations at Just5 Americas, said in a news release.

Just5 version 10

Just5 version 10 is due out in the U.S. in about three months.

(Credit: Just5)

Here's the setup. Just5 phones boast big buttons. They can be turned up louder than the average celly. An emergency SOS button can be preset with five phone numbers (i.e. 911, doctor, relative, etc.). It can send and receive calls and text messages, and it has Bluetooth and an FM radio. And that's about it.

Moreover, the company's newest version 10--out in Europe and coming to the U.S. in about three months--has no new features, only a bigger screen and a look Petrov tells me is going to be "a little more hypey," which may or may not be the word he intended to use.

It's an interesting strategy. Make a phone whose purpose is to function for people who don't know how modern phones work, and continue to come out with new and unimproved versions. It reminds me of that Steak & Shake ad: Unimproved since 1934.

To be fair, Just5 phones might be ideal for people with vision and hearing loss, or medical conditions that require constant and easy communication with health care providers. In this regard, Just5 has found a great niche market. (It's even won design and branding awards.)

But how big is this market, really? To say that it's for seniors and kids is frankly insulting to seniors and kids. My 82-year-old grandpa hosts his own podcast on robotics, and my 2-year-old nephew can navigate his way through an iPhone without yet being literate.

So proceed with caution if you're thinking of gifting one to grandma. It could be the equivalent of giving a Dummies Guide to someone who isn't a dummy at all.

We are moving rapidly forward with iPhone 4, Android 2.x and Windows Phone 7, yet there is a class of users who need just basic phone capabilities and this fills that gap remarkably.

Posted via email from Thinking In Visuals

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