The Smartphones For Senior Citizens
As a young senior citizen who understands a bit about new technologies, I wish to share with my fellow young once and/or their “guardians” (children and grandchildren who provide the gadgets to their parents/grandparents and guide them in their use of the technology) some tips in choosing the right smartphones for us. We, the senior citizens, need cellphones in our daily communications with relatives, friends and acquaintances through voice and data using the gadget. By voice communication, I mean making and receiving calls while data communication refers to Short Messaging System (SMS) or texting and participation in social media.
The first mobile phone call was demonstrated in USA in 1973 but it was only in 1989 that the cellular phone service was made available in the Philippines and only to few subscribers who can afford the expensive units and the per-minute charge on the calls made using technology. The early analog units can only make voice calls so there was practically no difference in using them compared to the old black phones. If there is any what you may call difficulty in using the early analog cellphones, it could be the entry of the contact numbers into the phone memory. Other than that, there was no trouble for anyone, young and old, to learn using the analog cellphones.
The shift to digital technology in mid-1990s paved the way for the Short Message Service (SMS), more popularly known as “text messaging” or “texting”, as the cheaper way to communicate. Yes, it is cheaper to do texting than calling if you just need to relay information and not to discuss important matter that needs explanation and decision. Cheap but not easy to use, the SMS technology caused some users especially the older ones to experience learning difficulties that some people were not able to overcome.
Next comes the smartphones (iPhone, Blackberry, Windows and Android phones) in 2007 which in addition to voice calls and text messaging also support a wide variety of other services such as email, Internet access, short-range wireless communications (infrared, Bluetooth), business applications, gaming, and photography. These features plus more computing capabilities of smartphones make a steeper learning curve for even those senior citizens who can call and text using the cellphone models before the coming of the new tech gadget.
Smartphones are here to stay while the old digital feature cellphone models still in use today will soon be unusable because their batteries and chargers will no longer be available. So, what will happen to senior citizens who still need to communicate at the very least by calling or texting? Whether they like it or not, they will have to get hold of a smartphone and learn how to use it. So, what kind of smartphones must be used by them?
First, it should not matter whether a senior citizen will have iPhone, Blackberry, Windows or Android kind of smartphone. The learning curve is the same for all of them. What matters is the senior citizen’s commitment to learn how to use it. It is also important to emphasize that they don’t need to learn how to use all the functions and features of the smartphone that they will own and use. It’s enough that they learn to use their smartphone to make and receive calls, compose and send text messages plus receive and reply to text messages sent to them. To be able to use Facebook and other social media will be bonus or reward for their talent and dedication in learning the lessons to be given by their guardians.
With the above said, let me now enumerate the important matters to consider in choosing the smartphones for senior citizens:
- Size of Screen – A smartphone with screen size of 4-1/2″ to 5-1/2″ and 16:9 ratio should be easy to hold and more readable to a senior citizen.
- Signal Strength of Service Provider - Check the signal strengths of the different cellphone companies at the residence of the senior citizen. Get a subscription from the one that has a descent signal and a service provider most common to the other members of the family.
- Type of Subscription – As much as possible, get an affordable postpaid subscription for a senior citizen’s use. This is to avoid the inconvenience of loading a prepaid account and the big initial expense in buying the unit. Smartphones with the recommended screen size can be had for free for as low as Ph₱350.00 monthly postpaid plan that goes with unlimited calls and texts to subscribers of the same service provider.
Lastly, my experience revealed that cellular phone companies have some requirements that many senior citizens cannot provide if the postpaid account will be applied under their names. In such a case, the postpaid subscription will have to be in the name of a guardian or last option will be for a prepaid subscription with the smartphone unit to be bought in cash.