Swedish consumer electronics company Doro has been targeting the senior market with easy-to-use devices since 1974, and began offering easy-to-use mobile phones in the Fall of 2007. As a result, the company has a lot to teach the wireless health industry, which needs to find ways to successfully engage the older demographic since remote wireless monitoring has the potential to greatly impact that demographic’s well-being while reducing costs for the healthcare industry as a whole.
Who are these “seniors,” anyway?
“Even ‘seniors’ can not be called one group,” Doro’s CEO Jerome Arnaud told mobihealthnews during a recent interview. “We have to be much more accurate when determining our demographic. Age is often not the best criteria,” Arnaud said. “Of course, using age groups makes it easier to communicate so you may see that on some of our marketing, but when we design products we have a much more detailed demographic in mind. We clearly understand that within the group of people who are 75-years-old, there are sub groups with totally different social behaviors and activity levels. Some live in the countryside, while some live in cities.”
“Having said all that, we typically refer to our target ‘senior’ end users as those 65 and up,” Arnaud explained, “while our Baby Boomer group is 60[-years-old] at a max. That’s who we are targeting, but nothing prevents younger people, even teenagers, from buying our products if they are looking for an easy-to-use device. We have nothing against attracting new customers.”
Will the senior demographic always need easier-to-use mobiles?
Today’s 55-year-old businesspeople, however, are no strangers to smartphones. Will they ever need easier-to-use devices? Won’t the aging population become increasingly tech-savvy as the years go by?
Doro thinks the market for easy-to-use technology, especially for the older demographic, will not go away.
“Provided you can still use a BlackBerry or an iPhone at 80-years-old,” Arnaud said, Doro has “no interest in persuading you to do otherwise.”
Doro aims to help those who are still in the majority of seniors who have not gotten used to mobile technology, are unfamiliar and would never accept it as it exists today. In some cases it’s not a matter of whether they are actually able to use it, but rather if they can connect with the image that the product conveys. Even if, a given 80-year-old could use iPhones, Arnaud argues that it is very likely that person would reject the iPhone simply because of the device’s youth-centric branding.
Doro aims to serve those whose vision has become worse over the years with larger characters on the phone screen and bigger buttons for dialing numbers. The company is also targeting those who are dealing with a loss of hearing by finding ways to sync their phones to hearing aids via Bluetooth and ensure that the speaker quality on the phone is high. Because of that, even if a person had used an iPhone product in the past, maybe later on in life they will not be in a position to see the screen or hear through the phone’s speaker. Maybe the buttons on a BlackBerry are too small for them now. Doro believes phones like the BlackBerry are great for those with a busy lifestyle or an active life, but for many older people life changes and the focus becomes on family and friends. They aren’t typically living a “fast life” anymore.
Doro vs. Jitterbug: Different approaches to simpler mobile phones
For those familiar with the mobile phones for seniors market, GreatCall’s Jitterbug service is probably the first to come to mind. Doro is quick to point out that GreatCall’s Jitterbug service only offers one phone, the Samsung Jitterbug, which comes in white or graphite. Jitterbug is also a wireless service provider, meaning the sell actual phone plans and services, while Doro focuses on designing phones and leaves the wireless plans to the carriers. Of course, controlling the service options also has allowed Jitterbug to branch out into the wireless health space. We have written about Jitterbug’s plans to offer a diabetes management application, rheumatoid arthritis management mobile services and more.
For its part, Doro says it has been working with carrier partners both in Europe and undisclosed partners in the U.S. to investigate wireless health applications and other services that could leverage Doro’s easy to use phones. Many applications would probably have to make use of Doro’s text messaging capabilities, as the phones do not have wireless Internet capabilities. Jitterbug recently announced plans to add some 2G wireless Internet to upcoming phones to allow it to offer more advances — but still simple to use, hopefully — applications, including wireless health apps.
What about Bluetooth for medical peripheral device connectivity?
As we have noted many times, Bluetooth technology is the favored short-range wireless technology for connecting wireless medical peripheral devices, like a connected blood glucose monitor, to mobile phones or home computers. While Jitterbug’s phone has yet to add Bluetooth, Doro has Bluetooth in some phones, which allow users to connect the phones to Bluetooth equipped hearing aids. This is one step in the right direction for Bluetooth connected medical devices.
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