Phones for seniors

For most potential buyers, the look and feature set of the phone will be major selling points.

But there’s a market where features count for little and style for even less. The older generation aren’t likely to be big spenders – PAYG rather than contracts, the basic functionality of a Kia rather than the turbocharged premium-price appeal of an Audi TT.

But it’s a large market already, it’s a growing market as the population ages, and unlike most sectors in our business it’s a market that is still relatively untouched. Service for seniors should be a useful and worthwhile extra for any retailer …

Inevitably there are lots of Nokias in this selection – Nokia has long specialised in solid, low-end handsets – but we have found a number of alternatives as well. So what were we looking for?

• Ease of use. Simple menus and the minimum number of keystrokes make for easy operation. An uncluttered feature set is also important here; cameras, music players, email, 3G, even memory expansion are all irrelevant for most of our target market. They want foolproof voice calls and little else.

• Ergonomic accessibility. We looked for phones with big, unmissable keys and large, clear screens (and we had to compromise on the latter to come up with a dozen candidates – small type is no fun for someone with fading eyesight, even if it is enriched by 65,000 colours.

• Battery life. We all forget to recharge, but for the older user an unexpectedly unusable phone can be particularly galling – and possibly scaring too, if the phone is being used at least partly for reassurance.