Simple phones aren’t just for the old folk

Mobile World Congress 2010 has been and gone, and the headlines have been predictably taken by a flurry of announcements from big players who want to push smartphones further than ever before. It is all very exciting, but I am going to resist writing about it, for today anyway.

Mobile World Congress 2010 has been and gone, and the headlines have been predictably taken by a flurry of announcements from big players who want to push smartphones further than ever before. It is all very exciting, but I am going to resist writing about it, for today anyway.

Beneath the headlines, a huge pot of other announcements bubbled away, and in this post I want to take a look at two companies with an eye on less cutting edge markets, Sagem and Emporia.

Sagem is well known as a handset manufacturer, and products low cost phones with broad appeal. Emporia targets those people who find traditional handsets tricky to get to grips with. At Mobile World Congress both companies announced handsets which are aimed at those who have difficulty with conventional mobiles.

Inevitably, handsets from both have been labelled as phones for the old folk, but in fact, as we all know, there are people of all ages who find it difficult to push buttons, see screens and manage complex apps, regardless of age.

Emporia grasps this, and in its press release for its two launches states emphatically “people crave simple technology – not just when they are 50 or 60 years old”.

Emporia ELEGANCE on the left, SOLID on the right

With that in mind Emporia emphasises looks and type of use as much as simplicity. The ELEGANCE is designed to be something of a looker, while the SOLID is a more rugged model, but both sport large easy to hit buttons and clear screens among their features.

Sagem, on the other hand, plays the age card without shame. Calling its handset the Cosyphone (slippers and a cup of tea, anyone?), Sagem’s press release points out that the phone is “customised to the specific lifestyle needs of an older generation of mobile phone user.”

Sagem’s Cosyphone

In what seems like a bizarre twist on ease of use, you are supposed to populate cards with data on key people (the press release suggests friends, family and the doctor – ouch!) then swipe a card with the phone using its contact less near field communications technology when you want to make a call.

Cards can be used for other functions such as to launch the phone’s browser and get a weather update. Presumably the old dears using the Cosyphone will need to remember to pick up their bunch of cards as well as the handset or they’ll be incommunicado. Can’t see it catching on, myself.

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