AARP launches RealPad to introduce older adults to tablets

The 8-inch Android tablet tries to entice an untapped market with free 24/7 customer service and a year's membership in AARP for $189.
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor

"[I]t’s bigger than a smartphone yet smaller than a laptop computer." That's how the blog for AARP introduces the RealPad, a new tablet that the advocacy group for people older than 50 has just announced it will be selling to a market it considers vastly underserved: older adults who haven't taken the tablet plunge.

The blog post assumes its readers may not even know what a tablet even looks like, so how does AARP plan on convincing "tech-shy people" to buy one, when a million iPad ads haven't? First, as you might imagine, the icons, fonts, and other graphics on the RealPad are larger than the standard view on other tablets, a benefit to older individuals whose vision may be diminished. (Of course, other tablets also have the ability to display these interface items larger, but not by default.) Next, 24/7 live customer service is provided, as well as a RealQuick Fix tool that can diagnose common issues with the click of a button, both of which can help those who aren't particularly tech proficient. Finally, a year's membership in AARP is included in the price.

Specs are pretty much besides the point with a device like the RealPad, but for those who must know, it's a modest 8-inch Android tablet with an Intel dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of built-in storage, and 1,024x768 resolution. It offers the usual assortment of ports and features like front- and rear-facing cameras, built-in 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and microSD card slot. Mildly surprising considering the budget components is that the RealPad will come with the latest version of Android, 4.4 KitKat.  

Of course, a tablet is a more user-friendly device than a smartphone or a laptop, as the number of older adults buying iPads can attest to. Ironically, AARP and the RealPad don't really have an obvious fix for one of the most vexing problems for tech newbies -- connecting their device to their Wi-Fi network.

One thing the RealPad can definitely provide over an iPad is a far lower cost. AARP is taking pre-orders for the RealPad now at a price of $189, and Walmart will start selling it in the middle of next month. But a lower price won't necessary help make the RealPad a real success with older buyers, as the lack of a successful dedicaed smartphone for seniors (despite many attempts) suggests.

Do you think the RealPad will be a success with older individuals who are reluctant to embrace technology? Let us know your thoughts in the Talkback section below.

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