Cellphones for seniors may not seem like a worthy discussion topic, but as an increasing number of Canadians are looking to stay connected to kids, grandkids and one another, and Doro, along with network partner Rogers, are easing the transition.
Smartphones these are not but Doro, a Swedish company that has existed since the 1970’s, aims to bring as many advanced features to seniors while maintaining simplicity. The company recently held a press conference at a Toronto retirement home to launch two third-generation feature phones, the PhoneEasy 620 flip phone and the PhoneEasy 520x candybar. On hand were seniors expounding the virtues of Doro’s easy, robust cellphones. Call it synergy at its most slow-moving.
Of course, the devices are light on features many would take for granted, but offer clear, loud and robust sound, large buttons, passable cameras and bright, clear screens. They also come with one-touch programmable emergency buttons to ensure someone is always at the other end of the line when necessary.
I had a chance to speak with Doro’s CEO, Jérôme Arnaud, who told me that the company plans to expand its product line to include a range of easy-to-use Android smartphones, though a launch date has not been finalized. Like other companies with niche products — Sonim comes to mind — Doro is operating on the assumption that as users age, and the inevitabilities of age accrue, Canadians will be after products that work with a variety of ailments such as impaired hearing or low sight.
Mastering the basics — super-loud, non-distorting earpieces and high-contrast, dynamic displays — is the first step to ensuring a loyal customer base. Arnaud told me he doesn’t want to sacrifice the company’s low-cost simplicity with a half-baked smartphone; when they launch, likely in the next 18 months to two years, the product(s) will be based on Android, but promise to be far easier to use than the average Samsung or HTC.
Doro is getting its feet wet in the Canadian market by offering devices for under $100 outright, or $19.99 on a two-year term. Rogers has discounted seniors plans aimed at ensuring high adoption rates: between $18 and $28 per month depending on how many talk minutes are needed.
Doro has also partnered with ETAG Online, a charity that works with seniors on technology education and training.