We've oohed and ahhed over plenty of exquisite, sexy smartphones at MWC this week. But one company is purposefully staying away from the latest design trends and focusing on their most precious asset: their customers.
Emporia Telecom, based in Linz, Austria, develops and manufactures cell phones designed specifically to be very simple and intuitive for elderly phone users. They have focused on removing complex menus and unnecessary options in lieu of making functionality clear.
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What does it mean to design a phone for an older person? An obvious answer might be to make everything much bigger. But Emporia has included some additional thoughtful components in their phones. Hearing aid-compatible and extra-loud speakers assist those with hearing difficulties. High-contrast displays and a custom font improve legibility. Raised pressure points on the keys and audible click sounds when they're pressed means the phones are suitable for the visually impaired. Lastly, an emergency call button alerts up to five preset numbers when it is pressed for more than three seconds.
Emporia Telecom has done extensive real-world research and usability testing for their product designs. It is difficult to fully understand what it feels like to be unable to read a phone display, for example, or to struggle with small buttons because you suffer from arthritis or shaking hands unless you have seen or experienced these problems yourself. So Emporia's research department works closely with the University of Cambridge and a target group of users to understand their needs and capabilities.
The phones vary in their sizes and functionality. Attention to detail is essential, so all phones feature extra powerful rings and speakers, wide displays with an easy-to-read font, and an emergency call system with GPS. At CES 2012, Emporia debuted its first flip camera phone, the emporiaCLICK. Other phones are customized with fall sensors, large keys with raised dots and programmable quick-dial keys. One even has a wristwatch component that can trigger an emergency call.
Emporia Telecom devices are for sale now in Europe, and they will be available in the U.S. in early May through existing carriers.