Phones for Boomers & their Parents

While most cell phones tout an abundance of bells and whistles, two companies are focusing on the substantial market for simpler phones.

Founded by Arlene Harris, a telecoms veteran, and her husband Martin Cooper, who helped develop the first portable cell phone for Motorola in 1973, GreatCall is a new wireless company that will target baby boomers and their parents. While the network isn't yet operational, GreatCall's Jitterbug, a combination of handset and service provider, will soon start shipping phones. Manufactured by Samsung, the phones have big buttons, a bright screen, easy to read text, and loud and clear sound. One version (Jitterbug OneTouch) is simplified even further, its number keys replaced by three emergency buttons: one for 911, a second for Jitterbug's operator, and a third for a personalized direct dial number.

Operators are an important element of Jitterbug's services. Besides looking up numbers or placing calls for customers, operators can program a phone's contact list over the network. Each customer is also provided with an individual webpage that can be used to edit the phone list, or set service options, which means that children or grandchildren can help their less technically adept relatives configure their phones. Jitterbug's pricing has yet to be set, but plans will be available from USD 10 per month.

Last year, Vodafone launched a somewhat similar service in Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Vodafone Simply combines no-frills phones with uncomplicated price plans. Though certainly easier to use than most phones, Vodafone's attempt can't rival Jitterbug's extra services and meticulous design.

Jitterbug is an inspiring example for entrepreneurs who'd like to develop products or services for older consumers. Who will do the same for other industries? How about combining computers, software and broadband service into one easy package?

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