Lair Of The Multimedia Guru

May 12, 2016

Mobile phones for seniors

My grandmother has 2 mobile phones, both identical, they have an old style numeric keypad, tiny monochrome display. They are both old and look like they were used a lot, one works. The other sometimes works, there thus was need to obtain a new phone. Both phones she has have been bought by herself many years ago, they were phones intended for seniors and honestly they are just shit in every way IMO even when they were new, they are even hard and awkward to use for someone young.
I thus bought a cheap android phone for her, i was very curious if that would work out, she is 89 years old and AFAIK never used a computer or smart phone before. Going for a cheap phone that fits the requirements was done as this was quite experimental and i was not sure if she would loose the phone in a week or someone would steal it maybe. The phone needed a big battery as recharging had been a problem with her other 2 phones or possibly their batteries have aged too much.
The chosen phone was a cubot note s, 4150mAh 5.5inch IPS display 2/16gb mem, 4core, 3G, dual sim, dual cameras, … for less than 90euro. The 2 things the phone doesnt have is a notification LED and LTE support. Neither appeared important for the intended use.

On the software side, I installed

  • Big Launcher and configured it so everything one needs is on the home screen, like buttons for directly calling family members.
    I also tried Phonotto, necta and other launchers Phonotto seemed not to fully work with android 5.1, occasionally dropping one out of the dialer without ending the phone call, which made it not ok. I chose big launcher as i had to chose one and it seemed mostly ok
  • Missed call reminder, Which allows all kinds of vibration and led flash and screen on/off based notifications (due to missing notification LED on the phone) But even if it had a LED the bright LED flash and vibration should be better
  • Ultimate Caller ID Screen HD, With all extra buttons disabled and the the screen with just simple buttons for accepting a call and hanging up.
  • quick snap, as a simpler camera app but this wasn’t used sofar AFAIK
  • automate, Used for giving spoken low battery alerts at <30% and similar if the phone charging is interrupted before reaching 60%. Some testing though showed that it did not work reliable (it got stuck when there was no internet connection) and thus was not enabled when i gave the phone to my grandmother, we also were unsure about the notification activating in inappropriate situations

The above, i believe was the initial set of apps when i gave the phone to her, the biggest problem was surprisingly switching the phone on (the lockscreen was also entirely disabled), the button is basically invisible under the silicon protector thingy that comes with the phone. Some sticky patch cut into arrow shape stuck onto the phone helped though.
When we called her on the phone for the first time after leaving she did not succeed picking it up, even though she could do it when we where there after some tries. So it seemed a failed experiment, but a few days later and corrected volume settings she made multiple phone calls with it alone :)
Further improvements we did were, that we installed some software to lock the volume settings (cant remember its exact name, but there are multiple that do the job), the volume buttons are next to the power button. Disabling the “telephone answering machine” as it picks up too quick and only adds the problem of dealing with missed calls, which was a problem with her previous phones already.Call Auto Answer & ReadItToMe configured so it automatically picks up calls from family members after 10 seconds. And we also enabled speaker-phone by default. We also considered to install Gravity Screen – On/Off but as she managed to switch the phone on it seemed more a potential way to switch it on unintended.

One thing that kind of annoyed me alot while configuring things is finding apps that arent full of ads. It seems everything for android these days is either spyware, ad-ware, or costs money. I wish the play store would have a way to search for things that are good old free no hooks attached type of ware. But i guess google wouldnt like how they then would have to mark their own apps.

Also for the case of older people with little smart phone experience, a somewhat more integrated UI for android would be nice. Not needing to install a dozen things that might interact badly or that then dont work with the latest android version.
Something that when randomly shaking or pressing buttons on a phone in standby mode would display an arrow pointing to the power on button. Some reliable and unobtrusive low battery notification would be nice too, and that one not just for seniors, the dim red notification leds are kind of easy to miss. Some easy always available help button that can explain the available buttons/options on any screen, …

Filed under: Off Topic — Michael @ 2:00

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