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Business, Entrepreneurs

A Mobile Phone Designed for Seniors

Samsung Jitterbug5 - front view

Samsung Jitterbug5 – front view

Everyone does not need or want a smart phone. There, I said it! Before you convict me of heresy, know that I am a loyal member of the smart phone crowd. My phone coupled with my notebook provide me with the option to have a virtual office just about anywhere.

On the other hand, there’s a significant population of cell phone users who can do without the extended list of features – especially if these features are not being used on a regular basis if at all. If you are not using these bells and whistles, you certainly shouldn’t be paying more than you need to for wireless service.

Data From Pew Research (2013) show [Ref 1]:

  • 97% of adults have a cell phone. (Up 4% from 2012)
  • Of these, 56% of those phones are considered “smart phones”.
  • The cellular phone is the most quickly adopted technology in history. 
  • Cell phones are seen as key to actively participating in your community. 
  • 29% of users describe their phone as something they can’t live without. 
  • 9% used their phone to contribute to charity.

Some of us have an insatiable need to be connected 24/7, and a few in this group would line up to get a personal connection to the electric grid. Some folks,, however, just want to make a phone call, have good reception and voice quality over the duration of the call, hang-up when the call is finished, and go back to whatever they were doing.

My father is one of those persons. He does not need a smart phone, nor should he have one.  Features like face-time, texting, internet capabilities, and even voice mail prove challenging for him. He just wants to make an outgoing call or receive incoming calls. That’s it! That’s all!

Perhaps a dumb phone or one that is less smart is best for my dad. The simplest of mobile phones today are at least 10x the quality of the best phones that were being produced 10 years ago.

Samsung and other mobile phone manufacturers also recognize that smart phones are not for everyone. Their Jitterbug5 is specifically designed for seniors.  I’m thinking: Samsung is onto something. As great as cell phones are, who would have thought to focus on a product specifically designed for senior citizens? – A segment of the wireless phone market that has not been served very well due to inconvenience of design and use.

As Samsung puts it: The modern cell phone seems to be getting smaller, more complicated, and filled with an overwhelming amount of extraneous apps and features. They are difficult to navigate and require a steep learning curve and technical savvy. This trend is limiting for senior citizens who are searching for a phone that is uncomplicated and direct.

Based on 2012 Census data, out of a total population of about 310 million people, seniors 65 years and older were counted at 42 million. This senior population represents 13.5% of the U.S. population. Therefore, even if only 25% of 42 million people desired wireless phones, 10.5 million of them may be interested in securing a phone that is less smart and less complicated to use.

Samsung Jitterbug5 - open view

Samsung Jitterbug5 – open view

In addition to the above, information from Pew Internet [Ref 1] shows:

  • 87% of American adults own a cell phone, and 45% of those are smart phones.
  • Only 12% of adults age 65 and over have a smartphone.
  • 82% take pictures on their cell phones, up from 76% in 2010.
  • 29% check their bank account online, up from 18% in 2011.
  • 9% of adults have texted a charitable organization to make a donation.

Given the above data, Samsung is definitely onto something. The Jitterbug5 is designed to meet the unique needs of senior citizens. One attractive feature, 5Star Service (acts like a special 911 button), connects the user to an agent who can get help in an emergency or other challenging situation. This feature is a part of the GreatCall GoPlan and provides 24/7 unlimited access to registered nurses and board-certified doctors. It also offers a built in reminder service for prescription medication. An additional cost is required for this feature.

Large back-lit buttons, large color display, and large display fonts allow for less strain and easier use. This alone would make my father stand up and clap his hands. Another plus is the absence of a 50-page owner’s manual that requires a few hours of wading through to figure out how the device works. Samsung states that its objective is to provide a clear, straightforward, and easy-to-use phone. A simple menu, without scores of unnecessary apps and features, makes using the phone easier and ideal for seniors. The Jitterbug5’s intuitive “yes/no” buttons eliminate confusion and create easy and trouble-free navigation.

The Jitterbug5 has a powerful speaker that provides for loud and clearly audible calls. More importantly, the operating system for this phone is very efficient and has a battery life of up to 25 days of standby power supply. In other words, most users won’t need to charge their phones every day.

One bell and whistle that was not left off of the Jitterbug5 is a built in camera. Using the clear menu and simple navigation with the yes/no button, taking a picture is a snap. Photo-sharing has also been simplified with the touch of one button, photo(s) can be uploaded to the site of choice. Everyone else is taking pictures, so why wouldn’t our seniors want to upload some selfies too?

And perhaps best of all NO CONTRACT is required. There is also no fee for switching plans or coverage areas, and the account can be discontinued at any time.

Under the entrepreneur/find-a-need-and-fill-it column, I am surprised that someone didn’t think of this sooner.


  1. Cell Phone Statistics: Updated 2013, byMaranda Gibson for Arkadin Collaboration Services, January 23, 2014, https://www.accuconference.com/blog/cell-phone-statistics-updated-2013/

About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.


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