At last years Senior Mobile Market Conference I presented on the Senior mHealth Opportunity which I concluded by recommending to the device makers that the big opportunity was for them to use their expertise in addressing the needs of senior subscribers by developing their own branded “Fischer Price” apps* to customise the smartphones manufactured by other device makers (slide 82 of 83).
So it’s great to read over at MobiHealthNews (reporting from the mHealth Networking event) that GreatCall Inc, makers of the Jitterbug, have announced that they will be first launching an app for the Apple iPhone in the next month and Android platforms after that.
I’m very surprised by these plans for two reasons: 1. the complete source code of the Android OS is published so GreatCall could reconfigure the entire device quite easily as though they were the original device manufacturer (very unlike what you can do with the Apple iOS) 2. It indicates that their long term Samsung brand allegiance has come to an end.
Madeleine Pantalone, VP Strategy & Business Development, proposes that the app “will be simple so users won’t have to scroll or tap through multiple screens to find what they want” so it’ll be interesting to see how much control of the device that they can take. I’m also surprised they haven’t taken Doro’s lead and started branding this as “easy” rather than “simple” as I’m pretty sure that’ll have connotations that could grate with a iPhone toting senior.
I have a feeling that the brand is underestimating the appetite for mobile data services amongst their user group (who have an average age of only 68) eg. Madeleine is quoted suggesting that “seniors don’t want” texting or to be “running smartphone apps”. Obviously I’m biased (hey I’ve taught an 80+ year old to SMS!) but didn’t people say the same about SMS and “americans”, “business people”, “clinics” etc. I also wonder if they’re familiar with the smartphones being used by seniors in Japan that typically run background apps such as pedometers and can enable the customer to easily place calls by sensing/processing of motion/sound (eg. waving the phone, talking to or clapping next to it).
I also feel they’re overestimating the importance of voice eg. “80% of seniors’ activity on cell phones is making or receiving calls, not texting, browsing the Web or running smartphone apps”. I think that’s clearly underestimating the value of the “reachability” that a mobile offers. I think about 95% of cellphone activity involves the phone being connected but idle which is the bit I’d be focused on trying to leverage if I were advising Greatcall eg. with monitoring, personal emergency alarm services etc.
Ending on a very positive note it’s great to see they’re not waiting for “payer reimbursement” for all of this, whilst it’s a shame healthcare providers can’t see the opportunity I’m sure there’ll be positive news for Greatcall as a result of this eg. the development of more inhouse expertise that will help them created ever more customer need focused solutions. After Samsung’s recent disappointing marketing move to target senior subscribers with their high end smartphones this is definitely one to watch…
With the iPhone 5 launching in June what better to do with your iPhone 4 than pass it up loaded with the Jitterbug app in a nice rubberised ECG Monitoring Jitterbug branded casing?