Is the mobile phone industry getting too smart for its own good? A recent piece by a BBC correspondent drew attention to a request he’d received for a "Very simple mobile phone".
One of those who commented on this declared that "25% of the population" only required a five-function phone - offering Contacts, Text, Calls, Big Buttons and Easy On/Off - all on a big, easy-to-read screen.
While the elderly market was mentioned, other applications for a simpler phone included carrying one in the glove compartment, for example, for emergency purposes. There are already a number of such 'emergency phones' available for this purpose, some of which offer 15 years' battery life from a single AA battery. Not all of them do SMS, however, instead providing an 'Auto Text Reply' feature which directs anyone who sends a text message to this phone to make a voice call.
Bodies like the Cambridge Design Centre have been testing how older people use modern technology - throwing up results which often challenge designers' perceptions of just how 'intuitive' the features on devices like smartphones or tablets can be to some users.
However, assumptions that some phones may be too complicated for older people are over-simplistic. Many elderly have adjusted to new technology, as they have had to throughout their entire life, and are perfectly capable of using a computer to Skype, send emails, browse the net, shop online and work with images.
But in many cases they're equally clear on what they don't need, and maybe here is the crux of the matter. Given that 95% of mobile apps are abandoned within a month of being downloaded, why should the wish for a basic, stripped-down phone, providing only what you really need to get through an average day, have anything to do with age?
Following from our recent blog about mobile etiquette, this time we're looking at mobile behaviour and attitudes, and how they vary from country to country.
Last year's Time Mobility Poll was a survey of 5,000 respondents in eight countries: the US, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, the UK and South Africa. Along with data about email and internet use, there were some revealing findings about text messaging.
After voice calls, text messaging was the most common activity performed on the mobile, with 88% engaged in this for a few times a week, or more. Countries where this was exceptionally popular included India (95%) and Indonesia (also 95%), while the US returned a surprisingly low 74%. Roughly speaking, texting was equally popular among those aged 18-44, only dropping off in later years.
And how often do they text? Well, the average number of messages sent during one day varied between a high of 34 (for India) and a low of 8 (for China). India was also top for number of messages received in a day - 38 - with China again bringing up the rear with 11. 18-24 year olds were the biggest texters, sending or receiving more than 40 in a day, twice as many as the 25-29 age group, with numbers dropping the older you got.
The marketing potential may be limited, but it's interesting to note that there are a sizeable number of text message users out there in the animal kingdom.
Naturally, we're talking about wildlife tracking. While GPS location data can be transmitted via short-range radio or the Argos satellite system, many researchers find it easy and cost-effective to use SMS, sent over a GSM cell phone network.
Kenya, the home of mobile banking success M-PESA, has also seen many of these applications in use. To avoid conflict with the local Maasai herders and their livestock, lions have been fitted with collars which use a cellular modem that maps their location, a cheaper solution than relying on satellite links. Elephants have also been tracked using SMS, while fences round national parks have been fitted with an SMS-based alarm system for early warning of possible poaching attempts.
A similar early warning SMS system has been used to avoid elephant-human conflict in the Valparai tea-growing region of India. At least 38 people had been killed from encounters like this in the region over the previous eighteen years, due mainly to a lack of knowledge of the elephants' movements. A conflict response unit (CRU) was set up to track such movements, with the information they gained broadcast by SMS to local people.
SMS collars work just as well in aerial and marine environments. Israeli researchers have been fitting pelicans with message-sending SIM cards, as part of an effort to follow their migration routes, and determine where they have been feeding. It's thought that a lack of natural resources has led these birds to concentrate on commercial fish ponds, which the authorities were hoping to counteract by artificially stocking fish in other water bodies to attract them away. This tracking programme should confirm whether such a policy is working.
An orphaned baby seal named Victoria was fitted with a text message transmitter a few years ago, which was able, at regular time intervals, to send details of her location, dive depth, time in the water and swimming speed.
A recent 'Mobile Etiquette' survey attempted to compare behaviour and values among adults and teenagers in eight different countries around the world. Research was carried out in Australia, Brazil, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan and the US.
It's interesting to look at which opinions and behaviours were widely shared across the globe, and which reflected distinct customs in any particular country.
Texting while driving was most disliked in Australia, Indonesia and the States. Having the volume too loud in public was most unpopular in Brazil. Talking while driving bugged them in India and Japan. While in China and France it was talking loudly in public which most got on their nerves.
In terms of behaviours which were most tolerated, taking up space in a public place for an extended amount of time was seen as least objectionable in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, and the States. Texting while walking in the street was not so much of a problem in France. While texting in the company of others was one of the lesser evils in Indonesia.
To honour the opening of TeleSign Mobile's new Operating Centre in Belgrade, US Ambassador in Serbia Michael D. Kirby organised a reception at his residence, with representatives of the government of Serbia present among the numerous invitees, together with domestic and foreign companies - all present and future partners of TeleSign.
With its highly educated, motivated and multilingual workforce, many of whom have deep industry knowledge and experience in telecommunications, Belgrade was seen as an ideal location for TeleSign's continued expansion.
Significant investments will include:
The US Ambassador is due to visit North America's West Coast with the Serbian Prime Minister in May.