Older Australians make up a hefty part of our population, and with 52% of Australians now using smartphones, it's safe to imagine that a lot of them have embraced new mobile technology. However, a range of factors can contribute to making seniors feel as though new technology, particular tablets, are beyond them, from confusing plans to misleading advertising to a perception of new technology only being there for the "young" to the idea that such devices are too complicated for pensioners to learn.
This laptop's rowdy processor is grinding me down! Get me to something Steve Jobs made, quick smart.
That assumption is insulting on its own to the generations of experience and intelligence pensioners have under their belt, but facing new technology can be a confronting moment. Learning anything new is challenging, and it might be that some Australian seniors have resigned themselves to being old dogs ignorant of Apple and Samsung's new tricks. In this guide to finding the best smartphones, tablets, and plans for senior Australians, we'll attempt to dispel some of the illusions around new technology, and highlight the benefits particularly to older people.
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Often it's taken for granted that the newest devices – whether they're tablets, laptops, or mobile handsets – shouldn't be marketed towards senior citizens. Sometimes we see new phones that are directly targeted for older generations, like Optus's Doro PhoneEasy 615, which is a good thing in that senior citizens are being considered and catered for as a group.
However, it also makes us question why older Australians need a special phone all of their own. Why can't senior citizens take advantage of the same brand new and exciting releases from companies like Apple, HTC, and Samsung like the rest of us? There is no reason, of course, and in fact a recent study by researchers at the University of Melbourne has found that tablets may help alleviate feelings of social isolation and anxiety amongst older people.
Nevertheless, it's clear that some older Australians may require additional assistance when it comes to getting set up with a smartphone or tablet. Here, Compare Mobile Plans offers advice and suggestions to getting your friends, relatives, or even yourself set up with a plan and device suitable for seniors.
Some seniors have welcomed the idea of special phones that are low on tech and easy to use. However, here at Compare Mobile Plans, we wonder if seniors should be automatically excluded from some of the "techier" smartphones on the market today.
In fact, smartphones like Apple's iPhone 4S and Samsung's Galaxy Note may even be more suited for seniors. They feature big, clear screens, with a touchscreen interface that is easier to use and more instinctive than a feature phone. There's no need to learn how to manipulate the buttons or use a Dictionary feature on a feature phone that has three letters per key – smartphones are as simple as typing a message out, and AutoCorrect usually makes for easily fixed typos. Smartphone operating systems typically offer a "phone" screen that is large, bold, and easily accessible.
The range of apps available on smartphones are another bonus for senior citizens. Smartphones provide easy access to maps, and a GPS locator that can help seniors find their way around easily. Radio apps are widely available, as are public transport timetable apps, and all the usual features as feature phones, like calendars, reminders, notes, lists, and even text messages can be simpler on smartphones.
Access to the internet on smartphone means that any questions can be easily answered, and the world clock is useful for pensioners who might want to call family and friends living overseas.
Often a smartphone looks more overwhelming than it is. Ask a friend or family member to sit down with you and spend half an hour showing you how it works. If you don't have any friends or family members who can do this for you, go into a phone store in the city and ask them to show you the basics of how it would work. You don't need to feel forced into buying anything; just tell them that you'll come back tomorrow if you decide to go with their plan.
I'd recommend two phones particular: the Galaxy Note and the iPhone 4S. The Galaxy Note is a big phone, almost like a tablet, with a 5.3" display and great high definition graphics that will make it easy on tired eyes. The iPhone 4S brings together all of Apple's superb craftsmanship to create a beautifully instinctive interface in a phone that "just works". On top of that, a new iPhone will be coming out later this year, meaning that for those of us who don't care that much about having the latest technology, the price of the iPhone 4S will likely drop.
Get the Samsung Galaxy Note on Vodafone's $49 Cap with only $10 handset fees, bringing your monthly price up to $59.00. This plan includes $550 worth of credit for texts and calls per month and 1GB of data, along with three standard national voice calls for free every month and unlimited Vodafone to Vodafone calls. Call us for more information about Vodafone on 1300 513 036.
If you're a slightly heavier user with friends and family on Optus, you could try the $60 Optus Plan with $5 handset charges, bringing you to $65 a month. This plan gives you $650 worth of texts and calls, 1.5Gb of data, and unlimited text messages and calls to other Optus numbers. Call Optus now on 1300 743 173.
Get the Apple iPhone 4S 16GB on Virgin Mobile's $29 Big Plan with only $19 in handset charges, bringing your monthly price up to $48. Virgin is great for the light user, giving you $450 credit for texts and calls and 250MB of data – and if you sign up before July 1st, they are currently running a bonus offer where you will receive an extra 2GB per month for your contract. Call Virgin for more information or to sign up today on 1300 302 649.
Alternatively, for a heavier user, you could try Vodafone's $59 Cap with $5 handset charges, bringing you up to $64 per month. This plan includes $750 included value for texts and calls, and 1.5GB of data, along with unlimited calls to other Vodafone numbers. We can be reached for more information about Vodafone on 1300 513 036.
For an industry that didn't exist until Apple came out with its iPad in May 2010, the tablet market is growing incredibly fast. In 2011, sales of smartphones and tablets together outstripped PCs (including laptops and netbooks) for the first time.
Click here for a guide to getting an iPad.
Despite the growing market, tablets are still regarded somewhat dubiously by a lot of the population. "What would I use them for?" is the common question, and indeed, for many people a tablet is not an adequate replacement for a PC, and they may find it an unnecessary product on top of a range of other services that other internet devices can provide.
However, for older Australians it may just be the perfect solution. Tablets are lightweight and portable, easy to carry around, and make a great communications and web reading device that don't require a lot of technical knowledge and are vastly less likely to get viruses and malware than PCs are. That makes them a great device for pensioners, as there is simply less to worry about than with a PC.
ACCAN spokeswoman Elise Davidson said: "The internet provides wonderful opportunities for people of all ages to keep in touch with their loved ones. Older people sometimes need some help in learning how to use new technologies and it’s great if they have friends and family who can help them. Tablets are a great option for older people for the same reason they are so popular among other age groups – they’re portable, relatively inexpensive compared to a PC, and lots of fun to use once you know how.
"Tablets are generally pretty intuitive, but that’s easy to say if you’re someone who is a digital native and has grown up using computers. Older people are sometimes intimidated by new gadgets but generally embrace them pretty readily with a little bit of help on how to do the basics."
And there are other proven benefits around coupling tablets and pensioners, as a recent study has shown.
The University of Melbourne's Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society, collaborating with Benetas, a Not For Profit aged care service provider, gave a group of older people, mostly in their 80s and 90s, some iPads along with a new iPad app (called Enmesh) that was built specifically for the study. The participants used the tablets for ten weeks, and the results were overwhelmingly positive.
One participant reported that it was not "the actual act of taking pictures, but the act of being able to communicate with others who are doing the same thing" that alleviated his severe depression. Another participant noted that when using the iPad and resultant technology "you forget about yourself and your aches and pains".
Where to get one?
It's worth considering whether or not you want to buy a tablet outright, or get one on a plan. If you're uncomfortable putting down a lot of money – think $400 to $800 for a brand new tablet – it might be that going on a plan is your best option.
Try Optus, who supply iPads on contracts. You can call them for more information or to sign up today on 1300 302 412.
Alternatively, you could buy an iPad outright, either from a store or online or even second-hand. Once you have it, you'll be able to connect to WiFi networks, like your ADSL2+ network at home. If you want to be able to use your iPad on the go, though, you could pick up an iPad mobile broadband plan. Click here for the best iPad plans, or call one of the following providers:
Amaysim: 1300 302 942
Virgin: 1300 768 103
If you have any further questions about iPads or smartphones, or want help either picking a plan for yourself or for a pensioner in your family or acquaintance, please don't hesitate to give us a call on 1300 850 518! One of our friendly staff will be happy to help you with whatever questions you might have in finding the best plan for you.