Stop giving your unwanted tech to older relatives. It might not help as much as you think

old man with smartphone

Getty Images / Geber86

In addition to their regular duties, many ZDNET leaders serve as unofficial CIOs for family and friends, providing advice on purchasing, setting up, using, and maintaining consumer technology kits of all kinds.

A special concern for these tech-savvy people (they’re called ‘Family Information Officers’ (FIOs)) is getting older generations (65+) accustomed to using digital devices and software to interact with a rapidly disappearing world. is. Alternative analog route.

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Banking is a good example. As society becomes increasingly cashless and banks close more brick-and-mortar branches, the pressure to transition to a digital version increases.

Health care is another matter. Access to health care is rapidly moving online via mobile apps and websites, which risks excluding older people who lack smart devices or internet access, or lack the confidence and know-how to use them. My particular bugbear is the versatility and user opacity of many parking apps, and the lack of a wide range of cash or card options.

Most tech companies strive to make their products as useful as possible, but few explicitly consider 65+. And with the relentless pursuit of more features on most devices, pricing and user experience challenges continue to rise for older users.

One company that specializes in technology for the elderly is Austria-based Emporia, founded in 1991 and now operating in more than 30 European countries. Emporia offers a wide range of landline phones, smartphones, feature phones and accessories. In 2022, the company adds an Android tablet to its portfolio and also launched its first smartwatch, initially in Germany.

According to Emporia, 52 million people in Europe still lack an internet connection, 9.6 million of them in the UK. And of the estimated 13 million people over 65 in the UK, less than 40% own a smartphone, the company says. Therefore, there are many markets that can be addressed by companies that offer the right mix of age-related products and services.

The company claims that around 50 million people over the age of 65 across Europe are excluded from digital applications because they don’t own or don’t know how to use a smartphone or tablet.

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Chris Millington, MD, Emporia UK

Chris Millington, Managing Director, Emporia Telecom UK & Ireland.

Image: Emporia

Speaking at a press event in November 2022, Emporia’s managing director for the UK and Ireland, Chris Millington, outlined one way seniors can face challenges when equipping their smartphones. He calls it ‘Hand Me Upping’.

This happens when a younger family member gives an old phone to a parent or grandparent to help digitally connect.

“So they give you a phone that’s 2-3 years old, it’s no longer updated or supported, it doesn’t work with banking apps, it doesn’t have an easy-to-use interface, and it doesn’t work well with life. They should always ask for support rather than recommend a digital connection. Because of that, you end up using this phone that isolates you and makes you feel stupid.”

Adding to the problem is the rapid evolution of mobile technology. This means younger generations quickly forget how older devices work, making it difficult to effectively support older users. Millington says it’s far better to “recycle or trade in used smartphones and consider custom products tailored to the needs and desires of mature users.”

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Emporia offers budget/mainstream mobile hardware with three layers of age-friendly usability: a streamlined user interface, printed training books, and most recently Coach (training app).

Emporia’s UI overlay sits on top of Android on smartphones and tablets, and unlike Android’s simple mode, it features large, clearly labeled, customizable buttons pointing to applications and key features. The home screen of the 10.1-inch Emporia tablet looks like this:

Emporia tablet home screen

Screenshot: Charles McLellan / ZDNET

Here is a list of all the apps on the 5.5 inch Emporia Smart 5 phone.

Emporia Smart 5 All Apps List

Image: Charles McLellan/ZDNET

There’s no customization once you get into the regular Android apps, other than a large back button and a bar at the top with icons for accessing the home screen and swiping through recently used apps.

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The second usability factor is a rare sight these days. Google Play Store and Internet, Email and Messaging, Social Media, Photos and Videos, Video Calls, YouTube Streaming, and Native Apps from device settings and Wi-Fi connection.

Emporia Training Book

Emporia’s educational book for your tablet.

Image: Charles McLellan/ZDNET

Millington says the book is very popular with Emporia’s target user base, while acknowledging that it’s expensive and static in content.

Emporia Coach

Image: Google/Emporia

The new Coach app is designed to address these issues, offering a 30-day training course that delivers a large amount of learning in easy-to-understand daily chapters, along with plenty of gamification to help make the process fun and engaging. do. Learning can progress at your own pace, and repeated use builds confidence in the device. Beginner’s courses come pre-installed on Emporia’s smart devices, and follow-up courses are available for download.

Below are some of Emporia’s main products.

operating system Android 10 | screen 4.95 inches, 480 x 960 | processor MediaTek MTK6739 | lamb 3GB | Save 32 GB | network 2G/3G/4G LTE | wireless telephone Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), NFC, GPS | connection and port USB-C, 3.5mm audio out, MicroSD card slot | camera 5 MP (front), 13 MP (rear) | battery capacity 2500mAh (removable) | battery life 170 hours standby, 550 minutes talk time | part Charging Cradle, Battery Cover (with/without emergency button) | dustproof/waterproof IP54 | size 66mm x 138mm x 11mm | weight 160g | price £210 / €230

Equipped with physical call and end keys to support older users who have difficulty swiping the touchscreen, this 5-inch 4G phone is easy to hold, compatible with hearing aids, and relatively rugged with IP54 dust/water resistance. The battery is removable, giving you over 9 hours of talk time, and there is an optional battery cover with an emergency call button. The latter calls up to 5 predefined contacts, automatically enters loudspeaker mode, sends a prepared SMS to an emergency number, provides GPS coordinates and activates a loud alarm.

operating system Android 10 | screen 5.5 inches, 720 x 1440 | processor MediaTek MTK6762 | lamb 3GB | Save 32 GB | network 2G/3G/4G LTE | wireless telephone Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), NFC, GPS | connection and port USB-C, 3.5mm audio out, MicroSD card slot | camera 8 MP (front), 13 MP, 2 MP, 2 MP (rear) | battery capacity 3550mAh (removable) | battery life 250 hours standby, 700 minutes talk | part Charging Cradle, Battery Cover (with/without emergency button) | dustproof/waterproof 1P54 | size 72mm x 150mm x 10mm | weight 179g | price £250 / €250

Emporia’s Smart 5 features a slightly larger, higher-resolution screen than the Super Easy model, a faster processor, a more featured camera and Smartcover that provides access to selected features such as call handling, favorite contacts, camera, and torch. This is an upgraded model. when the cover is closed. Like the Super Easy, there is an optional version of the battery cover with an emergency button.

operating system Android 11 | screen 10.1 inches, 1200 x 1920 | processor MediaTek MT8768 | lamb 4 GB | Save 32 GB | NEtworks 2G/3G/4G LTE | wireless telephone Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), GPS | connection and port USB-C, 3.5mm audio out, MicroSD card slot | camera 5 MP (front), 13 MP (rear) | battery capacity 5000mAh | part Wall Mount Charging Cradle, Optional Keyboard Case | size 243.7mm x 160mm x 8.5mm | weight 560g | price £330 / €300

This 4G LTE-connected tablet allows senior users to get online without the hassle of setting up wired broadband and Wi-Fi at home or logging into a Wi-Fi network when away (it supports Wi-Fi as well). It comes with a wall-mounted charging cradle, so you’ll always know where your device is if you remember to replace it. The cradle also enhances the tablet’s speaker output when the device is docked. A keyboard case with built-in kickstand is available as an optional extra (£100 alone, £50 when purchased with the tablet).

screen 1.1 inch, 240 x 240 | processor Unisok UWS6130E(W307) | lamb 1 GB | Save 1 GB | network 2G/3G/4G LTE | wireless telephone Wifi, GPS | sensor 3-axis accelerometer, 6-axis gyroscope, heart rate and SpO2, body temperature | audio Speakers, microphones | battery capacity 600mAh | dustproof/waterproof IP67 | strap Black silicone, leather (optional) | size 43.9mm x 14.8mm | weight 51g | price £250 / €250

Emporia Watch, the first smartwatch designed specifically for older users, is a joint venture with German manufacturer Anio, which makes wearables for both children and seniors. Scheduled for release in early 2023, the Emporia Watch is a 4G/VoLTE device, a standalone device that does not rely on a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone. Features include heart rate, blood oxygen and temperature monitoring, step counting and GPS tracking. You can adjust the settings using the smartphone management app and, with permission, configure the watch to send notifications to friends and family when unusual activity occurs. The Watch has an emergency dialer and an SOS button to call up to 3 designated contacts.


Apple’s cheapest new smartphone is the 4.7-inch iPhone SE, starting at £449 in the UK. That’s twice the price of the 5-inch Emporia Super Easy. But a used iPhone SE costs between £150 and £250 with 64GB of storage, and is Emporia’s main competitor, Millington says.

Another European company specializing in technology for the elderly is Sweden-based Doro, which also makes smartphones, feature phones, landline phones, tablets and smartwatches. When researching a cell phone from a mainstream cell phone manufacturer for an elderly family member or friend, factors such as price range, device size, weight and ergonomics, touch screen responsiveness, audio quality, IP rating, and GPS support must be adjusted. and more.


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