Simpler Cell Phones and Cell Phone Plans Emerging

By: Christine Peppler

As cell phones continue to shrink and their functions expand, they become increasingly inaccessible for millions of those with even a mild decline in vision, motor skills, or hearing. In addition, the associated cell phone plans are so complex that anyone who would benefit from having a cell phone for limited use, such as family communication and emergency use only, are deterred from making a commitment to such services. Obviously, there are a significant number of older individuals who fall into this category of people; those who could live more independently or more safely with such services but are limited by the complexity of the devices and the plans.

The need to offer cell phones and cell phone plans better suited to those older individuals who encounter difficulty with the average device is slowly being recognized, giving options and hope to such users and those who may care for them. A year or two ago GreatCall introduced the Jitterbug, a cell phone designed with the needs of many older individuals in mind. The Jitterbug posseses larger buttons, big fonts on a more visible screen, good volume, and simplified, easy to understand functions. The phone is designed for the purpose of sending and receiving voice calls and messages minus many of the functions that complicate other cell phones and are generally not desired by many older users. Jitterbug phones even come complete with 24 hour operator assistance as needed to place calls or add individuals to a users personalized phone list.

In addition, the Jitterbug offers cell phones plans that are affordable as well as comprehensible. There are a handful of plans to choose from but all offer calling that costs the same whenever and where ever a user calls and eliminate roaming, long distance, and time of day restrictions. None of the plans require a long term contract or termination fees and start as low as $10/per month.

The Jitterbug however, has perhaps made another significant contribution to the evolution of cell phones and cell phone plans. It would appear that other manufacturers have taken notice and are awakening to the needs of this segment of the population, and the needs of all of those who would prefer more simplicity.

Verizon recently rolled out the "Wireless Coupe" a cell phone targeted toward the older population. Certainly, this phone is a step forward although perhaps a bit more complex than the Jitterbug. With large buttons and big screen font, some "in case of emergency" buttons for single button dialing, and a discounted rate plan for those who use less talk time and have a fixed income it certainly is a step in the right direction. The cost of the phone is a mere $19.99 but requires a 2 year contract. Verizon's America's Choice 65 Plus cell phone plans are a compliment to their "Wireless Coupe". The two options include a single line plan which provides 200 anytime minutes and 500 night and weekend minutes for $29.99 and a two line plan with 450 anytime minutes and 100 night and weekend minutes for $59.99. Clearly, these plans are a bit more complex than the Jitterbug plans but should still be attractive to anyone who is seeking an option that is more appropriate and accessible for people needing basic calling functions only.

Further evidence of the growing awareness of the need for simplicity and affordability is a cell phone plan AT&T announced a short time ago. AT&T's Senior Nation 200 Plan provides users with 200 anytime minutes, 500 Nights & Weekend minutes, and unlimited in network mobile-to-mobile calling all for $29.99/month.

Although these recent entrants may not offer perfect solutions, they are certainly an indication that calls for more basic cell phones and cell phone plans are not falling on deaf ears. With more players recognizing the need to market to this segment of the population, consumers are bound to benefit as competition begins to heat up.

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