back to article Feature-phones aren't dead, Moto – oldsters still need them

Swedish phones-for-seniors company Doro has taken issue with the assertion that the days of the feature-phone are done, and has launched a new budget handset – with a keypad and no camera. This is in stark contrast to Motorola’s claim yesterday that the whole world wanted smartphones. The difference, however, is cognition. …

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Poor understanding of optics

"Lenses focus light, not the lack of it"?

An image is made from both light and shade so this argument is tosh

Some of the rest of the points are well made but really why does anyone need specific hardware when it is clearly just the user interface that needs tweaking for older people - or indeed visually impaired of any age? Come on someone there must be an App for that!

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Re: Poor understanding of optics

It's not just the UI that is the problem.

My Dad tried to use my Sony Xperia, and could just not get used to virtual buttons on the screen. He wanted something that he could get tactile feedback from (the haptic feedback told him he had pressed a key, but he had no idea of whether it was the right key), both to find the key and know that he had pressed it. He also found that having to hold the thing so that he could see the whole of the top surface meant that he dropped it a lot. Until you see an older person trying to use a phone, you forget how much restricted finger movement due to any of a number of ailments, impacts their use.

He looked at one of the Doros, and the similar BlueChip phones, but decided on a Samsung flip phone for a similar price. And he actually uses it, although he doesn't get texting at all.

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Re: Poor understanding of optics

Tosh or not, once I figured out how to change my e-readers to display white text on a black background I've enjoyed using them more.

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Re: Poor understanding of optics

I think you'll find that your 'shade' is in fact light too. It's kind of neat how that works.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor understanding of optics

Not really tosh - blurring the dark regions doesn't reduce the intensity of the light regions, whereas blurring the light regions does increase the intensity of the dark regions. In effect there is only any out-of-focus contribution from the light areas, so the description of the effects is entirely correct..

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why ... need specific hardware ... clearly just the user interface that needs tweaking

On feature phones the hardware and the software are not separate. Each model comes with specific software embedded.

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Discovering texting at 92

We got my significant-other-in-law an earlier model when she was 92. She rapidly became a fiendish texter. This is the ideal type of phone for someone with slightly dodgy vision and hearing, they're usually a bit BLOODY LOUD too. Now 95 she's still using it all the time. She loves our smart phones, but says they're too complex and fiddly. It may be a niche market, but with an expanding very elderly population, not a bad niche to be in.

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Re: Discovering texting at 92

It's a niche market that will largely (though probably never completely) disappear. People like me, in their '50s can use smart phones. We will still be trying to use smart phones (or what comes after them) when we retire.

Current oldsters grew up in a time when telephones were big and connected to the wall with a wire. Merely having a phone that you can lose in your coat pocket is still strange to some of them.

It may be that there will be a new technology (maybe wearable phones/display systems like Glass) that my generation won't be comfortable using, and Smart phones will become the new feature phone.

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Re: Discovering texting at 92

Don't be so sure. The over 90 age group is the fastest growing in the US, and I assume in the rest of the industrialized world.

There's a huge difference between people in their 50s and people in their 80s and 90s as far as dexterity and mental sharpness. There are exceptions, and we all hope we'll be one, but the odds are against us. Just because you can use a smartphone fine now doesn't mean you'd be able to do if you woke up aged 30 years tomorrow morning.

Hopefully by the time we're that old we can let our robotic butlers make calls and send texts for us. Or our 25 year old wife, if we happened to win a huge lottery jackpot somewhere along the way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Discovering texting at 92

Having spent 45 years at the cutting edge of IT comms my mobile is now a Doro feature phone. Chosen for: clamshell; big keypad; big bright screen; very loud ring for when it's in my pocket; a charge lasting at least a week; no camera. Being retired it fulfils my needs for something to use for text messages once in a while. My annual PAYG costs about a fiver.

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Re: Discovering texting at 92

People like me, in their '50s can use smart phones. We will still be trying to use smart phones (or what comes after them) when we retire.

What's it like on the eyes? I'm in my late 40s and already suspect my eyes are struggling a bit - reading a web page is too much strain for more than a minute or two unless I zoom in but then I'm forever scrolling around the page. I tend to hardly ever browse using my phone (S3). I'm also not sure how easy it'll be to use the virtual keypad as I get older though hopefully it'll be at least ten years before it becomes a problem.

I've said many times - it's all very well inventing clever, miniaturised technology but everyone gets old eventually and few of us want to have to give up our cool toys just because we're into our second half century.

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Re: Discovering texting at 92

Wait till you have arthritis and can't find your reading glasses and tell me anyone can use a Smart phone that only has a touch screen.

It's not just a GUI customisation issue, though an option for Big Text ad simple graphics would help.

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h3
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Re: Discovering texting at 92

These aren't feature phones though they are dumb phones.

(Same as the cheapest Nokia's).

The media seems to like redefining terms constantly to make one term mean everything even when it started with a decent unambiguous definition.

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Coat

@DougS

I'd be chuffed to fuck if I woke up aged 30 years tomorrow morning.

I'm 53...

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Re: Discovering texting at 92

AC, I couldn't agree more. I have my old Nokia 1600 that makes and receives calls which is what I expect a phone to do. It can also make calls in places where smart phones are struggling yo get a signal. My annual call costs are zero since Free telecom gives free calls for users of their internet service.

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Re: Discovering texting at 92

Absolutely right. Got the same for technology challenged wife except her model does have a camera. Docking charger is great too, much better than faffing around with tiny plugs. Hangs on a neck cord. My only problem was trying to conceal the fact it's intended as a "granny phone" big text, loud, easy to read tactile buttons. The SOS button is a bit of a giveaway but I got away with it.

There is a good reason why many of the old simple Nokia phone models sold over 100 million, far more than any iPhone or Android. I have an antique nokia as a spare but the battery has died - in its youth it could last up to 3 weeks between charges, I bet if someone made a truly minimal phone with current technology they could get even longer battery life - or use an even smaller battery (mine is 700mAh my Android phone battery is 3 times the capacity, allegedly lasts 12 days on standby but in use, because of the wider range of power consuming hardware and software components, maybe a day.)

There's a place for a £10 phone, it's not the same place as the £500 phone but if you just need phone calls and SMS, save yourself £490!

There's a parallell with the Swiss Army knife, do you need the one with every imaginable "blade" http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wenger-Giant-Swiss-Army-Knife/dp/B000R0JDSI 1.4kg GBP880 or will this do http://www.amazon.co.uk/Victorinox-0871000-Army-Knife-4-25in/dp/B0001P15C6

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Re: Discovering texting at 92 @AndrueC

"What's it like on the eyes?" - It depends what is wrong with your eyes. I've been a glasses wearer since my mid teens, and for the most part, can still get my long-standing myopia, astigmatisms and my more recent presbyopia fixed well enough with glasses to use my Sony Xperia SP. Have you tried seeing your Optometrist or Optician?

Many of the problems people have is that they are trying to display too much on too small a screen, not that their eyesight is degrading. I blame the unnecessary move the recent 'retina' type resolutions.

My Father is suffering from type 2 diabetes. It's was allowed to progress before being adequately treated until it is now affecting his sight to an alarming extent. With that knowledge, I am keeping a close check on my weight and eyesight in the hope that I don't suffer similar problems. Of course, I may also find that I suffer from cataracts or other unexpected ailment, but I would expect that medical science and regular checks are better now than they were 30 years ago for the people then of my current age who are now in their '80s.

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Anonymous Coward

Diabetes

Weight is not always the determining factor in Type 2 Diabetes. My BMI has never been worse than 23 - even in my later years. For most of my life I was definitely skinny - even now at 66 my slim body looks like a healthy 40 year old. I gave up the car as unnecessary at age 40 and walked everywhere within 3 miles - the daily walk to the office was a 2 mile round trip at a fast pace.

It is presumed that I have inherited my condition from my father. It only showed in a routine blood test on retirement - and the glucose level was then very high. Possible earlier related symptoms over a decade were dismissed - as the precautionary diabetes fasting blood tests were always negative.

It is now very well controlled with my diet adjusted to three regularly spaced balanced meals - very few nibbles in between - plus Metformin tablets. I keep sugar and carbohydrates to a low level. An indulgence in fruit has also been curtailed. Alcohol was only ever a rare treat with special meals.

What probably did the damage was a high stress technical troubleshooting role. That had irregular long hours and sleeping patterns. Overnight snacks from the office vending machine tended to be sugary - and a pizza was a quick bedtime snack on arriving home knackered. My metabolism, like my father's, has always burned off excess calories very quickly - probably leading to some over-indulgences. I find in retirement I can consume far less calories and still maintain my weight. A 2 mile daily fast walk gets the blood circulating.

A venal branch occlusion in one eye was also coincidentally diagnosed on my first diabetes retinopathy scan - caused by hardening of the arteries. Unfortunately my optician had dismissed my vision complaints a few months earlier. My retinopathy tests show no other problems yet. One consultant says the occlusion is a side-effect of the diabetes on blood vessels. Another says, as I am a non-smoker, that it is possibly due to exposure to passive smoking in the childhood home - and in the IT industry offices up to about the 1990s.

A good indicator of problems looming is to measure your blood glucose levels 2 hours after you started a meal. That apparently shows how well your insulin is handling the glucose. I use Accu-Chek Aviva lancets and strips to test a fingertip prick of blood every few days - and after any unusually indulgent meal.

A BBC Horizon programme by Michael Moseley suggested that a daily short burst of H.I.T on an exercise bike could improve insulin control.

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Happy

Background?

"As you can see from the above picture, the Doro 508 has white numbers on a black background. "

Might be my new glasses, but the black background looks green to me?

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Re: Background?

@ Alan Gauton

Might be my new glasses, but the black background looks green to me?

I think you might be trolling, but they mean the phone buttons, not the screen.

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Re: Background?

Pad, not screen.

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Re: Background?

I guess that's many people who currently have a touchscreen phone think, that was my first thought too. Thankfully I realised what it meant shortly afterwards and didn't go on to ask myself why the lower screen bezel has got an odd bumpy texture with an embossed numerical design.

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Re: Background?

I think they are referring to the keys, not the screen?

I'm guessing the people they are targeting this phone at will be more interested in being able to make out buttons to push than what is on the screen.

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I also miss tactlie feedback. I could type far more accurately and quickly on my Blackberry 8520 than I can on my Samsung S3 mini.

Although I love the many things my smartphone can do its inability to get a decent signal half the time pisses me off no end.

I might get one of these 508s just so I can actually make a phone call. Revolutionary idea I know.

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Due to having to carry 2 pairs of glasses + sunglasses around, I carry a bag. Hence my tablet goes with me 90% of the time.

My ideal device would be something like an old Motorola RAZR V3. Slim and comfortable to hold. With a mouthpiece that reaches your mouth, and a speaker that reaches your ear. Plus it folds, so you can't accidentally press buttons, and don't need an inconvenient screen-lock. Looked nice too. With ecent ergonomics.

The keypad is fine for most navigating / texting, though I'd want a touchscreen too. But I dial a lot of calls from the keypad, as I talk to a lot of new people at work.

If should do GPS, and internet. Then either share its connection via WiFi or throw the screen to a tablet, it would be wonderful for mobile web browsing (which I don't enjoy on anything less than a 5" screen anyway.

Then I could do quick email or browsing from the small screen, or get the tablet out for anything longer. And still only have a very small, practical phone with me at the pub.

Should something like Google Glass ever take off, it would be perfectly equipped to throw email and GPS to that as well.

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Still happily using my dumb phone here.

Lasts a week and a half on a single charge.

Does absolutely everything I want it too.

Very happy not to have my life revolve around it.

If I lose it my life doesn't end.

It just works. I'm still at least 37 years off getting my pension too.

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tsf

Yep, it's got nothing to do with age.

I still love my Nokia E52, three weeks battery life, proper corporate email and exchange public folder sync, something my colleages iPhone still can't do as well, and no pointless time sucking junk.

And it's a proper size and weight for a mobile phone, in fact it's one of the last of the true mobile phones, rather than the evolution of the PDA with poor bolted on phone capability that rebranded itself as a smartphone.

Thanks smartphone, but no thanks.

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Happy

And a better upside...

..you don't have to have a bloody charger with you at all times....

14 hours talk time

Approx 15 DAYS standby.

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Nicely avoids random UI changes!

Seniors (and I'm not far behind) got used to devices that did a certain function and kept doing it.One learns how to use the thing and then it's all gravy.Smartphones change all the bloody time, usually for no good reason.

Handset makers and carriers think nothing of the constant learning curve they inflict on their users. Well, the users don't think much of them, and that's going to keep feature phones alive forever.

Example: Our users have Exchange e-mail on their phones. We enforce password changes, so the phone has to be regularly updated. A recent Android update moved the Exchange password setting from FOUR menu levels deep to EIGHT levels deep. Yep, a common corporate setting got worse, not better.

Smartphones are terrible in a lot of ways. Feature phones will die when fax machines do, lol...

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Mo-in-law has parkinsons which rules out all the touchscreen mobiles. She'd be happy for some smartphone features but they seem to be long gone from phones with a nice clear keypad. She went for a Doro clamshell in the end. Basic but very good it is too. Battery lasts for a century.

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Anonymous Coward

I would have thought Smart Phones with their ginormous proportions nowadays would be ideal for seniors.

Just simplify the interface. Remove all the bloatware so there is only one screen of app icons so they don't get lost swiping. Ony essential apps for phone and texting.

Decent loudness speaker, and big battery and Bobs your grandfather.

Actually Moto G (and now the even cheaper E) isn't a bad smart phone for seniors.

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Some things I miss on my smartphone that my feature phone had:

real buttons with edges that you could feel and you could tell when you pressed them. I used to be able to text without looking at the phone, now with the touch screen and virtual keyboard I have to look at the keyboard and make sure the phone's registered the keypress.

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I'm still riding with the assessment I made years ago, feature phones will become status symbols. The two wealthiest people in our VC group won't use smartphones. I know for an absolute fact that one of the big name tech CEO's who is the frequent subject of El Reg articles uses his smartphone in public because he's got a vested interest in the company that makes them. His personal phone is a dumb phone and that's what you call him on if you actually want to talk to him.

Somebody a few comments up said it, dumb phones just work. That's all some people want. I'm betting using a dumb phone becomes a fashion statement, just like having a Blackberry did.

On a business note, it is nice to see people trying to cater to the senior market directly instead of the senior market by way of insurance companies and an Rx from a Dr.

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Featurephones as status symbols

$Task_for_which_there_may_be_an_app$?

There's staff for that.

Although if you were that important people would wait until you got to a land-line to speak to you.

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Re: Featurephones as status symbols

It used to be said that your position in an organisation could be judged by your briefcase. The higher in the hierarchy you were - the slimmer the case. The top person didn't need to carry one at all.

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Anonymous Coward

But does it work in Switzerland

You know, their last phone call and all that.....

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It's not just the oldies who like this sort of thing.

A feature-phone with seriously-long battery-life coupled with buttons that are large enough to still let you use the thing while wearing gloves is just what some of us outdoorsy-types like.

Ever tried using a touchscreen outdoors in the middle of a hailstorm, or while riding a horse?

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Re: It's not just the oldies who like this sort of thing.

And Real Buttons(tm) allow you to operate your phone by feel, instead of by having to look at the screen.

Handy in all kinds of situations, when your (visual) attention should be elsewhere.

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Re: It's not just the oldies who like this sort of thing.

"Ever tried using a touchscreen outdoors in the middle of a hailstorm, or while riding a horse?"

Do the no-texting-while-driving laws apply to riders on a public road?

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Re: It's not just the oldies who like this sort of thing.

quote: "Do the no-texting-while-driving laws apply to riders on a public road?"

Much as I hate to admit it, horses are capable of fully autonomous navigation and hazard avoidance. Not something I can say for any of my current motor vehicles.

The rider of a horse is more like the driving instructor or the person being chauffeured, than the driver.

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Pint

Re: Do the no-texting-while-driving laws apply to riders on a public road?

There was a recent test case on this here in Melbourne. Someone was giving carriage rides to tourists and was using his phone to book his next customer. He was caught for texting whilst driving the carriage. He was let off after his lawyer successfully argued that it was the horse that was driving the carriage. Perhaps next time they'll insist on breathalyzing the horse, or insisting on it passing a driving test. (I wonder how you'd breathalyze a horse)

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Dumbphone /= featurephone

Feature phones used to have a lot of the functionality now only associated with smartphones (basic web browsing, mp3 playback, simple java apps). Often they were quite small and had decent screens for their size. They definately weren't cheap.

I've got an old 6600 fold. OLED screen. Tiny. Enough internet for facebook (a lot of people's internet usage - admitedly not around here). Can I get anything even remotely similar these days? No, now the choice is between a big slab of glass and no buttons or huge buttons and no features.

I so miss this third option.

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Re: Dumbphone /= featurephone

The first mobile I ever owned (Nokia 7110) had internet access, as has every phone since.

And yet most of the time I use my phone for texts and phone calls, although having email is very handy.

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What ring tones are available. Can I add my favourite tune?

P.

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Anonymous Coward

Unlikely. The Doro 610 and 810 have a selection of 20 preset tones including a nice old fashioned "ring-ring" - but no custom tone.

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Chopin's Funeral March perhaps?

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Physical buttons FTW!

As a totally blind person, the virtual keys of an On Screen Keyboard are the absolute *worst* idea ever. How are we supposed to find something we can't see? That there's no haptic feedback to let us know we've even touched a "button" at all? Much less that it was the RIGHT button, or that the phone has accepted us having pushed it? A physical button, especially one as described in the article, is easy to find without having to see it, easy to push, you know you've pushed it when the button clicks at the end of it's travel, and the phone acknowledges the push with a beep (DTMF) tone appropriate & distinctive to the button just pressed.

I currently use a Samsung Haven because it's one of the few Basic (not even "Feature" and sure as hell not "Smart") phones that has the ability to read the screen to me. I know what Menu I'm on, what Option I'm on, what keys I'm pressing, the results of that press, and it reads aloud text messages, both incoming & the ones I'm typing. It cost $40 nearly 5 years ago, and it takes a ~$400 "SmartPhone" to do the same yet inferior job? That's not progress, that's bullshit.

And you don't have to be totally blind to need such functionality either. Anyone with motive degeneration, such as Parkinson's or Muscular Distrophy, needs physical buttons in order to have the tactile feedback to aim for. Anyone with any degree of visual impairment, such as Macular Degeneration or "Old Eyes" will appreciate having a phone that reads aloud what they may no longer be able to see all that clearly. And if a SmartPhone has a zillion fiddlybits that we can't use (camera, playing flash games, displaying slideshows of pitctures, synching to "The Cloud" for services we don't need, etc) then why should we be forced to PAY for one that does, just to get the features we need?

If my 5 year old $40 Basic Phone could do all this, then why is it so bloody hard to find a current one that can do the same? Has the world solved Disabilities & thus made such functionality unnecessary? No? Then such phones are still needed, and the ~300Million folks around the world that "only" suffer from vision impairments might appreciate having a phone that can allow them to USE the fekking thing.

So Kudos to the company for knowing that "old folks" (anyone with less than perfect motor skills, audio or visual acquity) just MIGHT want a phone that Just Works and doesn't make their lives hell with a metric fekton of "apps" that are as about as usefull as porn to the Pope.

*AmusedCough*

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Re: Physical buttons FTW!

Or... you can just hold down the big, tactile "Home" button on an iPhone and just *tell* it what you want it to do. ("Call wife", "Send message to [CONTACT]", etc.) The dictation works very well now too. Apple's "Siri" feature has been around since late 2011 now, and the technology itself predates even that.

You can do this on Android devices too, as well as on Windows Phone 8.1 (when that comes out next month; I have the beta installed on my new Nokia 1320.)

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Not a feature phone

I think lots of people in my parents generation want a no features phone.

Can it make phone calls? Yes, that's all I want.

It can do xyz too. Errrr why? can you turn that off, I want a phone please.

My mother's phone was playing up recently and so my ex marched her into CPW and told the salesman to sell her a Doro PhoneEasy, Mum is delighted, big buttons and big text on screen. She's be ever happier if it was even more limited. If anyone sends her a text message she either phones one of use and asks what the message is on the screen or summons nearest grandchild to come and sort it out.

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Re: Not a feature phone

My mum (in her 60's) loves her android phone, and rarely puts it down. My dad (65) has never got the hang of any mobile phone dumb/feature or smart.

It's not just about age, it's personality as well.

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