July 19, 2012
In an effort to expand its market to those traditionally left out of the smartphone trend, Fujitsu, a smartphone manufacturer in Japan, announced that it will be developing in a new, simplified GUI design for elderly phone users. Called the "RakuRaku" line, these smartphones feature a simplified UI and larger icons, as well as many other features to make use more comfortable for those unable to easily use traditional smartphones.
According to Computerworld, Fujistu negotiated with Google for use of an adapted version of the Android mobile OS that does not require the user to have an activated Google account - a step the company feels would hinder mobile application usability for older customers. Additionally, the company has completely customized the graphical user interface design of the OS, like Sharp and HTC have done in the past, to provide a unique feel for consumers.
The goal of the new phone, called the F-12D, is to help older consumers step up from tradition cell phones to smartphones without creating a complicated experience. This includes the device design as well, which is being developed for users who may not be comfortable with the sleek, futuristic designs of the iPhone and other Android devices.
One of these changes includes a screen that gives the user the impression of pressing a button - something the company found many elderly users miss when using a smartphone. The BlackBerry Storm uses a similar style of screen, though this wasn't received well among general users. According to the news source, Fujistu tested this design with older users and found it to be highly popular.
The screen will also feature improved "false touch" sensors, reducing accidental input when a user is holding the phone. Other new features will include larger base text and icons and a simplified, vertical-only scrolling style.
While the phone is currently only be launched in Japan, the company is looking forward to pitching it to international markets as well, as this may be the first phone developed specifically with the elderly in mind. This could help not only improve smartphone sales among the elderly, but is also a chance for application design teams to approach a new audience, by taking cues from Fujistu to implement UI designs that are friendlier to users with disabilities or less-than-perfect motor control.