Are older people out of touch?
When a survey by ABI Research asked 1,015 U.S. mobile phone users which features they expected to find on a $50 phone, nearly half of the respondents in the 40 to 59 age bracket said they expected a touch-screen.
The survey, conducted in February, aimed to discover which features people have on their phones, which features they actually use and which features they expect to find on cellular handsets with prices of $50, $100 and $150.
Another surprise was that users in every age category responded, in the same order, that they expected to find Internet access, e-mail and music capabilities in phones at all price points.
Kevin Burden, a research practice director with ABI Research, said other patterns also emerged. Aside from the touch-screen, Burden told eWEEK, "The older the respondents, the lower their expectations."
Younger generations were more focused on multimedia applications, Burden said. "The ability to record and play video, to play music. Those were their core applications."
In the 40- to 49-year-old category, e-mail was the most desired feature.
Burden said ABI was trying to see what interested people and what didn't.
"TVO capability-that allows you to hook up your phone to your TV, to view photos, etc.?" Burden said. "That was the least-desired feature of any feature that we tested."
Stereo loudspeakers and turn-by-turn directions also didn't fare well. "People have in-car navigation, or TomTom-like devices, and these do a better job," Burden explained. "Plus, if you want to do turn-by-turn directions on your phone, here come the fees."
Is the message to manufacturers, stop piling on the features?
"The message is more that every feature is important to someone," Burden said. "There's a market for every feature-some people do want stereo loudspeakers. Manufacturers need to travel down the path of putting certain features on certain phones."
As for the group expecting a touch-screen on a $50 phone, perhaps those expectations are more in line with their experiences than those of younger groups.
"ATMs have been using touch-screen[s] for decades. Why wouldn't [the older group] expect it?" Burden said. "At the time when [many of them] were in their 40s, the hot new gadgets were PDAs, with touch-screens. Why wouldn't they expect that touch-screens would be on inexpensive mobile phones?"
Otherwise, he said, they "wanted simplicity, they didn't want a lot of stuff." A very practical group overall.