Too Old For Your Smartphone? Study Claims Over 55 Set Wants Simple Devices

News Analysis: A highly flawed analyst report equates smartphones with gaming, and this means people over 55 aren't interested in sophisticated mobile devices with lots of features or options.

According to a research report released Feb. 14 by In-Stat, people over 55 aren't interested in the complexity of smartphones. The report claims that the research proves that older users want numerical keypads and that they're not interested in QWERTY keyboards, which the report calls a "gaming-oriented form factor." If this sounds like a disconnect to you, get ready for more.

The report, based on about 900 self-selected participants, only measures participants over 55 or under 55 with no rationale for why that particular age division was chosen. Furthermore, it seems to ignore the vast market for smartphones that aren't used for gaming.

Apparently the entire universe of BlackBerries was ignored, as were iPhones and the segment of Android devices that are sold primarily as corporate devices. According to this study, the only two options are a gaming device, or a plain old cell phone. Some details are in the In-Stat press release, but the complete report will cost you nearly $3,000.

According to the study, users over 55 aren't interested in Bluetooth, WiFi, memory-card slots or e-mail. Apparently those of us over 55 (including me) shouldn't be sold smartphones. After all, if the analyst who performed this study is correct, the phone companies are wasting their time. I guess now that I've read this study I need to dig out my old Motorola RAZR and turn off the Bluetooth feature; of course, that means I won't be able to use the phone while I drive, but clearly I'm probably too old to be driving anyway.

So with that study in mind, perhaps it's time for some actual facts. Let's start with facts about me. I'm over 55 (which is pretty obvious from my photo). I use a BlackBerry, which I know will come as a terrible shock to those who have asserted stridently that I must be an iPhone or Android fanatic. I like the QWERTY keyboard, and I use WiFi and Bluetooth daily. My editor, who is nearly as old as I am, uses an iPhone. And just to confuse the issue even more, I've been reviewing Android phones for eWEEK for a long time.

Regarding the survey, the bottom line is that the word survey implies some sort of scientific study with an established methodology. In-Stat's report, despite its name, is neither a survey nor does it qualify as research, unless you're willing to expand the definition of "research" beyond its commonly used meanings. To qualify as a real survey, In-Stat should have used a randomly selected set of respondents. In addition, it should have chosen each criterion in the survey according to generally accepted principles of demographic behavior.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...