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SoftBank unveils smartphone for seniors

by

Staff Writer

SoftBank Corp. announced Tuesday that the company will release its new smartphone in late November and that its easy-to-use design will be particularly convenient for the elderly.

The Simple Smaho 2, developed in cooperation with Sharp Corp., is the company’s second smartphone designed for senior users.

In addition to a bigger 4.5-inch high-definition touch panel display and three-day battery life, the new model features a pre-installed version of the popular Line social networking app, which SoftBank claims answers senior consumers’ demand for occasional communications with relatives and friends.

At its unveiling, a SoftBank project manager said seniors may emerge as a strong component of Japan’s smartphone market, as now only 16 percent of cellphone users in their 60s or older own one, according to the company’s recent research.

SoftBank said that demand for smartphones among the elderly is high, but they are hesitant to buy one due to concerns about the cost and complexity.

To allay their concerns, SoftBank’s new smartphone will offer such helpful functions as magnifying software that can be used for any app as well as three easy to use touch buttons at the bottom of the handset that help users access basic functions.

“Smartphones that target particular age groups are probably unique to Japan,” said Yuhji Endo, who is in charge of the new smartphone at Sharp. “One advantage is these phones can sell consistently every month, unlike regular smartphones, where only a few draw people’s attention and become big hits.”

Endo said it was a struggle to come up with the product name.

“The reason we used ‘simple’ instead of ‘elderly’ is because otherwise elders wouldn’t want to buy it,” he said. “In fact, we worked to design the phone just like regular smartphones. The only difference is the assistive functions to provide a simple user experience. I would recommend this product even for juniors and those who prefer to use uncomplicated smartphones.”

To whet the buying appetite of seniors, whose hobbies often include sightseeing, the phone offers a special app that lets them create their own photo albums by recording the date they take photos with the 8-megapixel camera.