The report, Making phones easier to use, produced by the Communications Consumer Panel in Britain - an expert panel that advises the regulator and government on consumer issues - focuses on the communications needs of older people in general and people with various special needs when it comes to using mobile phones.
In particular, the report is very supportive of the GARI project calling it “the most significant information initiative currently available...”, and “we would strongly encourage other manufacturers to participate”.
The report echoes some of the findings that emerged from GARI’s own research, such as which individual features or groups of features help particular groups to use mobile phones more easily, such as people with visual or aural special needs, or with mobility or dexterity needs. But it makes the point that, while no individual phone can meet the needs of every group, there are improvements that can be made to benefit all users. This is certainly something that manufacturers are constantly striving for.
One broad area of potential improvement is visual – larger, clearer key symbols, and a better indication of which keys have been pressed, for instance. Software was also identified since it is a key element to making a mobile phone simpler and more intuitive to use.
A common theme among older users surveyed in the report is that shop assistants tend to be younger and have no problems understanding new phones’ different features, while that this is not always the case for older users. Therefore retail staff may not fully appreciate older customers’ need for help in choosing between different phone models.
One of the reasons that the GARI website was developed as an online resource was to help people learn about the various features available from the comfort of their own home where comparisons can be made and choices narrowed at ones own leisure. The retail experience is still important though, because one still needs to be able to see and feel a phone to make sure it is right. In many stores you can still try out a phone, something that is important to many people, but particularly for those with additional needs. Armed with the information obtained from the GARI database, and a visit perhaps during the quieter times of the day, where retail staff have more time to assist, should result in a much better experience.
The MMF certainly welcomes the Consumer Panel report and will be looking closely at its various recommendations.