I have had a series of calls on my mobile from a number which I did not recognise. When I finally managed to answer the phone in time to catch the caller (does anyone else have the problem of the phone always stopping ringing just as they find where it is and push the button?) it was my mobile network. After kindly asking how I was today ( another aside – anyone of the right age to use this website would probably answer ‘Very well, thank you’ whereas the current fashion is to reply ‘Good’. That sounds to me more like a matter for others to comment upon, rather than for someone to judge about themselves. Still, back to the topic.) he asked whether I was coming to the end of my mobile contract.
The first odd thing is why did he ask me something which he clearly knew? I have no idea when my contract ends, it does seem to me one of the least important aspects of my life, but he obviously had my date in front of him. Obviously the network worries that I will be rushing around looking for another supplier, so the aim of the call was to keep me locked into the network.
The next oddity is that he then started to offer me inducements to stay, when I would have done nothing about it if the call had not been made. The first inducement was that he could offer me a new phone. Now, I quite like my phone. After 18 months I think I have figured out how most of it works, or at least how enough for my needs works. I haven’t made a video with it, but then nor have I made a video with anything else. It just rings, rather than having an amusing ring tone. The other day the predictive text slipped into Afrikaans, which made for some challenging words, but mostly I like it. It is a Blackberry, although for obvious reasons I tend to refer to it as an Elderberry, and I use it to be able to see emails when away from my computer. A few calls, a few texts, and at the moment rather a lot of emails about Viagra.
I asked why I should want a new phone, and the answer was ‘Well, 18 months is a long time to have the same phone.’ This seems a strange attitude, especially in a world where we are supposed to be trying to conserve resources, re-use plastic bags, and certainly not throw away expensive high-tech items simply because we are a bit bored with them.
This stems from the fact that mobile phones are a fashion item for the young, and for them not having the latest phone must be a big problem. This made me think about whether any of the phone networks has ever considered the needs of older users. All of the advertising and marketing seems aimed at the young, and the design of the phones themselves does not seem very friendly towards older users. I certainly need reading glasses to work my phone. The buttons are extremely small, dreadfully fiddly to operate. I would be delighted if I could make it take longer to go onto the answering service, as unlike a teenager I do not clutch the phone close to me all day. By the time I find which pocket it is in today, the call has gone. There must be other things about mobile phones which would suit our age group, and certainly there are lots of things packaged within the latest phones which really are a waste for many of us.
While the phones and the networks are so clearly aiming at the young, the odd fact is that the great majority of us all have mobile phones now. They are not at all the preserve of youth, yet it would be hard to guess this from looking at publicity around them.
The way mobile usage is charged also seems oddly designed for the young – either it is Pay as You Go, which controls spending but is very irritating to have to keep topping up, or it is some regular volume of call time or text, which I never come remotely close to using up. I have to admit that I still have no idea how the deal to which I signed up, which was for £35 a month, somehow costs me £59 or so each month, but then I am still trying to grasp the principles behind my electricity bills, which seem somehow to involve the supplier holding large sums of my cash. It would be really nice if they just charged me for what I use each month, I could understand that.
So, what I would like would be a phone which allowed me to make and receive calls, texts, and emails, and to be charged for what I use. If they really insist, they can stick a camera into it as well, and maybe an alarm, but that just about does it for me. Although, with all this amazing technology, why not add some things which would be of value to our age group? A blood pressure monitor would be handy, maybe a breathalyser, and what about a Long Wave-only radio to listen to Test Match Special? Instead of SatNav, what about a device which locates your reading glasses? Or something really hi-tech, how about using Bluetooth to identify the phones of friends and relatives who are near you, so that when you meet them their name comes up in your phone – saves those embarrassing moments when you just can’t remember.
I think the Elderberry has potential. Send us your ideas and perhaps we can pester a manufacturer.