08 December 2007

The Jitterbug Phone

I've already passed along an odd story about the Jitterbug phone (or at least about their PR and marketing). Now the product is getting some press.

Will Baby Boomers scarf down Jitterbugs? I doubt it - although there are markets for a simple, easy-to-handle, easy-to-figure-out phone.

My assessment (and being the muddle-headed, evil moral-relativist I am, the good and the bad aren't mutually exclusive):

The Good

  1. Those numbers and buttons are big - I can see them.
  2. I like the padding. Makes it easy to hear.
  3. It's comfy to hold. Like a real phone. Not like a lumpy Lego.
  4. Some people just want a phone.

The Bad

  1. Those numbers and buttons are big - like a toy phone.
  2. Boomers are tech-savvy, demand choices. Just because you don't text or maybe enjoy getting away from email and the the web while out and about doesn't mean you don't want those options.
  3. No pictures or video? How will you instantly see your granddaughter smiling at you? Or watch your grandson actually splashing around in the bathtub almost live, sort of like 'instant replay'? Or ogle a video from your friend you're jealous of because she's at a concert you're not because the tickets were $250 a pop - and there is that old rock group, right on stage, banging guitars, screaming into microphones, long silver hair wagging away? I'll sound like a Hallmark Card here - but these are moments to cherish …
  4. The calling plans are expensive and cheesy.

The real issue: Marketers assuming that if you're over fifty you're automatically a member of one and only one age demographic - all with the same needs and wants.* While some Boomers will like the Jitterbug, most will turn their noses up at this product.

However, a lot of Boomers are pivot-spenders. They might buy Jitterbugs for their less tech-obsessed parents. And how about a Jitterbug for that three-to-ten year old grandchild? A one-button direct line to GrandBooma and GrandBoompa? Then, who knows - after playing with it a bit they might like it and buy one for themselves.

Or simply position it as ... a phone. For anybody of any age who just wants, oddly enough, a phone.

What'll happen unless the Jitterbug folks get wise: The Jitterbug concept will influence other cell phone manufacturers and service providers. Easy-to-read, easy-to-manipulate phones will be developed - but with more features. And the Jitterbug will go the way of … well … the Jitterbug.

Things should be as simple as possible, but not simpler. - Albert Einstein

* And what do you do when the usually perceptive and entertaining David Pogue of The New York Times does even worse, referring to "the over-40 set" as if we're all the same, calling us "technophobic old people"? No wonder most marketers and advertisers are clueless.
More posts about the Jitterbug Phone:

NostraChuckus Predicts The Future

My Blog Was WOMMed!


  1. I enjoy technology - period. It gives me lots of choices, it helps me complain or rave to many people at once via the internet once I've made my choice. It helps me feel like life isn't stagnate, if one thing doesn't work, there will always be another thing to come along and take its place.

  2. I sure could use bigger numbers on my keypad because of my failing reading eyesight, but I do a lot of texting and photo stuff on my phone. Don't think Jitterbug would work for me.

  3. I think it all comes back to segmentation. Like you said, Chuck, there is a market for people who want simple plans and easy-to-read phones. Is that market anyone over 55? Heck no. That's actually insulting, when you think about it.

    Jitterbug needs to take the time and money to understand the niche segments that WILL need and buy their product. A mass market (and, yes, I believe the market of 55+ is a mass market) approach won't work for such a specialized product/service.

  4. Chuck, I like your analyses. We once carried out a research into adoption of new technologies. Phones like the Jitterbug make people feel they are disabled.


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