Is the iPhone a complete computer solution for the 60+ crowd?

I had an interesting conversation with my father yesterday. I was trying to explain to him the idea that I had for an application for the iPhone. It’s a simple idea that I thought would be easy for him to understand, and it was just one part of the larger conversation we were having.

You see, my father isn’t a techie. In fact, he doesn’t have an email address, he has never gotten online in his life (to my knowledge, anyway), and I’ve seen him operate a mouse…which wasn’t something he was a natural at. I’m not making fun – I’m just trying to be clear – he’s not a computer user. Not in the slightest.

He’s not even someone that is interested in technology. He’s not afraid of it, or against using it – its just not something he cares about. Most of the time when I talk about work and whatever I’ve been doing during the day he patiently listens, and then informs me that while he doesn’t have a clue what I’m talking about – it sounds like everything is going well.

Yesterday, however, I could hear the excitement in his voice when I was talking to him about this application. We then moved on to talk about what the iPhone is and how it works, and he became really, genuinely excited about the device.

He’s coming into town on Thursday, and says that he “can’t wait” to see it. I’ve been to his house many times with my iPhone in my pocket, but it never occurred to me that he’d actually care about it. After that conversation though, the thought dawned on me…the iPhone could be his entire computer.

My Dad hates using a keyboard and mouse. It’s just not an interface he finds in any way engaging, but the idea of just touching the stuff you want to do is really appealing to him.

Since all he would really ever use a computer for is email, and a little light internet surfing, it seems like the iPhone might be an ideal choice for him. It’s cheap, he can carry it around in his pocket, and it would cover both his phone and his Internet bills.

My only concern would be the size of the text in certain applications…but other than that, I can’t really think of a reason this would be a bad option for him as a computer solution.

What do you think? Is the iPhone a computer replacement for casual users? Is the design more intuitive for old people who aren’t computer users?

Comments

  1. I think the iPhone would be a painful experience for someone of our fathers’ age to get used to.

  2. @krye

    I don’t know. I think my father is going to do well with the basic features. The more advanced stuff – sure…but that’s going to be a painful experience for him to get used to on a regular PC or Mac too, right?

  3. Mateo Baisden says:

    I’ve been trying to get my Dad to buy a computer for years. I actually just gave him a tour of my iPhone yesterday and he wants to go buy one now…

    I’ll finally be able to email him!

  4. Mike O'Brien says:

    Hi, Michael–

    Both my wife and I are 65. In general, she is a very intelligent but non-tech person who has learned some technologies that she considers useful, like our iMac or her cell phone. She can email and surf the web on our desktop. She uses her cell phone for calls and recently has started texting to our kids and younger folks. She hates typing on her eensy cell alphanumeric keys.

    She may really like the iPhone, because she could easily carry it and do what she likes now, like email and texting, and I think she may discover and appreciate other functions, too, like maps.

    Having been burned a few times as an early adopter of Apple products, I have been reading about peoples’ experiences with the iPhone to make sure they work as expected. Based on user comments, if there’s a drawback for her, it’s probably going to be the short battery life and constant recharging–she often forgets to recharge her cell phone. Maybe there’s an app that reminds you to charge?

    I am still trying to figure out if an iPhone would allow me to synch it with my networked desktop Outlook email and calendar. I work for a big organization and our IT folks are cautious about supporting new tools, so I am on my own for now.

    Anyway, long way of saying I agree that the iPhone might suit us older folks!

    Mike

  5. @Mike

    The iPhone 2.0 software does have Microsoft Exchange support built in. So if they offer Exchange support you should be good to go.

    The battery life isn’t that bad for me – and the phone does remind you when you have 20% battery life left and 10% battery life left, so it does a good job of letting you know when you’re running out of juice!

    I say get 2 of them!!!

    :)

  6. I’m *in* the 60+ crowd, and my answer is NO.

    Screen is too small, text is too small, and critical functionality is missing. Surfing Safari is usable, but not a pleasant experience.

    No Mathematica (name *your* killer app here), no Flash, no database, etc. I have an iPod Touch, and I use it, but it is not a complete solution.

    MacBook or MacBook Pro is much better, with a much lower TCO — when you factor in the costs for AT&T.

    A multi-touch MacBook would be really great, though.

  7. My Brother is a frequent traveler who hated lugging a laptop around with him everywhere he goes. The day after he saw my iPhone back in January, he and I took a trip to his local Apple Store so that he could buy one for himself, and one for his wife. He replaced his laptop with his iPhone. He has everything he wants in a device he can keep in his pocket – email, internet and a Financial Application with SplashMoney thanks to the 2.0 update.

  8. I think it is a great idea Michael. There are some very cool guides out on the net that describe how to use the iPhone for those less tech fortunate. I hope he has fun with it. OMG I just thought of another app! See YA!

  9. Well, the iPhone’s not really cheap, but okay. As for replacing the computer… I don’t know. The keyboard is a bit hard to use (especially when there is no way to turn off the suggestions – is there? I’m Czech and this really bothers me) and I think a few things are a bit complicated (for the inexperienced, I mean; there are all these gestures and things), but I’d say that, in terms of simplicity, the iPhone (and even more the iPod Touch) is better than computers (and most other cellphones), and I think that’s what the inexperienced require most.

  10. @Mirek2

    I think its kind of hard to argue that, if it would work as a replacement for a computer for a causal user that it’s not comparatively cheap.

    You can’t even get a desktop computer with the specs of the iPhone for $199 – much less one that will run Windows or OS X decently. And if the monthly fees are the expensive part, you have to factor in that broadband Internet here in the US runs about $30 a month for decent speeds.

    And if you want to go the cheap DSL route and get an iPod Touch, you’re only looking at a little more for the price of the device (for now, anyway) and no monthly fees from a provider like AT&T.

    I don’t think the gestures are very complicated either. I think when you look at it, pushing your fingers together and spreading them back apart are the major gestures. Everything else is flicking your finger from left to right or just touching stuff. You don’t have to learn another writing language like with the old palms or anything. I think they would be especially easy for someone that wasn’t familiar with the way a desktop computer works.

  11. What about an iPod touch?

  12. I am 60+, I have several Apple desktop computers and nothing will replace them for me. I have a cell phone that I can treat badly and replace frequently and cheaply. However I bet my wife’s iPod touch will do what you are suggesting. Everyone has a cell, no need to duplicate, but the touch with a decent evolution may well be the way it is all going.

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