• Koala Phone makes a smartphone even smarter for challenged users

    Josef and Tomáš Slavíček founded the Koala Phone app – a simplified Android phone interface that elders and others can control easily. Koala Phone won a prize at the Social Impact Award in Prague in 2014 – now the app is available in 24 languages and has a huge potential to help millions to better communicate with their families and friends.

    Is it true that people over 65 are too technophobic to bother with those “newfangled contraptions?” The reality is that elders are using smartphones to communicate with their families and friends, and many more would use them if they were easier to handle.

    Two brothers from the Czech Republic, Josef and Tomáš Slavíček, decided to challenge the elder stereotype with hard research. They looked at some basic demographic data that showed a sizeable, growing market of elderly smartphone owners. As the population ages, it is becoming increasingly tech savvy and demand will rise steadily.

    Finding a balance between usability and functionality

    The brothers also found out that “seniors, like our own grandma, are frustrated when it comes to actually using touchscreen smartphones and their numerous features,” explains Josef. “Some find it difficult to see the small icons, text and buttons; others are confused by labels, unfamiliar terms overwhelming options and the complicated interface.”

    Up till recently, the answer was a “senior phone” – a push-button device with large buttons and readout. But it’s embarrassing for many elders to buy or own such a device – it makes them feel old and feeble – and they lack functionality that many elders want: alarms, notifications, calendar, camera and photo-sharing. However, 80% of people over 50 think their smartphones have more features than they would ever use. Users are often overwhelmed and just give up.

    A launcher is launched

    The brothers developed an App called Koala Phone. Josef describes it as “an Android launcher with an easy to read and operate interface. The users can manage their contacts and write texts, as well as access the camera, calendar, alarm and flashlight without leaving the Koala interface.” The alert sounds and ringtones are louder than usual and the “buttons” vibrate when pushed. It also provides a simpler, usable way to access only those external apps that the user needs.

    To date, the free 7-day trial of Koala Phone has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, leading to 1300 purchases at $6 each. But if a elder can’t first find the app available on GooglePlay, how can he or she download and install it? “We are forming partnerships to have Koala preinstalled on Android devices,” Josef reassures us, adding that they also actively market the App to the families of seniors.

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