Sign in with Microsoft

If a child or senior you know needs a phone but is struggling with a touchscreen device, there may be an option, with a phone made just for them.

You see smartphones everywhere you go these days, but the unfortunate reality of these touchscreen convergent wonders is not everyone can use them.

In fact, people who need buttons — who need to know they’ve pressed something — and who don’t like complexity and just want something that functions as a phone to talk to people on with their voice might not have the best time with a smartphone.

That’s one of the problems with a touchscreen smartphone: it can be complicated if you’re not used to it, and that touch display can be a barrier if you don’t understand what is going on or don’t have the patience to deal with it.

We’ve seen it with some seniors (not all), and it’s something Melbourne technology group Kisa found when its founders were trying to find a way for members of their family to communicate with a mobile when the smartphone just wasn’t cutting it.

kisa-phone-seniors-2015-02

“Even the simplest mobile phones on the market assume something about the user,” said Dmitry Levin, one of the founders of Kisa.

“They assume that they already know how to or are capable of using digital menus, touch screen interfaces, audio commands, or even at the most basic level, they assume the user can read.”

Kisa’s take on the mobile is a little different, and does away with the screen and overlay altogether, simplifying the phone so that it does what the user wants and allows it to make phone calls.

kisa-phone-seniors-2015-04

Specifically, a Kisa phone will make only the phone calls that are programmed into a Kisa phone, with numbers mapped to specific buttons with either the names or photos of those people on them so as to make it as easy as possible to use.

This formula was found after the company had consulted with the likes of Vision Australia and Guide Dogs Victoria, learning that a phone that would allow either photos, text, or braille to be mapped to pre-programmed would work best.

“We personalise every KISA phone before shipment with up to ten dedicated contact buttons that take up the face of the phone,” said Levin.

kisa-phone-seniors-2015-06

The result is a phone designed for the specific customer, though it will generally be ordered by a family member or friend and made for that person.

For instance, if you ordered one for your grandmother, it might include only five numbers, with a photo and name shown for each of those five buttons. Press Aunt Jill and the phone will call Aunt Jill and only Aunt Jill.

If one was created for a child, you could set three buttons for Mum, Dad, and Police, with either the names or the photos of the right people on each of these.

kisa-phone-seniors-2015-01

The back of every phone includes useful information, such as name, address, emergency contacts, and possible medical information, while also including a volume rocker, on/off switch, and an SOS button linking that phone directly to emergency services.

As for battery life, we’re told this phone can handle its own with up to two weeks of battery life when left on and not used all that often — just waiting for a call — though it does include a charging dock in the package meaning it should just be able to be left there, charging and on.

kisa-phone-seniors-2015-07

Phone calls are a little different with the Kisa phone, at least in regards to call pricing because you can’t just insert a SIM in this phone and be done with it. Rather, the SIM installation happens at Kisa’s base of operations before the phone is sent to you.

Because of this, you can either opt for Vodafone or Telstra services with either monthly or pay-as-you-go ($5 monthly) plans, or even send a SIM directly to the company to have Kisa install a SIM into a phone being made.

Pricing for the phone comes in under a $100, with the phone selling for $84 and postage adding another $10 on Kisa’s website. That said, we’re told that pricing model is ideal for any of the designs being offered, whether it’s for kids, seniors, people with dementia, or people who need a phone written in braille.

The braille phone has raised writing to help the owner of the phone know which button they're pressing and who they're calling.

The braille phone has raised writing to help the owner of the phone know which button they’re pressing and who they’re calling.