Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Digital Device for Seniors

“Press 2 if you would like to leave a testimonial about how much you love your Senior Tablet.”

Ellie and Loretta saw an ad in the St Paul paper for a Tablet for Seniors, designed to get seniors into today’s digital world. It was a compelling ad; Loretta had a smart phone but the tiny “keys,” text, icons and everything else made it hard. Yet she yearned to participate in the digital world.

Ellie asked what I thought. “Well … large icons, large keys, easy set-up, free cellular internet” … “I want one.”

 “That’s a good thing; we ordered one for Loretta. She’s very excited about getting it. She’ll be even more thrilled to learn you want one.”

Ellie had the first crack at setting the tablet up. She configured Loretta’s email but was unable to do more, and asked for help.

I started the custom ( Ubi ) browser. It was slow in the extreme. I started the standard Android browser; it failed to go to any URLs. I tried the App Store, resulting in an ever-spinning icon. I tried a phone call, then a text: “You have too little money in this account.” Both Ellie and I thought the system was missing something critical and foundational; this one thing, we thought, would solve all the symptomatic issues we were having. I took the tablet home.

I first connected it to our Wi-Fi.  Except for texting and calling, everything that hadn’t worked worked. I suspected Wi-Fi provided speed adequate to do things while the free cell network did not. I called the help desk.

 “Press 1 if you would like to order, Press 2 if you would like to leave a testimonial about how much you love your Senior Tablet, Press 3 for help.” Option 2 amused me but I pushed 3. A technician quickly answered. He confirmed some things and taught me others. The free internet connection is too slow for the Android Browser, hence the Ubi browser. Connection speed prohibits Ubi from playing both audio and video. It is too slow for the App Store. There is a second SIM slot, though, which would accept Loretta’s T-Mobile SIM card, and this would provide adequate speed.

Eager to check this we took Loretta’s phone and the tablet to a T-Mobile store. Unbelieving, the representative put a generic SIM card in the second SIM slot; the phone app worked. He inserted Loretta’s SIM and that worked, too. Amazement ensued. “I know a lot of customers who would like to have this.”  I was most interested in whether it had the required speed and was encouraged by the few things I tried.

We “casually chatted” with the representative, talking about the cellular plans we have. We determined that we could save $55 of the total $165 we were paying our 3 providers by signing up for T-Mobile’s Family plan, and none of us would experience a service downgrade of any kind. We thanked him, said we’d think about it. He pointed out that Ellie could unlock her phone and keep it, Loretta would keep the tablet, and I could get a SIM card in Loretta’s old phone and we’d not have to invest a nickel in hardware ( and I would have a better phone ). We said we’d think hard about it.

We took the tablet, now functioning as a large ( but not unwieldy ) phone to Loretta’s. I spent the rest of the evening evaluating it. “I want one.”

Ellie got up the next morning to find Loretta tinkering with her new device. Ellie texted me to tell me. I texted Loretta ( I hear you like your device ); she texted me back, virtually right away ( wohoo ). Within another 2-1/2 minutes ( exaggerating slightly ) we decided to go to the nearest T-Mobile store and sign up for the family plan.

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