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Why So Many Adults Hate Their Cell Phones

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More than a third of mainstream consumers over the age of 30 experience deep frustration associated with their cell phone's interface according to a study published by Bowen Research. The study indicates a digital divide between people under 30 or over 30 who use standard cell phones, with the under 30 set experiencing problems much less frequently and resolving issues quickly by simply asking a friend how to do it.

"Cell phone manufacturers aim to distinguish themselves from their competition with increasingly complex features and unique interfaces, yet consumers over 30 have this frustrating sense of 'enough already,'" said Hugh Bowen, of Bowen Research. "That demographic wants features that are easily accessible, not lost in multiple levels of menus within menus; they want large fonts they can read; and they want a simpler button setup so they're not so confused about what they're doing, hitting keys by accident, etc."

Even basic features like dialing, speakerphone and using the address book prove difficult and confusing for users 30 and up, a group that number more than 40 million in the United States. Many of these fed up phone users spend time reading manuals and contacting customer service only to give up trying to determine how to use phone capabilities like texting, synching with their computer, email, games and ringtones. While participants in the under 30 category indicated they used 52% of their phone's features, that figure dropped a full 12% for their more mature counterparts.

Participants in the study, which involved in-depth one-on-one interviews with cell phone users on both sides of the age 30 cell phone divide communicated their frustration in interview after interview, with comments from over 30 users such as:

  • "I never quite know what I'm doing after a year and a half."
  • "If it's too complicated, it just really isn't worth it."
  • "Not intuitive at all."
  • "To this day, I don't know how to check voicemail."

A repeated sentiment from the over 30 group was that a great many cell phone features are impossible to learn and that cell phones are "out of your control" because you try to do one thing, and something different happens. Or, if you do learn how to do something, it's so complicated that you forget several months later when you want to do it again.

On the web: Bowen Research

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Tags: voicemail  digital divide  cell phone