Mom’s First Mobile

UMX Companion

I’ve written about Public Mobile before; this time I can speak from personal experience.

On Christmas Day my 88 years-young stroke-surviving mom got her first-ever mobile phone. Amazingly, it was her idea; her home lost electricity after Toronto’s recent ice storm and shortly after the power came back her phone and cable TV went out.

Her first words after she got it: “Does it get the weather?”

Her New Carrier

I’ve few if any complaints with Public Mobile so far. There were some tweets about service outages during the ice storm but there’s been zero issues in the almost seven days that my mom has been using it.

I signed her up (under my name) at the Public Mobile kiosk in Pacific Mall. The staff there was very helpful, and got me a number with the same last four digits as my mother’s landline. They even had a display box ready with accessories for her new phone — sadly, a blinged-out gel case would prevent it from fitting in its charging cradle.

Full bars were also present in my girlfriend’s mother’s condo. Both she and my mom could benefit from Public Mobile’s unlimited overseas long distance add-on. And PM deserves some major props for offering a cell phone optimized for seniors.

If only that phone wasn’t so lousy…

A Crappy Companion

The UMX Companion is currently on sale for $79 — $59 if you sign up for automatic payments. I would have gladly paid double that for a handset with some actual thought put into its design.

First off, I fail to see the point in having big text on such a small screen, especially when said text runs off the right side of the display and doesn’t show you what you’re missing. And while we’re at it, why does this handset have to be so small in the first place? It could easily stand to be the same size as a cordless phone and still fit into a bag or purse, if necessary.

The number buttons are big enough but the soft menu keys under the screen are ridiculously small — as is the text immediately above them. As my mom uses the speaker phone for pretty much every call she has no choice but to use the soft menu keys to activate this function.

Companion SOS Button

A much better solution would have been to allow the SOS button on the back to be re-purposed as a speaker phone switch. Instead, it will only call and repeatedly text your emergency contacts, or go entirely  unused.

I’m willing to bet that this handset was never actually tested on seniors; if you’re looking for a good example of lazy design, this would be it.

Companion Earpiece

And check out the quality control on that earpiece grille…

What (Old) Women Want

Before I left my mom’s house last night she asked to see my Nexus 5. She was most enamoured with the weather widget on my home screen, and it got me thinking… Maybe an Android phone with a loud speaker and suitable launcher might not be such a bad idea. It would also need a cradle, though — that or an inductive charging plate.

Sadly, it doesn’t look like I’ll get a chance to test this theory; Bell Canada is coming to fix Mom’s landline later today. Once she gets that back she’ll probably stick with the familiar comfort of a dial tone from Ma Bell.