A tale of two grannies

Jonathan Jensen is back with his weekly contribution — this time, a little later than normal (Jonathan’s going to be publishing on most Thursdays). He’s focusing his attention on the elder generation this week — an oft overlooked subject, but an increasingly important one.

Over to Jonathan…

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In my quest to understand how Normobs use their mobile phones I decided to look at the older generation. It seems that even within this customer segment there is a wide variation in how phones are used. For this analysis I decided that two Grannies would be my user sample! Not sure if they’re representative but they’re certainly different.

One of them, we’ll call her Granny A, tends to keep her handset switched off in her handbag. Apparently she keeps it switched off because no one ever calls her on it. But then they wouldn’t would they if it’s never on! She’s also concerned that the battery will run down but that’s why they came out with chargers isn’t it? But she does find it useful to have with her when she’s out and about; perhaps walking the dog. However, when she’s away on holiday she turns into a text demon. So, she can do it if she puts her mind to it!

Now to be fair, part of the reason for Granny A not keeping her phone on all the time is the rubbish mobile coverage in her Sussex village. I’ve checked out all the operators there and it’s virtually impossible to get a signal. If you climb onto the roof you might get lucky. You would think that 23 years after the first cellular networks launched, coverage would have ceased to be an issue in all but the most remote parts of the UK (Sussex is not exactly remote). What would make a difference here? Femtocell devices (to provide high quality in-building coverage at home); but they’ve got to be easy for people to buy and use.

Next, we’ll turn to Granny B. Now Granny B is seriously connected! Her handset rarely leaves her side and she is texting on and off all the time to friends and family, from the UK to Australia, making a significant contribution to Vodafone’s bottom line! Not many calls, she tends to use a landline there. However if you want to contact Granny B you know you’ll reach her wherever she is.

So both Grannies see text messaging as the primary use for a mobile phone. Landlines are for voice and SMS is the mobile USP for them. Their adoption of mobile has been driven by its ability to offer a new communications medium, rather than a straight fixed to mobile voice substitution.

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Fascinating. Thanks Jonathan! You can find more from Jonathan at Sevendotzero.

It really does fascinate me as to what causes some older people to adopt new technology whilst others tend to shun it. What does your granny do, mobile-wise?

Mine as a handset — Vodafone that I bought her a few year ago and, to the best of my knowledge, she hasn’t actually taken it out the box!

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

9 replies on “A tale of two grannies”

My Mom falls victim to this. She has a phone (recently updated a couple years ago to a top of the line Nokia 6061!) but it’s not always on unless she happens to be out somewhere and knows I’m going to call her for some reason. She’s still on PAYG, constantly having to put another $10 on it at the end of the month so that her old ones don’t expire, (she must have 72 days of talk time by now) and can’t send a text message for the life of her. Which drives me crazy, because for me to send her one would be simple and free (as she’s also on Fido, and I have a Fido to Fido plan) She’s not a Grannie (although she will be June 1st as my sister is expecting) but she fits quite easily into the unconnected generation. I wouldn’t even call them normobs, as I would hope a normob would at least send a text message here or there. They’re like, cavemennormobs 🙂

Krystal’s last blog post..A tale of two grannies

Hi Jonathan,

As a California Grannie who doesn’t think of herself as a grannie, I keep my mobile phone on and even take it on my walks. I rarely text. I had my first mobile phone years ago when the separate battery was larger than the phone. I don’t like carrying the Internet with me because I want to turn it off when I go out, so I don’t have a BlackBerry or an iPhone. I did buy a special international phone for traveling and it worked well in Turkey and Greece. It got stolen at knife point in Argentina.

How old are your two grannies? My mother also has a mobile phone (no land line) and she uses it all the time to talk to family. She doesn’t text.



My mother is almost 80, she lives in a small city in Finland. She happily texts to all her friends and relatives. One of her best friends (she’s 80+) lives in Spain nowadays. They stopped writing letters to each other a long time ago. They send SMS. When my mother gets an SMS telling about an interesting book her friend just read, she Googles the title and author to know more. If she likes the book, she reserves it at the local library, via internet, of course.
No, my mother doesn’t send MMS, but she likes to receive them!

The grandmother sitting next to me at the moment ran a very successful business from her mobile phone for 5 or 6 years – these days she runs it over the Net. She hard ever sends text messages and even today prefers to use her mobile for voice calls. She’s now on to her 6th mobile phone.

On the other hand this grandfather prefers to text rather than call and I’m only on to my 4th mobile phone. 🙂


Stuart’s last blog post..Small Business ? It’s the Challenge

Hi All,

Well my Mom (now mid 70’s) was in her 50’s when she got her first driver’s license and she went travel happy – driving all over BC visitng friends and relatives.

As soon as reliable in-car cell phones came out we got her one for emergency use. The charger got plugged into the cig lighter (they don’t call it that anymore) and the phone is always in her purse. Turned off I might add.

Now as far as I know nothing has changed since then. She only turns on the phone to make a call, and she’s so quick at turning it off that there’s no hope of getting back to her.

Except for overhearing the term ‘texting’ from her youngers I doubt she knows what it is.

But then, I just got her onto email and IM a year or two ago and she’s much happier to phone her friends, which she/they do often.

I’m not sure that qualifies her as a Normob or not, but to her it’s a tool for when she’s ‘on the road’.

My mum, is the texting, picture messaging and phoning queen, but still on PAYG. Hardly uses her landline anymore. .@ Stuart just wondering what business yo Nan ran from her mobile phone

Oh mum is like the texting queen. Uses her mobile for everything, rarely uses landline anymore. The only thing she wont commit to is a contract. . PAYG

@ Stuart. . just curious, what business did your Nan run from her mobile phone (thats so cool- me finks)

Ooops just noticed i posted twice already. Was on my mobile at work the first time and my battery died, so when i didnt see the post, reposted from my laptop. Maybe 1 post can be deleted

Thank you

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