It was exactly a year ago that news began to surface of Fujitsu’s intention to come to Europe with its Android-based smartphones. Now the Japanese company is finally coming good on those reports: on Tuesday, Fujitsu is launching its first device in Europe, marking its first “extensive foray into the smartphone market outside Japan.”
But it’s not the company’s high-end Arrow Android phones that will be leading the charge. Instead, it is the Stylistic S-01, a senior-focused, Android 4.0 device with big icons, enhanced audio and a de-sensitized touchscreen aimed at elderly users. The device will sell first in France, starting in June and in partnership with France Telecom/Orange . The first devices will be shown at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona next week.
While targeting elderly users first may seem like a strange tactic for a smartphone market debut, it actually makes sense for a number of reasons.
According to WPP’s Kantar Worldpanel, there are already countries in Europe where smartphone penetration has passed the 50 percent mark (the UK is 61 percent). France is not quite one of them yet, but it is close at 46 percent.
That means that in a world where Samsung and Apple are dominating smartphone sales, competition is getting tight to sell to mass market, younger demographics and some more specific targeting is needed.
Smartphone penetration among seniors in France is only around 20 percent, but some 75 percent of mobile users in the senior age bracket plan to buy a smartphone in the next year, according to one survey. France Telecom tells me that it has more phones in the pipeline for seniors. “We’d like to see what the appetite for this device is but we recognise the senior user segment as a new market for us to target, so we will be considering other devices for these users in the future,” a spokesperson says.
Indeed, Orange is also bucking the ageist trend that assumes smartphone technology is only for young people. “The senior customers within our customer base are just as hungry for smartphone technology and mobile internet services as anyone else,” noted Yves Maitre, SVP of device and mobile multimedia, France Telecom-Orange.
Fujitsu says that it has sold some 20 million phones in its Raku-Raku senior phone line since its launch in 2001 in Japan, where it is sold exclusively by NTT Docomo. Fujitsu’s only other foray outside of Japan has been for a trial of smartphones in China.
The Stylistic S-01 has several features that make it more friendly to the older user. Among them, the homepage icons that appear on the four-inch screen have been simplified and cast in a larger typeface to make them easier to see. The touchscreen, meanwhile, has been made less sensitive, with users required to push extra hard, as they would on a keypad, in order to tap through a command or number. While this might be annoying to the average smartphone user, Fujitsu says this reduces the amount of accidental touches that an older person might make on the device.
Other features include a personal security alarm and audio technology that slows down fast talkers, and adjusts the frequency of voice callers relative to a person’s age, and water resistance.
A France Telecom spokesperson says that for now there are no plans announced for further country rollouts, nor has it specified how it will be priced. It will depend on what Orange France decides to roll into the tariff and what services it ultimately bundles with the device.
But it looks like Fujitsu, at least, has plans for this to be the first stage in a wider international plan.
“As Fujitsu’s first extensive entry into the smartphone market outside Japan, we are delighted that Orange – a company that holds a strong position in the European market – will be offering our phone, which features Fujitsu-exclusive human-centric technologies,” said Nobuo Otani, Corporate SVP, Fujitsu Limited, in a statement. “We are committed to the success of this partnership as we strive to expand our smartphone business overseas, while advancing the promotion of Japanese technology worldwide.”
Full release with more device specs below.
Fujitsu and Orange Partner to Deliver Smartphones to the Rapidly Growing Senior Market in Europe
Intuitive, feature-rich STYLISTIC S01 smartphone to debut June 2013 in France
Tokyo and Paris, February 19, 2013 – Fujitsu Limited and France Telecom-Orange today announced a new partnership to offer mobile phones and services in Europe. The partnership marks Fujitsu’s first extensive foray into the smartphone market outside Japan. The initial offering will be the STYLISTIC S01, a smartphone designed especially for senior users, and will be available through Orange in France in June 2013.
As the senior population in Europe continues to grow rapidly, smartphone usage in this demographic is expected to rise. With the release of the STYLISTIC S01, Fujitsu and Orange plan on offering users in this market segment an innovative smartphone that provides outstanding usability. The STYLISTIC S01 will include services like Orange Cineday (*1) and Orange et Moi (*2), which are unique to Orange. Based around the human-centric technologies that Fujitsu has cultivated for over a decade, the STYLISTIC S01 also offers a variety of original, convenient functions designed to reduce barriers to smartphone adoption by maximizing ease of use.
One of these barriers is conventional touchscreens, which do not offer the tactile sensation of pressing a physical button. The STYLISTIC S01, however, employs a unique screen technology that requires users to apply the same level of pressure to on-screen icons as they would to buttons on a keypad. This helps users avoid inadvertent touches, preventing unintended operations and improving input accuracy. Furthermore, the intuitive graphic user interface features extra-large icons and a simplified layout to ensure straightforward navigation for easier operation. The STYLISTIC S01 is also equipped with a loud personal security alarm that can be used to alert people in the surrounding area in emergency situations.
The handset incorporates audio technology that optimizes the frequency range based on a user’s age, making it easier to hear the voice of the person on the other end of the call. Another user-friendly audio function slows down the speech of callers who speak rapidly without lowering the pitch of their voice or changing the length of the conversation. These and other innovative features are currently in use in the Fujitsu Raku-Raku Phone series for seniors, which has been offered by NTT DOCOMO since 2001 in Japan where it has sold over 20 million units.
“The senior customers within our customer base are just as hungry for smartphone technology and mobile internet services as anyone else. We are thrilled to be working together with Fujitsu to leverage our combined strengths to provide products for an emerging smartphone market segment in Europe,” said Yves Maitre, Senior Vice President of Device & Mobile Multimedia, France Telecom-Orange.
“As Fujitsu’s first extensive entry into the smartphone market outside Japan, we are delighted that Orange – a company that holds a strong position in the European market – will be offering our phone, which features Fujitsu-exclusive human-centric technologies,” said Nobuo Otani, Corporate Senior Vice President, Fujitsu Limited. “We are committed to the success of this partnership as we strive to expand our smartphone business overseas, while advancing the promotion of Japanese technology worldwide.”
The STYLISTIC S01 will be on display at the Fujitsu stand (Hall 5 Stand 5E120) and can also be viewed upon request at the Orange stand (Hall 5 Stand 5H110) during Mobile World Congress 2013, to be held in Barcelona, Spain starting February 25, 2013.
STYLISTIC S01 Product Specifications
· 130 x 64 x 10.9 mm
· 4-inch WVGA (800×480) touchscreen with unique tactile feedback technology
· Camera: back 8.1 MP; front: 0.3 MP
· Connectivity: GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPA, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, GPS
· Memory: 4 GB + microSD
· OS version: Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0
· Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8255 1.4 GHz
· Battery: 1800 mAh
· Water- and dust-resistant (IPX5/8, IP5X)
Glossary and Notes
1. Orange Cineday
Allows Orange customers to take a friend to see a movie every Tuesday for free.
2. Orange et Moi
A free application enabling Orange customers to understand and manage all their account details directly from their mobile in an efficient and easy manner. Customers can track their consumption, top up their account, take out options, find out about special offers, access Orange help, and also discover all the applications published by Orange with just one click.